In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. King argued that the "spiritual and moral lag" in modern man was due to what he later referred to as the "triple evils" of society: capitalism, militarism and racism. For King, the genocide that took place in Vietnam, combined with the ongoing racism and extreme poverty, especially in the black community, only solidified the idea that the three were inextricably linked and part of the same fight for universal human rights.
Of course King was not alone. Indeed, Malcolm X maintained that the United States' economic system would have to be completely destroyed to truly end racism in our country. He often connected the struggle for black equality in the United States with those fighting for independence in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In short, Malcolm X, like King and so many before them, firmly believed the goal was not civil rights, but human rights. They believed the black freedom movement in America was part of an overall liberation struggle for all non-white people around the world.
One could not help but be reminded of King and Malcolm's words with the one-year anniversary of George Zimmerman's acquittal, the death and destruction taking place in Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. In each area, one can certainly see the "triple evils" of poverty, war and racism at work and how these issues are all connected.
For many of us, this week brought back the painful memory that George Zimmerman was blinded by racism and only saw Trayvon Martin as a thug or something less than human. Of course, this is not new and Zimmerman is not alone. Viewing and treating non-white people as something "other" than human dates back centuries as a justification for slavery and our economic system.
Clearly, one can see the connection when examining those who have been detained on the southern border. Citizens, politicians, pundits and journalists continue to use words like "illegals" or "aliens," rather than calling them what they are -- children. But make them less than human or an "other" and it is easier to call for their immediate deportation, suggest sending them to Gitmo, or call for violence against them.
Indeed, it is much more comfortable to defend Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza, if one does not see the victims as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Instead we are shown the most bombastic images of Palestinians and told those killed were terrorists or Hamas sympathizers. The sad reality is that for many, nonwhite children regardless of where they are from in the world are still not viewed as fully human.
Read about the violence in Chicago or Central America and count how many times the words "gangs" or "drugs" are used. However, rarely does anyone ask how the guns and drugs got into the black community in the first place. How many journalists have examined the effects of NAFTA and CAFTA on the poor in Central America? How many have seriously analyzed how our history of overthrowing democratically elected governments, fueling and funding right-wing dictators, and creating "banana republics" in Central America has played a role in this crisis?
In the 1960s, black activists saw the connections between the assassinations of Patrice Lumumba, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and Malcolm X. They linked the extreme poverty in the black community to the amount of money spent to wage war on non-white people in Southeast Asia. These activists knew that black and brown had to unite, especially in the United States. For them, "an injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere," was not simply a slogan.
Fifty years later a new generation is heeding the call. When Trayvon Martin died, the Dream Defenders arose. When undocumented students came out of the shadows, United We Dream emerged. Now these young activists have joined together with other nonwhite leaders, under the banner of Freedom Side. Look closely at these men and women and you cannot help but think of Cesar Chavez, Fred Hampton, or Fannie Lou Hamer. These activists see the power in their unity and how they are all part of the same fight. For they know that even if "Stand-Your-Ground" is repealed and immigration reform is passed, not until all children of color, regardless of where they are in the world, have the same opportunity to grow up, live in peace, and achieve their dreams, will they ever truly be free.