ChildWatch: Disarm Hate
On August 2 I wrote about the relentless scourge of gun violence and the two children killed in Gilroy, California and asked: Why does gun violence remain a uniquely horrible American epidemic and why does it go on and on and on and on? Two days later a new shooting made national headlines when an employee killed two people and injured a police officer at a Mississippi Walmart.
Then came El Paso. 22 died. 24 injured.
Then came Dayton. 9 died. 27 injured.
In one week 36 people died and more than 60 were injured not including the dozens of others killed by daily gun violence. A child or teen is killed by gunfire every two hours and 34 minutes in our nation. People of all ages are killed with guns every 14 minutes.
None of this is normal and should not continue to be normalized in the United States of America. In fact it is absurd and morally intolerable in a purported democratic nation where our pledge of allegiance declares liberty and justice for all.
The FBI has opened domestic terror investigations into the Gilroy and El Paso shootings. The El Paso shooter’s manifesto echoed the same hateful and racist language permeating our nation, beginning in the Oval Office. We must band together to fight resurging racism and white supremacy with urgency and persistence at every level and in every institution in our national life.
A kindergartener and third grader have shown us the way with their words. They created the slogan behind “Hate Has No Home Here,” an awareness campaign that began in a Chicago neighborhood. These children’s message of love, nonviolence and insistence that hate has no home here must spread across our nation and world. I urge families, neighbors, businesses, congregations, schools, city halls, communities and all who oppose hate and violence to take up this cause. If you believe everyone in America should be safe from violence and hate, then act! Visit Hate Has No Home Here to download the free artwork uplifting this simple expression of human decency in a number of languages, and display it on posters, yard signs, bumper stickers, buttons and everywhere you can hang a banner or sign.
Everyone should want and work to ensure that our children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, worshippers, communities, nation and world are safe from terror. But making children feel welcome and valued is hollow if we cannot protect them from the guns that make hate uniquely dangerous in our nation.
Guns lethalize hatred, anger, domestic disputes, mental illness and despair. Easy access to guns—including military-style weapons that should have no place in civilian hands—has made expressions of hate and violence devastating. The shooter in Dayton had an AR-15-style assault rifle with 100-round drum magazines. Police responded and stopped him in 32 seconds. But it took only 32 seconds for him to kill nine people and injure more than two dozen others. The Gilroy and El Paso shooters used similar semiautomatic weapons.
What a difference moral political leadership at the highest levels of government makes. In New Zealand, less than a week after the horrific mass shooting in March 2019 that snuffed out the lives of 51 people of Muslim faith, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposed a national ban on all military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, high-capacity ammunition magazines and parts that allow weapons to be modified into semiautomatic guns and a government funded buyback of existing assault weapons. Within weeks, New Zealand’s Parliament enacted her proposed assault weapons ban.
Between 1994 and 2004 our federal government banned civilian ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. In the fifteen years since this ban expired, most members of Congress have refused to renew this urgently needed ban or pass any other common-sense gun legislation. So here we are again with a rash of tragedies and a groundswell of voices demanding Congress and governors do something right now. What will it take to end the indifference to the lives and safety of our children?
Please speak out, organize and vote to save child lives and do not stop until all our children are safe. The House of Representatives has passed several measures to keep guns out of the hands of those who might harm children and communities but the Senate has refused to act on these measures. Demand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell end the slaughter of children in Kentucky and throughout the nation and urge him to reconvene the Senate immediately to pass effective gun violence prevention legislation.
All of us must disarm hate and violence in America. We must drown out voices of hate and White supremacy with love and action and end our national gun violence epidemic. We don’t have another moment—or life—to waste.
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To Be Equal: Toni Morrison’s Passing Is a Loss for the Racial Justice Community as Well as the Literary World
“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek—it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind.”
—Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture, 1993
A few years after being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, for a body of work known for centering the Black American experience, Toni Morrison was asked by a white reporter when she would “incorporate white lives” into her books “in a substantial way.”
