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The President’s response...represents a call to action for all of us to 
act before another tragedy is brought to our own doorstep."
White Shame, Black Pain

By E. Faye Williams, Esq.



 Trice-Edney Wire Service—The day after the verdict issued in the George Zimmerman case, I heard a white reporter say there was a lot of shame in America that day.  For all of their shame, I could not help but wonder if any of them felt our pain. 


Whether we’re experiencing shame or pain, the question is, "Where do we go from here?"  It's not enough to criticize President Obama for what he did or did not say.  I understood him clearly when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”.  He was identifying with every parent who’d ever lost a child to such violence.  For me, he didn’t have to say more.


As veiled as the President’s response may sound to some, it represents a call to action for all of us to act before another tragedy is brought to our own doorstep.  This time, when he said, “a jury has spoken”, he didn’t stop there.  He reminded us of what all Americans must do.   It sounds like some of the President’s critics missed his statement when he said, “ ...we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.  We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.  As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.  That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”


Some of us put in our earplugs because too many of us don’t like to go beyond meeting and talking.  We want someone else to do what must be done.  Too many of us are happy criticizing others—but fail to ask ourselves, what we can do to make a difference.


Attorney General Eric Holder told us we need to change the “Stand Your Ground” laws.  Since these are enacted through states, we need to deal with state politicians.  Each of us has a voice and a vote.


You must register to vote and, once you are, help somebody else register.  Vote in every election even if it’s only for dog catcher!  Contact the people who run your state and let them know where you stand on laws and practices.  Don’t spend your money in states that don’t respect your civil and human rights.  Take a lesson from Stevie Wonder.  Don’t lend your talents to states with unfair laws. Don’t take your children to see a rat at Disney World.  Instead, take them to places like Washington, DC, where they can experience memorials for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and others who risked their lives for justice.


The times demand action from more of us—African, Hispanic, Asian, Native and white Americans, LGBT friends, women, the disabled—everyone benefitting from the Civil Rights Movement. 


Whether feeling shame or pain, now is the time to stand up for civil and human rights for all. Lord knows, African-Americans have made sacrifices to make America a better nation.  The blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors didn’t omit anyone while seeking justice for us.  If African Americans came up out of slavery to accomplish all that we have for this nation, surely others can help to rid us of “Stand Your Ground” laws that do nothing more than encourage violence.  Together, we can make voting a constitutional right for all. Together, we can overcome the disparities in our system of justice.  The question is, “Are we willing to help each other through this shame and pain”?


(Dr. E. Faye Williams is National Chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. 202/678-6788.  www.nationalcongressbw.org) 

 

The job has just begun - again

By E. Faye Williams

TriceEdneyWireService.com -- On the morning of Nov. 7, I woke up in the glow of the re-election victory of President Barack Obama. I was thrilled with the realization that “people power” had overcome all the anticipated advantages of the billions of dollars donated by wealthy Republicans.

 

I soon began to realize the real work had just begun -- again. By expending large amounts of physical and financial resources, we successfully overcame a vicious, vigorous onslaught to defeat and discredit our president. We deserve credit for that effort, but recent history tells us we must be ever vigilant.

 

The politically naïve might say we’ve met the immediate challenge by voting the president a second term, but don’t forget the success of 2008 and our electoral disaster in 2010. Let’s not ignore the fact that only those enthusiastic about the historic nature of President Obama’s election have maintained support throughout his first term, and there’re still many who’d love nothing more than to maneuver him into failure. Sen. Mitch McConnell greeted the president’s second term with the admonishment that he must still acquiesce to the will of the Republican leaders.

 

Those who study the nuances of politics understand that our support of the president includes voting him into office, and voting for congressional leaders who want to break the chains of legislative gridlock that condemn us to cultural and economic stagnation. While it’s unreasonable to expect total compliance to the will of the president, it is reasonable to expect legislators to participate in good-faith considerations of legislative approaches to resolving problems facing our nation. We must be firm in our resolve to use our vote to reward those who demonstrate an active and ongoing willingness to work in the national interest and dismiss those who allow partisan politics to prevent progress.

 

While we hold the feet of our legislators “to the fire,” we must be equitable in our requirement for responsibility from them. I was disturbed by reports that members of “minority” communities were being fooled by dirty tricks that included being told voting was being conducted by phone; or, because of high-volume voting, Democrats were being scheduled to vote on the Wednesday after election day. I was disturbed by the wide-spread suppression efforts that created lines of minority voters waiting hours to vote and stretched far distances from polling places - while similarly situated white voters were completing voting in 20-30 minutes or less. Although it is obvious the source of these problems is external to our communities, the success of these scams shows that we have to take better care of our own “business.”

 

We must engage in civics re-education. The more informed about the electoral process we become, the less susceptible we are to confusion and deceit about the process. The more engaged we are in the political process, the less likely we are to allow the type of local administration of elections that create the lines witnessed outside polling places. We must challenge local election officials and demand outcomes that increase access to voting opportunities instead of limiting them. With our involvement in the election process, we can elect state and local officials who value the principles of democracy and extending the vote to as many eligible citizens as possible.

 

Of all the good news from the 2012 election, heightened awareness of the empowerment of voting is the best. One of the earliest civic lessons I learned was “If you don’t vote, you don’t count!” I have found that lesson to stand firm to the test of time. The more we understand and embrace this lesson, the brighter our collective futures will become. We live in a society where there is no value in living outside the political process.

 

 

Dr. E. Faye Williams is chair of the National Congress of Black Women,  www.nationalcongressbw.org.