In February, America celebrates Black History Month. As others have noted, February is the shortest month of the year. American history is indeed ironic.
The distinguished contributions of African-Americans to the health and wealth of this country should be celebrated.
Black leaders from W.E.B Du Bois to Ida B. Wells to Rosa Parks have written and embodied for us the best of what America has to offer intellectually and sacrificially. Black scientists like Dr. Ronald E. McNair, who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, help us understand the capabilities of the Black citizens when given the opportunity learn and serve.
But the deck is often stacked against African-Americans. Four hundred years of the slave trade built America, followed by Reconstruction, every manner of peonage, the convict leasing system, and Jim Crow racism. Even today, rich people fight against raising the minimum wage for no better reason that it will help keep minorities and the working poor down, “in their place,” and without economic power.
Louisiana incarcerates more men and women than any other state or country in the world, and most of these inmates are Black males. Make no mistake, there is a direct relationship between Louisiana’s stratospheric incarceration boom and its role as one of the major purveyors of American slavery. This is not an opinion. It’s the historical record.
The struggle for human rights is never over. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a martyr, was hated during his later years. He was hated not only because of his fight for Civil Rights but because he also dared to stand up and demand economic justice for all poor people, and he vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, a conflict that sent poor boys from America to fight poor boys in Southeast Asia.
Yes, the struggle for justice, human rights, dignity, and integration is never really over. The struggle often times covertly manifests itself in political sideshows.
For example, last week when former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked Pres. Barack Obama, not out of legitimate disagreements over policy, but because of who the President is as a person. He said, “I do not believe—and I know this is a horrible thing to say—but I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani, stumping for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, continued, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
One has to be living in willful ignorance to not know that Giuliani’s remarks were laced with racial overtones and hate of “the other.”
Not to be left out of the media spotlight for a moment, Gov. Jindal called Giuliani to congratulate him on his retrograde remarks.
We need not focus outside of our own backyard to see rank racism and injustice. When we witness Earl K. Long Hospital bulldozed, the Baton Rouge General Mid City ER closing for lack of promised state funds, the attack on Louisiana’s public hospital system statewide, and the denial of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion for 250,000 working Louisiana citizens—we understand this is fueled by Jindal’s racism against Black citizens and disdain for the poor.
The assault on Black America and the poor among us is not over. Every one of us has a responsibility to speak up and care for “the least of these my brethren,” as Jesus said. Stand up for the voiceless and tell the truth about American history and Louisiana right now.
Dayne Sherman’s new novel is Zion, a $4.99 ebook. Signed first editions available from the author. And he does not speak for any of his employers.
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