No Questions Asked?
Racial profiling is nothing new in the United States of America. In fact, it happens regularly with no questions asked. Black and brown people have come to expect to be followed, targeted and harassed for no other reason than they “look” suspicious or that they “fit the description”. In this political season, however, when both parties claim to recognize the importance of the so-called “minority vote” in the 2016 campaign for President of the United States, the growing volatility of rhetoric seasoned with tones of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance, calls for shutting down or shutting up the mouths of those who disagree or dissent have created an atmosphere all too familiar from the “ghosts” of America’s recent past.
As a child of the 60s, the push for freedom and equal justice under the law were everyday life and death stories, front page newspaper accounts and in your living room nightly news. Calls for communities to unite around increasing voter registration made real the challenges to America’s fundamental claim of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of her citizens and brought the hypocrisy of those claims out from beneath the shadows into the light of day for all the world to see. America was embarrassed. The outright racism and anti-semantics was called out for what it clearly was as candidates and constituents alike came down on the side of Governor George Wallace and shared in the increasing drumbeat for segregation and state’s rights. In 1962, when he ran on a platform of racial segregation and states’ rights and was backed by the Ku Klux Klan, Wallace won the election for Governor of Alabama. His inaugural speech concluded with the infamous line, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace ran for president of the United States three times, once as a Democrat and twice as an Independent. In 1963, Wallace ignited the passions of his constituents by calling for a couple of first class funerals to “put down the civil rights problem.” The same month on September 15th, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham killing four little innocent girls who were attending Sunday school that morning.
Today, we have a candidate running for president who is likely to be the nominee of the Republican Party, essentially running as George Wallace did in 1963. He even seems to be doing it with more intentionality than Wallace did. Wallace “appeared” to exercise a pretense of civility and decorum that is not present with the current GOP frontrunner. What is remarkable about what this media mogul and self-proclaimed political outsider is doing, is sort of promoting the “we” versus “them” dog-whistle politics; he is out there shouting and playing the thug, and encouraging people to join him in doing that too. He is inciting violence, not unlike George Wallace did in 1963. His rallies and stump speeches are ramped up and laced with hate-speech, and the result has been violence. People have been routinely accosted, spat upon, shoved, punched, called pejorative names and even taunted by the candidate himself. All with no questions asked.
Freedom of speech, the freedom to freely assemble and to dissent is no longer the right of ALL people; it seems, it is only for a select few. I have witnessed this story before. I have heard this rhetoric go unchallenged by a vast majority of people until blood ran through the streets of America with churches bombed and burned, people bloodied and killed attempting to exercise their God-given freedom and the constitutional rights that have been fought for and signed in blood.
How far have we really come? We ALL better start asking some serious questions.
Up Next Week: A Few Good Women