Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Saturday, August 23, 2003  

In the news

  • Pedophile priest murdered
  • One of the Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct has been murdered a year into his decade long sentence for child molestation. He was tried and convicted in one case, though there are 130 accusations that he sexually abused children during his 30-year career.

    (CNN) -- John Geoghan, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and convicted child molester, died Saturday after he was assaulted in prison, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections told CNN.

    Geoghan was injured during an incident with another inmate about noon and died shortly after being taken to Leominster Hospital, Department Of Corrections spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said.

    Geoghan became a central figure in the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. He was found guilty in January 2002 of molesting a boy in a swimming pool a decade earlier and sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison.

    Pedophiles, or "short eyes" in prison parlance, are said to be at the bottom of the pecking order among inmates. Geoghan's notoriety may also have played a role in his swift demise. However, I can't condone vigilantism. I believe even the worst criminals should be allowed to serve their court-mandated sentences instead of being resentenced by their peers in prison. An investigation should be conducted to make sure Geoghan received a reasonable degree of protection from other inmates during his incarceration. The prison system should be held responsible if his murder could have been prevented.

  • Was King's speech underestimated?
  • Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory has a novel view of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech forty years ago, according to columnist Clarence Page.

    WASHINGTON -- I am more than halfway into ABC News anchor Peter Jennings' excellent documentary on Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech when I hear comedian-activist Dick Gregory get to the real reason why millions of TV viewers watched King's speech: A lot of people feared there was going to be "trouble."

    "And why did white folks look at it?" Gregory says. Not because they wanted to hear what black people had to say. "They thought it was going to be a bloodbath. They thought it was going to be violence and so they listened all the way to the end."

    According to Gregory, the networks probably would not have gotten much of an audience if they simply announced that "we have a very eloquent Negro that's going to give a very eloquent speech, we want you to listen."

    I was not available to record anything at the time, but Page was, and he vouches for the at least partial accuracy of Gregory's observation. The entire country was on edge and there was even talk of declaring martial law. Many African-Americans, in both the North and South, were just plain fed up.

    All three networks covered the speech live. I was a high schooler in southern Ohio and did not have a huge interest in world events. But I watched every minute of King's speech. Racial segregation was still legal. My parents could not take me to certain amusement parks, hotels or restaurants. When we traveled far, we slept in our car. The only difference for us in the North was that we could ride in the front of the bus and we didn't have "white" and "colored" signs.

    Page asserts that King's own mood in the speech encompassed that anger and disgust, though it has receded from memory in subsequent years. The great man wrote, unabashedly, of African-Americans as a group of people cheated by America -- sent a check not backed by funds.

    The columnist observes that the second, more optimistic part of King's speech is what is usually applauded by Americans, including those who oppose most mechanisms to achieve racial equality, now.

    And it is King's vision of a better society that Americans and the world remember today far more widely than they remember the sense of debt and "obligation" that he references in the early part of his speech. Everybody, it seems, would like to see a free, just and equalized society. We only argue about how to get there.

    That tendency leads some people to speak of ways to achieve King's dream that run precisely counter to what King actually wanted. The fight for "color-blindedness" should not make us blind to reality.

    . . .In fact, King believed Americans would have to be quite color-conscious in order to achieve his dream. Otherwise, we would have no way to measure our progress.

    I find Page's interpretation of King's "I Have a Dream" speech convincing. To have championed equality while ignoring the work needed to achieve it would have been stupid and Dr. King was not a stupid man. I believe he envisioned a future in which people of color would finally receive payment of the debt owed them, instead of being cheated again by by a society that pretends to be color-blind, but is not.

    Read Page's column and form an opinion of your own.

  • Brown is back behind bars
  • Mr. Whitney Houston, aka Bobby Brown, is in the hoosegow again after failing to comply with the terms of his sentence in a conviction for drunken driving.

    ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) - Singer Bobby Brown was arrested on a probation violation while dining with his wife, Grammy winner Whitney Houston, police said Saturday.

    Brown was picked up Friday night at a restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta after an unidentified caller tipped authorities, said police Sgt. Chris Lagerbloom, a department spokesman.

    Brown, 33, was taken to the DeKalb County Jail, Lagerbloom said. He did not know how Brown violated his probation.

    In January, Brown was sentenced to eight days in jail and ordered not to drive for a year after pleading guilty to a 1996 drunken driving charge in DeKalb County.

