Only in America, protected by the First Amendment, can we say anything we wish and walk away thinking “I just stuck it to them.” Over the years there have been only three tests established by the U.S. Supreme Court that can limit what we say in America. The first, rooted in English Common law was “bad tendency.” The second, which most of us recognize, is “clear and present danger” and remained as the supreme test on limits to free speech until 1969. In Brandenburg v Ohio (1969) the current test for limiting speech became “imminent lawless action.” So unless an “imminent lawless action” is a part of any utterances, it is alright to say whatever you wish in America.
I write this information as I respond to the article written by Mr. Robert Flournoy in the Wednesday’s Lufkin News. Two things before I begin. My grandfather, of limited education, once taught me that when you wrestle with a skunk, no one can tell the difference. So I had to step back from my initial thoughts and approach the article from a different perspective. Second, one might ask — Why respond at all? Well, the words of one of my favorite poems answers that question. Pastor Martin Niemoller, during WWII says: “First they came for the communists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionist and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” So, I am speaking.
In the article “Examining another perspective on Black History,” the majority of the article is not another perspective. This information has been well known and recently documented in the movie “Lincoln.” As segregated and poor as my Texas education was during my upbringing, we were well aware that it was the Republican Party that was the major advocates of freedom for slaves and laws that empowered new freedmen. But that Republican Party is no more. The Republican Party history presented stopped cold in 1963 and for sure when President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Civil Rights Acts and verbalized that with his signature he knew he was turning the South over to the Republican Party, and so it has remained.
Space will not allow and time permit an in-depth analysis of the sociological factors that have ravaged poor people, regardless of their color. The ideology put forth in the article might be in the words of Ambrose Bience — A vagrant opinion without visible means of support — prejudice. Call it what you must. When the only examples of black achievements are rooted in the past — review, knowledge sharing and acceptance are in order.
Another perspective on black history is not what is needed. What is needed is the analysis of an America that is changing and there is nothing you can do about it. What is needed is a respect for the beauty of the differences we all bring to the table even if we are poor, liberal and have babies born out of wedlock. In the words of Clyde Ford — “there remains psychic scars that underlie the racial breach in America.” While many may say I did not do those horrible things, I am no racist. Think on this, “you may not be a racists, but you are certainly a beneficiary of racism.”(Malcolm X)
Our perspectives are not different. Our present actions must create our beacons of light that point to the future of our America and light the path so that the cobble stones of distrust, prejudice and “inhumanity to man” do not trip our youth as they march to take the lead in our America. Ain’t America wonderful, where free speech is alive and well?
Dr. Guessippina Bonner’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.