Tag Archives: Martin Luther King jr.

Systematic Racism in Clackamas County

Racism takes many forms. The overt one — a cross burning on the yard, bank refusing to loan in certain neighborhoods, and having to ride in the back of the bus — are easy to spot. The covert ones are equally insidious and almost as damaging to the soul because they are nearly invisible. This contributes to victims blaming themselves for their condition rather than the system and individuals who gain from and support racist ideals and practices.

In Clackamas County a number of situations may fall into the latter category. For example, the percentage of first nation populations and African Americans who are incarcerated for various crimes is many times larger than the rate for whites. Next to unconstitutional actions by ICE, minor drug offenses are the most glaring case.

Native Americans of our fair county between 2013 and 2016 wound up in jail at more than twice the rate of white residents, and African Americans end up incarnated at three times the rate of white citizens. Yet all three populations have the same drug usage rates.

Our District Attorney, when confronted with this reality, instead of acknowledging the problem and seeking solutions went into denial. He attacked the study released by the governor that identified the racial discrepancy in incarceration rates. He challenged the numbers and blamed law enforcement officers.

He also engaged in identical behaviors when law enforcement officers statewide called for a shift in drug enforcement policy to a mental health approach recognizing that prison is not rehab and the foundational problems of drug abuse and the crime it spawns are addiction.

At a public hearing for the county to adopt an inclusivity resolution supported by the Sheriff’s Department and the county commissioners, in what appeared to be a direct violation of state law, our DA bragged about partnering with ICE to deport our citizens of color without the constitutional protections guaranteed them by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If equality before the law is not color blind, if in our county one can be found, in the words of Trevor Noah, “guilty of driving while black,” then not only is our county routinely engaged in systematic racist behaviors, but we are also undermining the very foundation of our democracy.

In a county that is predominately white, it is easy not to see the undermining of civil and human rights, especially when led by the chief law enforcement agent in the county, the DA. It is easy to “overlook” racism promoted by the U.S. president. It is easy to see the victims of institutionalized discrimination as the “other” people.

We seem them just as easily as we see homeless vets, families living out of their cars, and all the others who have been victimized by a consumer society. Where money is king, too often our primary value becomes what can we afford to buy today. No, we say to ourselves, they are not us.

But they are us. For too many of us are but a medical emergency away from homelessness. Our social media are full of calls to send money to help those in our social network. If our sons or daughters were destitute, rarely would we blame them. Instead we could see the forces aligned against them. But when it is a Native American or African American, it is all too easy to blame the victims. Continue reading

Dr. King or Malcolm X? (Answers to the Quiz)

Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN, the day prior to a planned march through downtown in support of Memphis public employees who were seeking to create a union. He understood that civil rights and union rights were both required to have human rights.

The march proceeded when Coretta King arrived to take her husband’s place. The Memphis public employees marched through the streets with signs that read, “I AM A MAN.” These signs conveyed the thought that these workers were not being treated as human beings and that by birth they were entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Continue reading

Seeking to Understand the Complexity of the Fight for Civil Rights

This is the second in a series of article on the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.

There is a tendency in the white community to deify Dr. King and demonize Malcolm X. Rather than to recognize that each, along with thousands of others, contributed their own distinct part to the struggle for human rights and civil rights in the U.S. That struggle is far from over and rather than seek to divide, all supporters must seek to find common ground.

Take the test below to see if you can determine who said what. Some of these eight quotes came from Dr. King and others came from Malcolm X. Continue reading

A Nation Industrialized on the Backs of Others

This is the first in a series of posts remembering the assassination of Dr. King and the events that preceded and followed.

Slavery is not a part of our history. Since to be a part of our history would suggest that there are other aspects of our history that are separate from slavery. They are not. The wealth that built this country sits on a foundation of capital created by enslaved people. The roots of racism that permeate every aspect of life in America began when the first Yankee financed and shipped African slaves into the Caribbean. How our government operates and even how we elect Presidents are all derived from the institutions of slavery. Continue reading