Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1520 - July 26, 2016


     

       

           

********************************

                     

            Black lives matter.  This three-word phrase is so powerful.  It evokes powerful hopes and powerful fears.  Some see this phrase as strongly asserting value to lives that have been historically devalued.  Others see this phrase as strongly urging violent attacks on law enforcement.  And many hold various positions in between.  Black lives matter is a powerful phrase that expresses a powerful concept.

            Why is this simple three-word phrase so controversial?  Let’s start with the basic question.  Do Black lives matter?  Do Black lives matter as much as White lives?  If we can rationally respond to these questions, perhaps we can discuss the issues that embroil law enforcement and the Black community.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  We are not entitled to our facts.  Can we deal with the facts?  Black lives matter is a powerful concept. 

            Is it a fact that slavery existed in this country and its predecessor colonies for hundreds of years?  I believe the facts establish that enslavement of Africans in America started in the early 1600s and ended in December of 1865 with ratification of the 13th Amendment.  Is it a fact that during slavery, a slave’s life did not matter as much as the life of a White master, his family and other Whites?  Black lives matter is a powerful phrase.

            Is it a fact that slavery placed Whites in higher positions and Blacks in lower positions?  Is it a fact that many states had laws that explicitly illustrated that Whites were superior in every way and Blacks were subordinate in every way.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that Black people, whether slave or free, have no rights.  For instance, the Alabama Slave Code stated that if a White person killed a enslaved Black person in the process of correcting them, nothing could be done.   On the other hand, if a enslaved Black person just hit the master, his spouse or their children, then he/she must be put to death.   Do these facts not establish that Black lives did not matter as much as White lives during this time?  Black lives matter is a powerful concept.

            Is it a fact that during segregation, Whites were considered so superior that they could not socialize with Blacks?  On the other hand, Black people were considered so inferior that they must not use the same restrooms, drink from the same water fountain, eat in the same restaurants, go to the same schools, ride in the same area of public transportation, and so on.  Is it a fact that laws on the books made crimes of such activities?  Would you agree that during this time, Black lives mattered less than White lives?  Black lives matter is a powerful phrase.

            Is it a fact that during segregation, there were more than 4,000 known lynchings of Black people, mostly Black men?  Is it a fact that law enforcement did not prosecute the perpetrators of these lynchings even though many were performed in the public?  Is it a fact that our governments did not do anything to prevent the lynchings?  Is it a fact that many of these lynchings were based upon allegations that a Black man said or did something to a White person?  I believe these are well established facts.  Can we agree that during this time, Black lives mattered less than White lives?    Black lives matter is a powerful concept.

            I know that some will say that these activities happened at least decades ago in some instance and centuries ago in others.  Is it a fact that some perceptions, feelings, etc. pass down through generations?  Is it a fact that some things that happen in our own families, communities and people continue down through generations?  Is it a fact that certain feelings between the South and North have existed since the Civil War?  The Civil War ended 151 years ago and some of those feelings still exist.  That’s at least five generations.  If feelings and perceptions involving the Civil War can pass down through five generations, why can’t feelings and perceptions generated by slavery, segregation and Jim Crow pass down through generations?  Black lives matter is a powerful phrase.

            Blacks are 30 percent more likely to be stopped by law enforcement than Whites. Black men are two and a half times more likely to be killed by law enforcement. Blacks receive longer sentences than Whites for the same crimes.  Five times as many Whites use drugs as Blacks, but Blacks are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.  Blacks make up 12 percent of the total population of drug users but 50 percent of people in state prisons for drug offenses. Whites are also more likely to deal drugs than Blacks, yet Blacks are far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for this crime.  I know that some will say greater Black imprisonment represents greater criminal activities by Blacks.  That very position, when statistics demonstrate otherwise, suggests that Black lives matter less than White lives.  Black lives matter is a powerful concept.

