Amnesty International gave Colin Kaepernick its 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award for his nonviolent protest against police violence against black people.
The N.F.L. quarterback did not stand for the National Anthem but knelt to protest racial inequality and police brutality. His respectful protest triggered what Amnesty International called “alarming levels of vitriol.” Kaepernick’s act of conscience cost him his job.
In his acceptance speech, Kaepernick described police killings of African-Americans and Latinos in the United States as lawful lynchings.
“Racialized oppression and dehumanization are woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex,” Kaepernick said.
The award draws its inspiration from a poem “From the Republic of Conscience” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Readers of the poem travel to the Republic of Conscience, pass through immigration and customs and are accepted into a state of responsibility as ambassadors of conscience, a job they can never relinquish and from which they will never face termination. It is a lifelong commitment to advocate for the basic human rights of all people confronting injustice. Everyone who enters the Republic of Conscience loses all privilege and entitlement and becomes an ambassador for the powerless and the marginalized. They return to their own countries with dual citizenship and the burden and privilege of protesting injustice everywhere and advocating for universal human rights.
These “ambassadors of conscience” live and work in America, Gaza, Jerusalem, Iran, Russia, Myanmar and all nations. Their embassies are worldwide, yet they operate independently, sometimes spurned, misunderstood and ridiculed.
Woodrow Wilson’s Racism
Woodrow Wilson was a U.S. president, but he was also a racist, segregationist and advocate of the Ku Klux Klan. His name does not belong on a school. Period. There is no larger issue. There may be additional issues, but first and foremost is removing the name of a racist from a position of honor.
That is “the elephant in the room,” said Jackie Petty during a discussion at a Peoria Public Schools building committee meeting.
Those who argue for keeping the name in defense of history and tradition are committing “historical malfeasance, a lie by omission,” said former mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu.
Those who argue the larger issue is naming a school for an African American woman of achievement are conflating two separate issues.
“Black Lives Matter” cannot be conflated and diluted with “All Lives Matter.”
No. 1 is removing the name of a racist. No. 2 is naming a Peoria school in honor of an African American woman of achievement.
“Fake News” versus Truth
There were several articles last month in Community Word about fake news. The preservation and health of democracy rests on understanding the difference between fake news and sound, professional journalism.
Fake news is a tool used by dictators and ideologues around the world to push an agenda. By contrast, professional journalism is based on research, interviews, sourcing and fieldwork. It’s not based on ideology, no matter how much some may want to accuse the press of being liberal, dishonest and unpatriotic.
Two favorite quotes about professional journalism:
- If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
- You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts.
There is no way to learn the truth about the war in Syria, the impact of the tax reform act, the significance of global climate change, the Iran nuclear arms deal or the importance of Food Stamps without credible journalism. Go to a trusted source like The New York Times, the Washington Post or BBC.
That does not discount the role of art, for example, in understanding truth. Art can train the eye to see differently and the mind to understand beyond the status quo. Art can help us evaluate information but it can’t replace facts and sound journalism.
Michael Bloomberg has said America is awash in an “epidemic of dishonesty” that poses a greater threat to democracy than terrorism or communism.
A major effort to help people vet their news sources is expected to launch in the fall. Check out NewsGuard at: https://newsguardtechnologies.com.
Condemn this violence
Unarmed children shot and killed. A man with no legs in a wheelchair throwing rocks shot and killed. Nearly 3,000 civilians in recent weeks shot by military that readily acknowledges few of the dead and injured had weapons other than rocks, anger and years of frustration over intolerable living conditions.
Hamas does not bear all the blame here. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations justifies this killing and claims a nation has the right to determine the location of its own capital and to protect its borders. The American president claims Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people.
Yet not one of the three religions claiming sovereignty over Jerusalem justifies killing innocent civilians; politicians distort and use religion as justification.
There is no honor in the role the United States has played in exacerbating conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. America’s role is a moral failure of historic proportions.