Monday, July 8, 2013

How Do You Respond to a Supreme Court Gut Punch?

I had to take some time between posts to really digest all the things that have registered on my radar in the last couple of weeks. More importantly than what I wanted to say, I thought about how I wanted to act because after the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) surgically removed major portions of the Voter Rights Act, I watched legendary Congressman John Lewis respond on TV, and I felt disappointed in myself.  I had learned growing up about how Lewis, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Marian Barry, and Diane Nash organized students throughout the South in the 1960s to execute the lunch table sit-ins that characterized much of the Civil Rights Movement.  I read The Children by David Halberstam, and came to respect them and all of those who put their lives on the line for human rights.  What was missing, however was the type of motivation to keep marching and protesting as opposed to striving for the highest degrees I could obtain while building a family and living in a house with a picket fence.  I think this has been the case for a whole generation of people my age who after watching the SCOTUS decision come down, heard the cry of Laurence Fishburne as Dap in School Daze yelling WAKE UP!!!! 

If you're a thirty-something like me, there has been little of the social adversity our parents faced that would force us to continue fighting for human rights.  Many of us have been taught that the more important road is the road that leads to a solid job that will enable retirement one day. While it is difficult to mount any type of social resistance these days without social and financial capital, being separated from a the plight of others and aloof to politics is unacceptable.  John Lewis was 24yrs old when the Voter Rights Act was put on the books in 1964, and at 73, I can only imagine the mix of anger, frustration and disappointment he must feel to see that monument to his efforts as a civil rights worker wiped away.  It's time I got my arse off the bench and be more than an occasional critic on what I see.  If the SCOTUS decision wasn't motivation enough to lace up my marching Timbs, an incident that happened to friends of mine recently added another ember to the fire.

Full disclosure:  I did not vote in the 2013 LA Mayoral election.  I wasn't impressed by either of the candidates despite their list of celebrity endorsements.  It became pretty clear to me early on that Eric Garcetti was going to win and there was little that Wendy Greuel could do about it.  So I didn't participate.  My friend Amber, however, did partcipate.  She voted for Garcetti and ran into him at a fundraiser where she hoped to congratulate him as a long-time resident of his home district.  As she waited for him to finish talking with some peers she was witness to this statement from the Mayor:

 "My base of supporters are Latinos, Asians, gays, hipsters, Republicans and whites. But I don't exclude the others".
As a professional Black woman, she was understandably surprised and offended that African-Americans would be considered "others" by a man tasked with galvanizing one of the largest cities in the country.  After composing herself, Amber did take the opportunity to greet the Mayor and express her disappointment in his statement and ask him directly what his plans were for addressing the issues of the "others", many of whom voted for him.  His answer was disappointing and shows that if we do not hold our political representatives accountable at all levels of government, then we should hardly be surprised when they do not push legislation that runs counter to our interests.  It is clear that we are in a time where if you cannot mount effective lobbying efforts for issues that matter, then your rights as citizens will continue to be eroded.  I've heard the wake up call.  See you at the next march.

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