Gloria Steinem Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Emmett Till, and Malala Yousafzai

Gender and racial bias has been in existence for as long as the human race has been in existence. As an older white guy, I will not pretend to experientially understand how a woman feels when they do not make the same pay as a man working the very same job. Gloria Steinem and other feminists of the past, like them or not, brought about positive social change where a woman can now be CEO of a large company like Xerox.

Nor will I try to say that I understand what it means to be a young black man growing up in America. I can say though, that having grown up in the 60’s, I believed in the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and what God called him  to do.

Rosa Parks was a courageous women coming home from work one day, tired, and did not want to give up her seat on a bus. Emmett Till was a young man who was murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman. And now we have Trayvon Martin that demonstrates how difficult and complicated our legal system is. I know each of these events is very different, but it appears there is still a miasma in our nation that is not going away.

Today, I read an article that lists the name of Trayvon Martin with the Black martyrs of the past. Rev. George Lee, Lamar Smith, John Earl Reese, and Herbert Lee. These were men who were killed just because they were black. My first thought after reading this article was that Martin should not be listed in the same category as previous martyrs. However, after looking up the stories, the names from the 50’s and 60’s were just regular people going about their regular lives, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, I did not see the evidence the jury saw, so I cannot comment on the judgment. I know there is a lot of pain associated with this event, the loss of a child, and when we frame this event in the past we can interpret it in a very negative light.

Many of my students are young black men, and I wonder what their experiences are? Are they followed just because they are black? Are they pulled over while driving just because they are black? I think I will ask them.

As one of my Facebook friends stated, our judicial system, like many of our other systems need reform. Immigration, health care, and our congressional system needs work. I hope this event will bring positive change, just like an event in Pakistan last year.

A young girl, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head by the Taliban; the reason, she was a girl who wanted an education. Just this past week this courageous young girl celebrated her 16th birthday at the United Nations. She celebrated while giving a speech on the importance of education. She stated that “the extremists are afraid of books and pens.” She also argued “they thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices.”

I heard part of her speech last week. I was amazed at the strength of this young girl who was standing up against the cruel Taliban. Read these words and stand with me amazed at her strength. “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born.”

I hope this is what happens with the death of Trayvon Martin. Instead of anger and hatred, but focused strength and action. On the news last night a young black girl was interviewed. She stated that because of the Martin event she was going to become a lawyer and fight for a more just legal system. Now that is what I am talking about.

And that is my thought for the day!

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