Chambers/My Turn: The struggle for equal justice for all

As a mother of an African-American man who grew up in Greenfield, I have long lived in fear of his being harmed by the police or others acting on the basis of racist stereotypes about black men and boys.

The recent Supreme Court decision about the Voting Rights Act made me feel that we as a nation were acting with blinders on our eyes to the racism that continues in our nation. Since that decision, the actions of the Texas, Alabama and North Carolina legislatures to pass new voter ID and other voter suppression measures that had been blocked previously by the Voter Rights Act, have made me feel that we are rolling back the progress we have made since the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Now, the decision in the Trayvon Martin case has made us aware how so-called “stand your ground laws,” coupled with nearly all-white juries (who lack the day-to-day experience of people of color) coupled with inadequate legal representation, fail to offer fair legal representation and protection against attack by so-called “neighborhood watchmen” in thinly veiled attacks on black teenagers. These watchmen seem to believe that they have license to kill black teenagers at will as if the teenagers’ mere presence justifies their murder. This stand-your-ground legislation, which is supported by the gun lobby, has the potential to set off gun wars in our streets.

Returning to the killing of Trayvon Martin, this incident calls back memories of the lynching of innocent black men and women in the recent past. Our streets must be safe for all of our children and residents.

Greenfield has worked through the Human Rights Commission and the 11 Anti-Racism Film Festivals at All Souls UU Church to address the racial injustice in our community. We hope that efforts will be made in our community and the nation to combat violence against our young people, which is fueled by racial stereotypes, prejudice and our gun culture.

We also wish that there will be national efforts to address the current 50 percent black teenage unemployment rate, which gives our young people little hope and opportunity in this land that is lauded for its opportunity for all.

At the same time, federal legislation is raising money to pay for war debts on the backs of students by increasing the interest on student loans. This further decreases access to financial aide for higher education for low-income students of all races.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice King, said, “Today is a defining moment for the status of my father’s dream …” As I consider the above concerns, it seems to me that Trayvon Martin is becoming a symbol for the struggle for equal justice for all of our citizens of all races.

Molly Chambers is a Greenfield resident.

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