            If Black lives do not matter as much as White lives, isn’t it our duty to remind the rest of us that Black lives do matter?  What’s wrong with some saying that Black lives matter when historically they have not mattered as much as White lives?  Would saying All Lives Matter address this profound problem rooted in slavery and segregation and imbedded in every institution from churches to schools to law enforcement?  Black Lives Matter is a powerful concept.

            Should we cease stating our painful truth because it makes others uncomfortable?  Is not this especially true when that very problem has caused great pain for generations?  The problem is Black lives have not mattered and that causes pain for us all.  Black Lives Matter is a powerful concept that expresses powerful and fearful truths.

            Now on to the Daily Diary.

            Saturday, July 16, 2016 – I walked, handled various matters, traveled to Pensacola, FL to speak on Black economics, Black lives and Black struggle.  I returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Cameron Reese, Julian McDuffie and Damilola Animashaun of the Connie Tucker Social Justice Internship Program; Georgia Blackmon, Johnnie Blackmon and Robert Hill of Pensacola, FL; Greene County Commissioner Lester Brown; Rev. Leodis Strong of Brown Chapel AME Church; Ainka Jackson of the Selma Non-violence Center; Kevin Rolle of Alabama A&M University; Askhari Little of Selma; and Sharon Wheeler of Montgomery.

            Sunday – I exercised, did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard, III. I handled many matters as I worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS) President Dr. James Mitchell; Dale Jackson of New Orleans; Josephine Curtis of Selma; and Carolyn Wheeler for her 50th anniversary of marriage.

            Monday –I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s Fire Radio Program, participated in conference calls and a press conference concerning Alzheimer’s and Autism, traveled to Greene County, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  James Coleman of Hale County; Dorothy Branch and La Tanya Cockrell of Greene County; Greene County School Board members Dr. Carol P. Zippert, Leo Branch, Carrie Dancy and William Morgan; Greene County School Superintendent Dr. James Carter; Representative Darrio Melton; Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard; Selma Businessman Noopie Cosby; Kirsten Barnes of the Senate Minority Leader Office; Shelley Fearson and Jeanette Thomas of Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC); Gloria Pompey and Sherrie Mitchell of Selma; Reporter Al Benn; and Greene County Commissioner Michael Williams.

            Tuesday – I walked, handled many matters, participated in conference calls and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Liz Rutledge of Selma; Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd; Gadsden Businesspersons Dr. Roberta Watts and Roger Watts; Ola Morrow of Maplesville; Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark; Ethel Lopez of Colorado; Veronica Williams of Selma; and Claire Austin of Montgomery.

            Wednesday – I read Sketches on Faya’s Fire, handled many matters, co-hosted Radio Law Lessons with Malika Fortier, chaired a meeting, participated in a Senate Democratic conference call and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Vanessa Gaines of Jefferson County; Senator Vivian Davis Figures; Senator Priscilla Dunn; Andrew Hill of Wilcox County; and Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery.

            Thursday – I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s fire, handled many matters, participated in the SOS conference call, traveled to Birmingham and returned to Selma.  Among those I communicated with were the following: Rev. Odie Berry, Alecha Irby and Lorraine Capers of Selma; Greg Francis of Orlando, FL; Charles Sanders of Bibb County; John Zippert of Greene County; and Jeffrey Jones of Mobile. 

            Friday – I walked, handled many mattes, traveled to Birmingham, then to Montgomery, returned to Selma and met with leaders from Global Ties that included leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Carolyn Gaines-Varner of Selma; Catrena Norris Carter of Jefferson County; Dickie Whittaker of Medical Associates of Selma; Greg Foster of Birmingham; Abina Billups of Selma; Tearra Wright of Selma; Ollion Wright of Texas; Natasha Brown of Selma whose mother died; and David and Charie Sandoval of California.

            EPILOGUE – I believe that the phrase Black Lives Matter is so powerful because it symbolizes in three words a very painful truth imbedded in the very foundation of this country.  This truth runs so contrary America’s stated ideals that we strongly reject it or we strongly embrace it.