Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Colors Besides Red, White and Blue

By Carlos M. Camacho-Crossposted from the Rogue Scholars Society
Courtesy of Lester Public Library

As a budding sociologist, social justice advocate and person who wants to be in the know, I have found websites like Colorlines to be amazing resources. As a sociologist, my research interests are race and sexuality and the intersectionality of them. Colorlines follows stories along these lines and more. For the past few years my favorite posts have been the ones for the Fourth of July. For those of you outside of a US understanding of the day, it is a huge deal. The week of the fourth and the fourth of July weekend are filled with fireworks, barbeques, and swimming pools. July 4th marks the day America declared its independence but the holiday does not mean the same thing to all people across time.

Courtesy of Think-N-Evolve

Last year Colorlines told us to read Frederick Douglass as a way to celebrate the fourth and cited him saying:
Anti-slavery radicals created underground networks to steal African Americans across slavery’s borders and support them in creating new, free lives. And abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic stood in the town square to tell the truth about this unjust, criminal economy to anyone who would listen.
Douglass was perhaps the most articulate among them. And his 1852 Independence Day address is recognized by many as among his greatest bits of oratory. In it, you see the foundations of his political philosophy. On one hand, he ridicules the hypocrisy of the U.S.’s proud celebration of liberty, a freedom that exists only through the oppression of millions of other people. His words are biting:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
One cannot help but see truth in these words and what better day to remember that when we celebrate our interest in freedom. The colonies that would become the United States broke away from England for freedom and since that time (and before then) have attained freedom and liberty by stepping on and/or oppressing others. The largest stain is that of slavery which has occurred, and continues today worldwide, but American slavery was particularly harmful.

The video above is James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglass' speech for Howard Zinn's The People Speak. Hearing the words makes them come to life. I think they ring true today as they did when he spoke them. This blog has featured pieces on immigration (reform), the war on women, international issues and more. For how many Americans will these issues be discussed or thought of during this week(end)? What actions will be taken to curb injustice in the US and abroad?

Lost for a way to start? The first step is to get informed. Start by reading some of the other posts on this blog and follow the links and see what interests you. There are so many things to do once you know what it is you want to work for. Two years ago Colorlines gave us 5 things to do. First was to get Obama to stop deportations which recently happened through a stopgap measure for young immigrants who would qualify the DREAM Act if it passed. They also suggested supporting the victims of the BP spill which is still relevant. Another suggestion was to support Oscar Grant, while today the Trayvon Martin case may be more relevant to many. Enjoy dissing the Last Airbender because "it was the much anticipated race movie of the summer. Anticipated because the movie’s producers took the characters who were Asian on the original TV series and made them white." And finally they suggested going to Arizona to protest, which one can still do since the US Supreme Court found that "the specifics of Arizona law SB 1070 that require local officers to seek to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop for another violation -- no matter how minor -- if they have a reasonable doubt that the person they have stopped may not be a legal resident of the United States." This is part of the law upheld by SCOTUS while other more problematic parts were deemed unconstitutional. Long charged with opening the door to racial profiling work in Arizona and other states is definitely in need of bodies. Instead of five like Colorlines, today I give you three:

  1. Get informed. We have so many local and international issues and before steps can be taken to work on them we must understand them. 
  2. Know what the candidates running for President stand for and what the role of the President is per the US Constitution (which, if you haven't read it, you should) as well as other candidates running in your area.
  3. And finally, talk. Talk about what you're reading, learning, thinking and doing. Interact with myself and fellow bloggers and news media as well as friends, family and colleagues.