I was in my mother’s womb when Martin Luther King, Jr. launched a bus boycott at a meeting of the Montgomery Improvement Association. I turned twelve just five days before his murder fifty years ago. A brief span for so consequential a public ministry. He challenges us still.
1. Never Again. Martin would be 89 now, and awfully proud of his 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King. The call-and-response that she led at the March for Our Lives on March 24, beaming with confidence and poise, set the tone for our continued work, as her granddad put it, to make real the promise of democracy. We must not underestimate the resistance we face, as exemplified by Republican state legislators moving to impeach judges who rule against their aggressively undemocratic gerrymandering. But the student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are impressive in their clarity, toughness, and inclusiveness in seeking gun reforms. They are not afraid of the bullies.
2. Sensible reforms, not repeal. The call for Second Amendment repeal by retired Justice John Paul Stevens is at best counterproductive. The Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller made clear that the Second Amendment allows such “presumptively lawful” restrictions as barring gun possession by felons and mentally ill persons; barring gun possession in places like schools and government buildings; and establishing conditions for commercial sale of guns. If we alienate responsible gun owners with talk of repeal, we will squander this opportunity for reform.
3. Turning the tables on hate. Fox News host Laura Ingraham invoked Holy Week when she apologized for taunting 17-year-old shooting survivor David Hogg. Her continued hemorrhage of advertisers, however, led her to announce a Bill O’Reilly-style vacation. May it end similarly. Apologies and Easter blossoms do not erase her career of capitalizing on hate since she was outing gay students at Dartmouth.
4. The brain snatchers. As I sat beside a soccer field on Easter, Russian bots on social media were rallying behind Ms. Ingraham. How refreshing to hear the players’ shouts and laughter for an unhurried hour instead of invasive mental noise. Go out. Breathe the spring air. Recharge your values. Check your sources. Don’t let your thoughts be changelings placed by strangers.
5. Unequal use of deadly force. The hail of bullets that killed unarmed Stephon Clark (father of two) in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento demonstrated once again the refusal by many police to examine their own biases. If you are black, anything you are holding is likelier to be mistaken for a gun by police than if I held it. This is an example of my white privilege. Recognizing disparate racial treatment is not apologizing for my whiteness. We are all human beings. White people are not entitled to exclusive possession of power. We have to learn to share, as Miss Swan taught my kindergarten class in 1961. The public grief of the Clark family should sear our souls. We must change.
6. No, you’re the racist! Andrew Sullivan continues his fascination with racial differences in IQ scores. Last week he called Ezra Klein racist for observing that podcaster Sam Harris and guest Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, are white. Considering that their podcast touting race science was titled “Forbidden Knowledge” rather than “Disputed Claims,” it is unsurprising that Sullivan’s indignation over Klein’s reference to white privilege resembles a wrestling promotion more than a defense of academic freedom.
There is no neutral zone for discussing controversial issues free of personal animus. The frequent tendentious misuse of social science should inspire restraint. We must examine our cultural biases, especially after centuries of racial oppression. Who gets to drive the discussion? Try the Atticus Finch test and climb inside the other’s skin. How would you like your group being subject to evaluation at any moment by people who don’t look like you and face no similar treatment? And spare us the poses of victimhood: Murray has flourished remarkably well for someone being smothered.
7. Julian Assange. Dear Ecuador, this is very simple: alert the British Foreign Office, instruct your embassy in London to escort Mr. Assange out the door, and have some tea.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.