In recent days we have witnessed unprecedented evidence of bigotry and violence. Bear with me while I mention some of the more obvious examples.
Start with the abuse and disrespect Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson experienced last week from Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was called vile names. Her professional and personal integrity were demeaned. Her character and intelligence were questioned. What Judge Jackson experienced was intentional bigotry. She was the target of premeditated violence from Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marsha Blackburn and Charles Grassley.
Remember their names. Remember how they treated Judge Jackson. Do not believe them if they eventually make predictably fake excuses, assertions of good faith and other efforts to downplay their bigotry and violence.
Those vicious politicians could not crack Judge Jackson. They could not break her spirit. Through it all, Judge Jackson did what Black women and girls have been taught to do for generations. She maintained her sense of personal dignity and worth. She did not abandon her moral high ground by trading insults with political clowns. Judge Jackson showed the world that she is smarter, more professional and more courageous than all her attackers combined.
I look forward to her being confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks. I look forward to her joining the U.S. Supreme Court after she takes the oath of office. I already envision the wonderful spirits of Constance Baker Motley, Shirley Chisholm, Harriett Tubman, Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Coretta Scott King, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan and countless other women rising to salute Judge Jackson when she becomes Justice Jackson.
Move now to the bigotry and violence the world has witnessed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the hypocrisy of the United States and other rich nations concerning the daily violence happening in that war. Western nations took almost no time to begin imposing economic sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.
The same nations, including the U.S., refuse to impose sanctions against the apartheid regime of Israel because of the daily violence, land theft and discrimination it has perpetrated against Palestinians and other persons of color for generations.
They have not said a word about imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the violence it is carrying out in Yemen.
“They have not said a word about imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia for the violence it is carrying out in Yemen.”
Journalists are constantly talking about how Russian aggressors are committing war crimes against Ukrainians. Meanwhile, the media outlets for whom they report refuse to devote similar attention to atrocities and war crimes committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza. They are not talking about the daily theft of land, invasion of neighborhoods and destruction of olive trees by Jewish settlers in Palestine.
Now shift to the local scene. Reporters, politicians and pundits are talking sorrowfully about gun violence in Dumas, Little Rock, Chicago and elsewhere. But they typically do so by suggesting that violence is an inherent part of Black life. They refuse to mention the violence committed against Black people and communities every day by militarized police tactics, racial gerrymandering of voting districts and deliberate measures to depopulate Black families and communities through mass incarceration, gentrification and other forms of systemic violence.
The hypocrisy surrounding the embrace of sanctions against Russia for the militarized homicide and terrorism it is practicing in Ukraine does not start abroad. Hypocrisy about bigotry and violence, like charity, begins at home.
Politicians of every stripe — from President Joe Biden and Congressman James Clyburn (his chief Black Democratic enabler and the House majority whip) to Sen. Mitch McConnell (Senate minority leader) — proudly called for sanctions against Russia for the militarized homicide and terrorism it is practicing in Ukraine. Meanwhile, they refuse to impose sanctions against murder, brutality and terrorism practiced by police agencies in the United States.
Why are people who want to defund state-sponsored murder, brutality and terrorism when it is done against white Europeans and white Israelis unwilling to defund state-sponsored murder, brutality and terrorism when it is done against African, African American, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian-Pacific Island people in the United States?
“Violence against persons of color by people in power is ignored, excused and even validated.”
Do not let journalists forget how violence against persons of color by people in power is ignored, excused and even validated. Do not believe flimsy excuses from journalists, politicians, preachers and other so-called influence leaders for treating systemic violence against Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian-Pacific Island, immigrants and LGBTQ persons as excusable, or worse yet, deserved.
We should praise Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s courage, exemplary calm and unwavering dignity in the face of what Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska termed “jackassery” during the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We should remember it.
We should teach and model it to younger generations.
We should celebrate it.
We should live it.
At the same time, we should admit that the bigotry, hypocrisy and violence the world saw Judge Jackson suffer happens every day to Black, Latinx, Indigenous and Asian-Pacific Island women and girls. The bigotry, hypocrisy and violence happening to Ukrainians happens every day to Palestinians. It happens every day to Africans.
It happens because people in power allow it. It happens because people with power and privilege refuse to stop it. They prefer to write about it, talk about it and insist that people brutalized by it not complain, not defend themselves, not demand that it be sanctioned (“defunded”), but suffer it.
That is wrong.
Can I get an “Amen”?
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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