I Have a Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

-Martin Luther King, 28th August 1963

We’re in 1960s America. The jubilation is ecstatic. Waves of triumph electrify those once deadened eyes of the segregated race: black Americans. Safety is reassured as the laws that tortured them for centuries are undone. Years of countless campaigning has paid off. It has all been for something. By law, segregation and racially motivated violence has ended. By law.

Revolution doesn’t follow. Racism continues. Discrimination in the workplace continues. The ‘equal but different’ philosophy of the 1800’s Jim Crow Laws continues. A change in law cannot establish a change in lifestyle.The resounding problem is that of unfaltering opinion rooted in centuries of the same narrow-minded, uneducated drivel; opinions concocted by the elite and powerful and fed through society over centuries. Stories and myths about what is ‘right’ and what is apparently ‘wrong’. So the overturning of state-school segregation by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, in no way made it easier for Black Americans to be accepted by their white peers and similarly the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not disparage all racism from the workplace either. Reaching ‘true equality’ is an ongoing battle for the majority of us even in the 21st Century.

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It’s the 26th of February 2012. I was walking home from my local convenience store. I’d visited this place a few times but it was still interesting to look around at the buildings as I walked back to my Dad’s fiancée’s house. My pockets were weighed down with a can of ice tea and some skittles, it was getting a lot darker. I knew my Dad would worry about me, the area wasn’t a particularly good one to be walking around in this late at night, and more than anything I knew he was anticipating the arrival of the skittles. My slow wander turned into a run back to Dad. I didn’t want to worry him. The slamming of a car door nearby made me uneasy. I quickened my pace. I could hear footsteps fastly approaching behind me. I was being followed. I turned abruptly catching the guys nose with my fist. I knew I shouldn’t have wandered back from the store. The guy continued towards me, he must’ve been about 30 years old. He didn’t match the description my Dad gave me of the kids who’d been causing trouble around the retreat. I realised too late that I did. Someone please help me I thought over and over. I tried to force the guy away from me yelling ‘help’ as loudly as I could hoping that someone would hear me. ‘Help’ I shouted, my mouth becoming dry and coarse as the word resonated against the walls, fell against them, reaching no ears. No one came to save me.

Before I knew it a gunshot had been fired. I fell to the ground. -I had been murdered.

No, that’s not my account. But if it was, is there anyway that you would doubt that I had been murdered? Shot to the chest by a 28 year old male, armed only with a can of ice tea and a bag of skittles. Pursued by that male, against police instruction (on calling the police whilst in the car they advised him to remain in there and told him not to pursue the ‘suspicious’ person). Yes I defended myself but since when did a broken nose equal a gunshot? Is it only murder because I’m white? because I’m female? Does race or sex really come into the equation? If I were a 17 year old black male by the name of Trayvon Martin I wasn’t murdered. This was just self defence under the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law.

“A stand-your-ground law is a type of self defence that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation”

George Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter on the 13th of July 2013 by a jury made up of 5 white, and one black woman. Zimmerman pleaded self defence against a 17 year old black male whom he had racially profiled as ‘suspicious’ and ‘dangerous’. Why 45 years after discrimination based upon race, gender and religion, is a teenager murdered for belonging to a certain race and therefore fitting into a certain narrow-minded stereotype?

Is the loss of a black man’s life not worth punishment?

Since when did being black make someone a threat? When does pursuing and then shooting someone, regardless of being suspicious of them, not account to either murder or manslaughter? When is a gunshot reasonable force against a can of drink and a bag of skittles? How does a teenager running create a ‘dangerous’ situation? What about this teenager arouses suspicion or any essence of danger?

And we ask; what if Trayvon Martin was white? What difference would that have made?

The fact that Trayvon Martin’s race is a factor in all of this is just wrong. Whether Trayvon Martin was murdered or not, is not reliant on whether he was black or white. His life was taken on unreasonable grounds, and it is more than disrespectful to leave this case without justice for Trayvon and his family- justice for Black Americans. 58 years since Emmett Till became the martyr for equality, we have a new martyr: Trayvon Martin.

“I have a dream today…” – Martin Luther King, 28th of August 1963

… that equality will be a reality and not just legislatory, that opinions will change and people will be accepting and understanding of people regardless of race, religion, gender and sexuality. It’s unrealistic, I know.

 

C of (In)Equality

A resounding knock-back to women’s rights occurred this week. Yes women’s rights- we’re still fighting for those. It might seem like something you’d read in a history textbook or on a museum display. Women’s rights, mis-representatively so, evokes images of suffragettes marching in green, white and purple; a time of political protest, a time of inequality. We look back and think ‘well thank you for that ladies, procuring us the vote and all that’, but do we not realise that this struggle is not over? That feminism should still play a role in every woman- every girl’s life?

‘I hate feminists’ some women say. For some reason this term draws up an image of a hairy arm-pitted lesbian. But why? A feminist is defined as ‘an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2012) this should be every woman, every female should be a supporter of her own rights- at least. Why would any woman want to limit her own rights; prevent equality in the workplace, equal representation and an equal right to education? They don’t. Many women feel, as we are taught in history, that our battle for equality is over, it was procured in the past; however the evidence from the last week or so suggests otherwise.

One establishment that one would expect to support equality to the highest level is the Church. Everyone’s heard the phrases ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘treat other’s as you would like to be treated’ which are apparently fundamental principles of the Church of England, after all it was Jesus that said them. One would assume that equal rights for men and women would be right up the Church’s street. Evidently this is not so. For some reason ‘neighbour’ and ‘other’ are only applicable to men; white heterosexual men for that matter and us women are left outcast amongst other’s who are deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Church. Targeting the Church of England directly, how can the state headed Church claim to be ‘of England’ when it is more unrepresentative of our country than any other establishment?

The guardian newspaper has argued that the Church, by voting against the ordination of female bishops, has committed it’s own suicide speeding up the previously gradual death of the Church’s importance in society. But rather than this has the pledge for women’s equal rights been murdered?

Parliament has suggested that the Church be forced on this issue: but applying force does not equal change. To some extent it’s not worth it- female bishops permitted for the wrong reasons, and realistically not many women will step up knowing the hostility they will receive from male bishops. But parliament has a point, for one, the House of Lords holds 26 Lords Spiritual, all male, impacting the degree in which the House of Lords represents the people and also holding significant influence over the passing of measures through the House. In terms of the law, religious institutions fare immunity from such equality legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, however the EU could challenge the immunity of the Church of England with the equality of women being one of the foundations of the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the EU’ regarding occupation and employment. Again, the Church may be forced into allowing women the same opportunities as men. Force is not the answer, by using force we are only having favours granted for us by men, this doesn’t change the attitudes to women within the Church, nothing can do that, our own salvation lays within our own persuasion but as women seem disinterested by this gender battle our hopes are pretty low…

As the Church’s stature dwindles due to this issue we might wonder why people are making the effort to change the attitudes of an already dying institution. One simple reason:

this isn’t religion anymore it’s politics.