Equality and Justice is Everyone’s Responsibility.
My parents taught me that we must always stand against injustice. They believed that equality and justice are not the responsibility of a single community, they are everyone’s responsibility. As Jews, it was ingrained in us that protecting the rights of everyone would also protect the rights of Jews. My Dad was a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU. He was a quiet guy, but he would completely lose his temper if he heard someone make a racist remark. He took it personally.
I was in high school in Cincinnati, OH in the late sixties and early seventies. Protests were frequent then, about getting out of Vietnam and ending the draft. Most of us, including my pacifist mother, thought that the war was unjustified and unwinnable.
It was a time of turmoil. There were protest marches and looting, aka riots, in Cincinnati. Young people wanted peace and love, and mary jane. We listened to Mo-Town, Folk Music, and Rock. We went to affordable concerts: James Brown, Janice Joplin, The Mamas and the Papas, Jethro Tull, and Peter, Paul and Mary. We were friends with black kids and we all dressed like hippies (although we couldn’t wear jeans to school until 1971).
One day, my mother, an anti-all-war pacifist, came to our high school in 1968 and took my sister (a senior) and me (a freshman) out of school to attend a peace rally at the University of Cincinnati. One of the speakers was Paul Newman, the handsome actor. She wanted us to experience the protest. I remember my sister pointing out the Feds dressed in conservative suits, who were documenting who was in attendance. Later, we bragged about having a file on us at the FBI.
In mid to late May of 1970, after the shooting of 4 white student anti-war protesters at Kent State University on May 4 by the National Guard, our high school got a visit from Jerry Rubin. Jerry Rubin was one of the founders of Youth International Party (YIP), along with Abbe Hoffman and Paul Krassner. Their fans and followers were called Yippies. Rubin was born in Cincinnati, OH, and he went to our high school, Walnut Hills. I remember wearing a scarf tied around neck and waist to make a blouse. Feminists encouraged us to burn our bras! Anyway, we followed Rubin around the grounds of our school like rats followed the Pied Piper. We could not help ourselves. He was charismatic, fun, and radical. He also visited Oberlin College at that time, one of the four colleges that he attended. My sister got to hear him, too. We were Yippies!
I turned 16 in the fall of 1970. One of my black friends in our driver’s ed class told me about the “Talk.” He advised us that if we were pulled over by the cops, we should put our hands on the steering wheel and be as polite as possible, even if you had not done anything wrong! I have followed that advice for almost fifty years. What I did not realize at the time is that his life depended on compliance, whereas mine did not.
This brings us to today, almost fifty years later. We are not protesting the Vietnam War, but we are still shouting, “Peace Now! Justice Now! Equality Now!” We are adding “Black Lives Matter!” because it seems that, sadly, the police still have not figured that out. I think that the war we are fighting is a war for Justice and Equality within our own country.
I can imagine an America where Black men do not fear for their lives when confronted by the police. Where black athletes, scholars, nurses, architects, construction workers, artists, where all black people do not face discrimination, hate and injustice, but where they can pursue their dreams, their professions, and their everyday lives without fear.
As an older white woman, I can tell you that it has been a long road from being an 8th grader who wanted to be an architect and who was told that women don’t do that, to the leader of a small architecture and interior design firm. I have learned that we all have biases, large and small. We can make snap judgements about others based on gender, looks, color of skin, wardrobe, age, weight, and more. Let us pledge to try to fight our biases and get to know others in a deeper way. Let us commit, each of us, to fighting injustice when we see it, no matter our color, ethnicity, place of origin, gender, or skill set. Together we can make positive change!
Postscript: War is costly. However, since May 27, 2020, we have lost more Americans in the three months of the COVID 19 pandemic (over 119,000 over four months) than from the Korean War (36,516), Vietnam War (58,209), Afghanistan War (2,216), and Iraq War (4,497), combined (101,438 over 44 years). If you add in terrorist attacks including 9/11 (3,497) and mass murders (511), the total would be 105,446, still less than COVID-19 deaths to date. Source: Google and The Independent
PLEASE WEAR A MASK WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME! You will protect yourself and your fellow protesters.