Everywhere you turn you see evidence that the United States is sliding backwards on civil rights, or the broad rights each of has by virtue of being born, and part of a common humanity.
In Ferguson, Darryn Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown multiple times as he was running away from the officer, released a statement yesterday saying “he feared for his life” as justification for shooting down an unarmed fleeing man. Observers correctly point out that this is likely to be the groundwork for being unable to bring any indictment whatever against Wilson. The ground is being prepared to never arrest the officer at all. This is not being equal under the law and justice for all, but a legal system masquerading as justice.
The United States Supreme Court voted yesterday to permit Texas’ draconian Voter ID law to stand for this election upcoming in November. This law, like those in many states in this Union are poll taxes in that even where the state ID required is free, obtaining the necessary papers to get the ID, and presenting yourself to distant motor vehicle centers heavily discriminates against the elderly, students, not just blacks, but people of color generally.
Such laws are in place now, and are being actively used to suppress voting, not to promote it. How strange that the nation the world has looked to for democracy is sending exactly the opposite message? Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor both authored a six page dissent in the case that is described appropriately as scathing. This is the same Supreme Court that voted 5-4 on politicized lines to tell the nation that the key enforcement portion of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed, and is unconstitutional. It was and remains an absurd ruling in light of what has transpired since.
Oppressed minorities rely on having the vote, to at least force politicians to notice them, to think about them as serious American citizens. Bluntly, they do not so consider them. These voter suppression laws, for that is just what they are, in the long run will permit a reactionary and demographically minority party to thwart the will of the majority of Americans who do not support this party or its platform. Hundreds of polls on just about every issue show majority support, and even super-majority support for laws and reforms championed by the majority party, blocked by the minority party.
The President of the United States is shown to the world to be weak and ineffectual, not because he is weak and ineffectual, but that one of the two major parties is so hostile to his even occupying the office that they undermine everything he does continuously. Some of these actions by the opposing party are in point of fact treasonous. And the President’s opponents do not legislate via compromise at all. The business of all Americans is not done simply because they hate this “black” president and that he in his core beliefs is a liberal Democrat. That is not representative democracy or a fully functioning republic at all. Dissatisfaction with government at all levels and distrust of that government is the result.
There is an older white, minority of Americans who are distinctly reactionary, not just conservative, and they are holding the nation hostage, successfully resisting the change that must come. It is correctly called “the browning of America”. We are already a vastly more diverse nation then we were in the civil rights years of the 1950’s and 1960’s. White Americans in this demographic are overwhelmingly Republicans. They fear and hate what is happening.
The brutal fact is that people of color are citizens too. They cannot accept that. And it is a breeding ground for injustice at all levels of government and among American society generally. We backslide from the 1960’s that were supposed to be the fix for racism and bigoted actions by our people. Subsequent events have proved this to be looking into feel good rose colored glasses so that we can deny racism exists and is alive in America.
Our injustice system incarcerates more humans than any nation on Earth by a wide margin. How can an orderly, just, and legal equality based nation do this? Blacks are seven times as likely to be prosecuted and jailed as white Americans for drug offenses, even though whites offend just as often as blacks do. That is not equal justice. A majority of black men have been incarcerated; many declared felons, by the time they are in high school. The world of jobs, education and real opportunity are completely denied them.
Americans are no longer safe in the streets and public facilities. Despite recently released statistics that show that just in the last year, mass shootings have tripled in the United States, the National Rifle Association has the most influence in assuring that more and more guns, and guns that are more destructive of human life are in circulation in this nation. The Second Amendment is not an absolute. That part of our supreme law must compete with the provision in the same Constitution that declares a key purpose of that supreme law to be ensuring domestic tranquility. Breaking into an elementary school and gunning down 23 children has nothing whatever to do with a peaceful orderly society.
And what of “the least of these” generally? There are over 46 million Americans living in poverty right now. And that number grows as income inequality grows. Income equality or redistribution of wealth is NOT making everyone equally wealthy or poor. It is simply recognizing that tax laws that distinctly favor the rich, the declining support for the poor, disabled, and unemployed and a refusal to raise the minimum wage to a level that can support a family with reasonable comfort are all unjust.
When large corporations move their tax liability offshore, as do the wealthiest among us, the balance of Americans must pay the difference simply to maintain the level of government and services we’ve had, to say nothing of seeing that all Americans have their basic needs met, and can work. Many want to but cannot. The reactionaries among us blame the poor for their poverty, portraying them as lazy, shiftless, and unwilling to work when the reverse is true.
Women in America are watching their reproductive health options decline or be denied them. A whole series of the larger reproductive health of American women, most often not related to actual abortions are being obliterated. Dozens of states have passed a plethora of restrictive laws, reminiscent of the old Comstock Act. Women are losing their right to control their own reproduction and their bodies. Scholars who study the history of women have repeatedly shown that when men control women’s reproductive systems, the rights and equality they are entitled to disappear.
First Americans or Native-Americans exist, but are so marginalized in our society, and so racially stereotyped that even the matter of removing distinctly racist names, symbols, and practices by the white majority that has effectively almost eliminated them for over five hundred years is resisted by whites who say this is their heritage. The previous campaign of eradication of the Indian have been at levels that exceed the Holocaust, itself one of the worst unspeakable atrocities in history, is forgotten, denied, and laughed off. This is injustice of the worst sort. It is shameful to any civilized person.
There is such open hostility to people of a minority sexual orientation that despite the critics is largely just as strong a predisposition as is heterosexual orientations that it defies logic, science, and human compassion. Such injustice ought to shame us and chastise the nation to being more accepting and comfortable with people being wired up by a God who loves them and not hates them.
Yes, we do have an American injustice system where a justice system and true equality among all citizens is the key support for an effective and fully functioning democracy. That too, is under dire threat. Being an advocate for fundamental human social justice does not make us radicals, communists, terrorists or all the bugaboos of the extreme right. We are human beings with empathy and compassion for others. Those things are not weaknesses that need to be eliminated but real strengths when supporting humanity.
When will the outrage, shame, and such hypocritical conditions finally awaken the majority of Americans to act? Each of us has the power to change that. What will you do?