    Last November, Brown was arrested in Atlanta on charges of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, speeding and having no driver's license or proof of insurance. He also did a 26-day stint in a Florida jail in 2000 for a previous probation violation.

    I am conflicted when I read stories like this one. I know Brown's antics will be used as fodder by racist sites such as American Renaiisance and Gene Expression. They will argue that his propensities are representative of all African-Americans. It will be said that you can take 'the black' out of the ghetto but not the ghetto out of 'the black.' Some of the self-described (but unproven) smart people there will ascribe Brown's behavior to genetic deficiencies.

    However, I cannot denounce reporters for covering the story. I, a former reporter, would have covered it, too, because the misbehavior of a celebrity is news. My objection is to to how the news will be misrepresented in some quarters, not the coverage itself. The solution to this problem is to judge Bobby Brown the same way one would judge a white celebrity with the same proclivities. His skin color is not the issue, his actions are.

    posted by J. | 9:25 PM

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003  

    Around the Web

  • The trouble with history
  • John Hawkins of Rightwing News has sent out another of his surveys. I again 'rassled,' as they say in my native Southland, with the thing. This time he wanted to know who "The Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century" are. Previously, he had asked us to identify the worst figures in American history.

    Roger Ailes considers John's polls too vague. After completing a second one, I must agree. I've put my finger on the problem. It is that I don't think in chunks. Instead, I organize data into categories or packets. (Kind of like coding, I just realized.) So, in answering the question, I found myself looking for people in certain fields, including politics, science and literature. For example, for medicine, I selected Charles Drew and Jonas Salk. Literary choices included John Dos Passos and Sinclair Lewis. The same process was applied to other fields. For me, at least, John's surveys would function better if he narrowed his descriptions to specific areas of accomplishment and smaller historical epochs.

  • The brown vote and Schwarzenegger
  • Hispanic voters in California have become aware of Arnold Schwarzenegger's ties to a group considered racist by many. The B-movie actor sits on the board of U.S. English, an anti-immigration organization. It claims to be mainly interested in assuring immigrants learn English immediately instead of receiving bilingual education. However, in reality, USE and its allies oppose immigration of non-whites period. John Tanton, the organization's leader, doesn't bother to mask his bigotry in private communications. He says:

    "In this society, will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile? Can homo contraceptives compete with horno progenitivo if our borders aren't controlled?... Perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down. As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?"

    The shortness of the campaign period for the California recall effort seems to have led Schwarzenegger to believe he can finesse difficult questions about his past. However, some Hispanic voters are on to his connection to USE.

    At a rally in Los Angeles Saturday in support of a bill Gov. Davis says he will sign, which would allow illegal immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses, several Hispanics said they were wary of Schwarzenegger, because of his ties to former Gov. Pete Wilson and his support for a 1994 ballot measure that would have denied health care and public education to illegal immigrants. "Here in the Latino community we realize he was working with Pete Wilson on Proposition 187," said Raul Guzman, a construction company foreman. "He supported it. I don't see Schwarzenegger having too much support in the Latino community."

    I wonder if the actor can wiggle out of this.

    Brian Flemming is conducting an excellent Schwarzenegger watch on his weblog. Read it to stay up-to-date.

  • A gene to riot?
  • I found some of the expectations expressed in print and broadcast about the great Northeast and Midwest blackout disturbing. Some folks seemed to be assuming people of color have a natural inclination to riot. I suspect they may have been disappointed when the peace was easily maintained in cities such as Cleveland and Detroit and districts such as Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy in New York City. Ironically, there was some significant looting -- in Ottawa.

    Curiosity led me to read about the 1977 NYC blackout and contingent looting. I discovered the factors most determinative of who participated in the looting were income, previous criminal record and area of the city. The poorer people were the more likely they were to be involved in second or third stage looting, meaning they joined in late in the process. First stage rioters were likely to be longterm criminals, often residents of SROs --single room occupancy hotels. SROs often house parolees and/or people with substance abuse problems. The more economically depressed and blighted an area was, the more likely its few businesses were to be stripped and burned.

    To learn more about the 1977 blackout read Blackout looting: New York City, July 13, 1977, by Robert Curvin. The report, also released as a book, is available online as a series of PDFs. Newsweek also published a special edition on the blackout. Get it at Magazines Online.

    posted by J. | 7:57 PM