“You can’t understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you?” she asked. “You could never ask a white author, ‘When are you going to write about Black people?’ Whether he did or not, or she did or not. Even the inquiry comes from a position of being in the center.”
Morrison likened herself to a Russian author, writing in Russian, about Russia. “The fact that it gets translated and read by other people is a benefit, it’s a plus. but he’s not obliged to ever consider writing about French people, or Americans, or anybody.”
Morrison’s death this [month], at the age of 88, is a loss not only to the literary world, but to the cause of racial justice and civil rights. And it comes at a time when her unique voice is especially relevant.
Shortly after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, she published an essay entitled “Make America White Again,” in which she argued that white America’s loss of “the conviction of their natural superiority” had led to its debasement. The slaughter of unarmed men and women of color at the hands of police and racially-motivated mass murder, the bombing of Black churches—and white America’s apparent tolerance for all of it—she asserted, were part of the death knell of white superiority.
“If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause,” she wrote.
It is telling that what the interviewer noticed most about Morrison’s work was the absence of white characters; white privilege can be like air or light, notable only when it is absent. And according to Morrison, white voters were beginning to feel it ebb away.
“Toni Morrison” may have been as much a creation as her novels; she said she regretted using the nickname, derived from her chosen confirmation name, Anthony, and always thought of as Chloe, her given name. She grew up in the integrated town of Lorain, Ohio, and was disillusioned by what she saw as rampant colorism when she arrived at Howard University in 1949. Unlike classmates who had grown up in the south, she experienced legal segregation for the first time in Washington, D.C., but could not believe it was real.
“I think it’s a theatrical thing,” she told the New York Times. “I always felt that everything else was the theater. They didn’t really mean that. How could they? It was too stupid.”
When Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, it had been more than 30 years since an American-born author had won, but her status as the first Black woman honored overshadowed her Americanness.
And while she had complained that her work was more likely to be taught in women’s studies or African-American studies classes than in English classes, she hoped her work “fit first into African-American traditions and, second of all, this whole thing called literature."
Today, even high-school students across the country are familiar with her work, reading her alongside Nathanial Hawthorne and Mark Twain. She has staked out the African-American experience as part of the broader American experience.
As politicians seek to divide us and racial violence swirls around us, it is this lesson—that Black America is America, that we must keep firmly in our hearts.
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Hoyer, Cardin, Van Hollen Announce $1.1 Million to Boost STEM Education at University of Maryland, College Park
By Annaliese Davis
Congressman Steny Hoyer’s Office
WASHINGTON, DC (August 14, 2019)—Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have announced $1,115,270 in federal funding for the University of Maryland, College Park. The funding, awarded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), will allow the University to study how educational simulations can help undergraduate students understand and engage with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. The project aims to enhance the career awareness and skills of students in two areas of national interest: cybersecurity and crisis response.
“I am pleased that the University of Maryland, College Park received this important funding,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Encouraging students to explore careers in STEM fields is critically important and will strengthen our workforce. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress to improve access to STEM programs for our students.”
“Our national security depends on students’ access to high-quality education and exposure to the STEM industries,” said Senator Cardin. “The University of Maryland, College Park has proven a strong partner in preparing the next generation to tackle the challenges of tomorrow, and I am confident that these federal funds will further that goal.”
“Encouraging students of all backgrounds to pursue careers in STEM fields is vital to our economic growth, national security, and global competitiveness and innovative programs like this show Maryland’s commitment to making that goal a reality. In particular, our state is home to both public and private organizations focused on cybersecurity and creating a well-trained cyber workforce is important for the safety of our country. I will continue working in Congress to make sure that our students receive the very best education and training so they are prepared for future success in the workplace,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees.
NSF supports research, innovation, and discovery that provides the foundation for economic growth in this country. By advancing the frontiers of science and engineering, our nation can develop the knowledge and cutting-edge technologies needed to address the challenges we face today and will face in the future.
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