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the human race has one really effective weapon


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Today’s Reads 005 (Michael Brown, Pt. 2)

More coverage of the murder of Michael Brown and other related articles from across the Internet:

  • How Often are Unarmed Black Men Shot Down By Police? (Daily Kos)
    91% of the people killed by Police in Chicago in 2012 were Black? 87% in New York? 100% in Saginaw and Rockford?  I gotta admit even after focusing on this subject for over 30 years, since Ron Settles was killed, I find that kind of shocking. The report goes on to say that 47% of these killings (146 cases) occurred not because of the person brandishing a weapon (as noted above less then 30% of them HAD a weapon, or were even thought to have a weapon), it’s because the Officer or Citizen – “felt threatened” and were in “fear”.  In only 8% (25 cases) did the suspect fire or discharge a weapon that wounded or killed Police or others while Officers were on the scene.
  • The law may have spoken but the Ferguson verdict is not justice (The Guardian)
    So when it comes to the lethal use of force the police do not just constitute a special category, but a protected and elevated one. In this “nation of laws” those charged with enforcing the law evidently operate above it, while the judiciary exists not to mediate between the police and the public but to defend them from the public. And they employ these privileges with great prejudice. According to analysis by ProPublica, black kids are 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed in police shootings. If white youths were killed by police at the same rate they would die at a rate of more than one a week.
  • Amid Conflicting Accounts, Trusting Darren Wilson (The New York Times)
    The officer’s testimony, delivered without the cross-examination of a trial in the earliest phase of the three-month inquiry, was the only direct account of the fatal encounter. It appeared to form the spine of a narrative that unfolded before the jurors over three months, buttressed, the prosecutors said, by the most credible witnesses, forensic evidence and three autopsies. But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.
  • Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid (The Atlantic)
    “Property damage and looting” is a fairly accurate description of the emancipation of black people in 1865, who only five years earlier constituted some $4 billion in property. The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots. The housing bill of 1968—the most proactive civil-rights legislation on the books—is a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after King was killed. Violence, lingering on the outside, often backed nonviolence during the civil-rights movement. “We could go into meetings and say, ‘Well, either deal with us or you will have Malcolm X coming into here,'” said SNCC organizer Gloria Richardson. “They would get just hysterical. The police chief would say, ‘Oh no!'”
  • What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting? (PBS News Hour)
    We read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by Wilson. Below is a chart comparing several key details of the officer’s report to the witness statements. Was Brown facing Wilson when he was shot, or was his back turned to him? Did Brown have his hands in the air, or were they reaching toward his waist?
  • Think riots have never caused change in America? Think again (Al Jazeera America)
    Many of those criticizing destructive behavior in Ferguson over the past week have cited the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s as the model for nonviolent, orderly resistance. Peaceful demonstrations — sometimes in the face of violent policing and provocation — were certainly a key feature of the civil rights era. So, too, were outbreaks of violence such as the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. While Dr. King never advocated violent and destructive behavior, he also said it would be “morally irresponsible” to condemn riots “without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.” – “These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention,” King said in a 1968 speech. “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
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Why I Am Opposed to the War (Everywhere)

photo by Marvin Koner

photo by Marvin Koner

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the presidential inauguration coincide for just the second time in history, many people will sit down to hear or see clips from King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963.

Due in part to its composition, King received the Nobel Peace Prize and Time magazine named him “Man of the Year.” It was so powerful and influential that it prompted the FBI to describe King as “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” Attended by over 200,000 civil rights protesters, it is rightly called “one of the defining moments of the American Civil Rights Movement” and regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American and world history.

But King wrote numerous sermons and delivered many more powerful speeches calling for justice and equality among men and nations, some of them even more revolutionary than “I Have a Dream.” Among these is “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” Delivered as a sermon to the Ebenezer Baptist Church on 30 April 1967, it continues a line of thought King began with “Beyond Vietnam/A Time to Break Silence,” a speech he gave just a few weeks earlier in New York City, on 4 April 1967. That speech, which calls the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” did not meet with the universal applause that “I Have a Dream” enjoyed. According to Wikipedia:

King’s opposition [to Vietnam] cost him significant support among white allies, including President Johnson, union leaders and powerful publishers.”The press is being stacked against me”, King said, complaining of a double standard that applauded his non-violence at home, but deplored it when applied “toward little brown Vietnamese children.” Life magazine called the speech ‘demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi‘ and The Washington Post declared that King had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.’

King recognized a connection between capitalism, war, and inequality that was too radical for the public to consider, much less accept. In “Why I Am Opposed” he reminds us of the economic dimensions of the war: “it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier [in Vietnam], while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.” Accusations of communist sympathy were subsequently leveled against him.

Nearly 46 years later, this problem still runs rampant. The connections between capitalism, war, and poverty are perhaps stronger than ever. We could easily replace the word “Vietnam” in his speech with “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” and all meaning would be preserved. And so his speech remains a challenge to this country.

An edited version of “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” was eventually released on album by Black Forum Records. At 22 minutes long, it is approximately half the length of the original sermon, but it preserves most—if not all—of King’s strongest points and most damning accusations. It also contains one of my favorite King quotes, which reminds us not to despair and that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I’ve posted the edited and full-length versions of this speech below, via Youtube. You can read along by visiting Berkeley’s Library website, which contains a complete transcript. And since today is Inauguration Day, I’ve also posted a clip of Princeton professor Cornel West taken from C-SPAN’s coverage of the “Future without Poverty” panel at George Washington University. In it, West questions Obama’s use of King’s bible during his inauguration and reminds us of the revolutionary spirit King wielded. The same one that made him a target of the FBI and eventually cost him his life.

Edited Version:

Full Version:

Cornel West:

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day.