It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

27 September 2009

It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

Andrew M. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia and wrote this essay. It first appeared in the Macon Telegraph

For much of the last forty years, ever since America “fixed” its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, “When are African Americans finally going to get over it?

Now I want to ask: “When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that “Election Spurs Hundreds’ of Race Threats, Crimes” should frighten and infuriate every one of us.

Having grown up in “Bombingham,” Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than “talk the talk.”

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservativ e whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we’re back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we’ve proven what conservatives are always saying — that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to “assassinate Obama.”

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, “How long?” How long before we white people realize we can’t make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can – once and for all – get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we starting “living out the true meaning” of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that “red and yellow, black and white” all are precious in God’s sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn’t believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don’t believe I’ll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here’s my three-point plan: First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I’m going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people .

Second, I’m going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama. Third, I’m going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can “in spirit and in truth” sing of our damnable color prejudice, “We HAVE overcome.”

It takes a Village to protect our President!!!


WATCH: The Speech You’ve Been Waiting For

WATCH: The Speech You’ve Been Waiting For

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s address before the United Nations in Geneva will be remembered by history, with the Secretary of State unabashedly arguing to the world that LGBT rights are human rights.

Read the Complete Transcript of the Speech, as Provided By the State Department:

SECRETARY  CLINTON: Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at  being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden  along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners.  This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one  of the great accomplishments of the last century.

Beginning in  1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a  declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of  people everywhere. In the aftermath of World War II, many nations  pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would  prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity  of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they  wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And  they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments,  organizations, and individuals around the world.

At three o’clock  in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of  drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN  General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight  nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a  simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in  dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that  rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all  people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are,  or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And  because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

In  the 63 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made  great progress in making human rights a human reality. Step by step,  barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of  liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of  humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been  repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to  second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious  minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.

(RELATED: What This All Could Mean to LGBT Rights)

In  most cases, this progress was not easily won. People fought and  organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change  not only laws, but hearts and minds. And thanks to that work of  generations, for millions of individuals whose lives were once narrowed  by injustice, they are now able to live more freely and to participate  more fully in the political, economic, and social lives of their  communities.

Now, there is still, as you all know, much more to  be done to secure that commitment, that reality, and progress for all  people. Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to  protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too  many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible  minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are  treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while  authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often,  even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn,  driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny  who they are to protect themselves from harm.

I am talking about  gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free  and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that,  which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I  speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human  rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a  crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence  and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young  people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all  nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home.

Now,  raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the  obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT  people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious  beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and  humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot  delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and  important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus  that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere.

The  first issue goes to the heart of the matter. Some have suggested that  gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact,  they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments  that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were  not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also  weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children  or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the  past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups  are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like  all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did  not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we  understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather  than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like  being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does  not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights,  and human rights are gay rights.

(RELATED: Read The Advocate’s Cover Story Interview With Secretary Clinton from Earlier This Year)

It  is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because  of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural  norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation  of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow  those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human  rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called  corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when  people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when  they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to  save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when  life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal  access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public  spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what  we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally  entitled to our human rights and dignity.

The second issue is a  question of whether homosexuality arises from a particular part of the  world. Some seem to believe it is a Western phenomenon, and therefore  people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay  people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are  all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers  and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether  we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

Being  gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting  the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that  only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the  aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens,  including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are  also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal  rights apply to LGBT citizens. The Government of Mongolia has committed  to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Now,  some worry that protecting the human rights of the LGBT community is a  luxury that only wealthy nations can afford. But in fact, in all  countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay  and straight lives lost to disease and violence, and the silencing of  voices and views that would strengthen communities, in ideas never  pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred  whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other, whether they are  women, racial, or religious minorities, or the LGBT. Former President  Mogae of Botswana pointed out recently that for as long as LGBT people  are kept in the shadows, there cannot be an effective public health  program to tackle HIV and AIDS. Well, that holds true for other  challenges as well.

(RELATED: Inside Secretary Clinton’s Pre-UN Address Meeting with LGBT Advocates)

The third, and perhaps most challenging,  issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason  to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is  not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women  like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some  people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But  violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with  slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly  reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each  of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps  the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for  inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or  behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly  or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears  noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings  actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our  religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration  toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified  slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish  it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom  of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a  common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital  source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people.  And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we  forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for  others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is  because the human experience is universal that human rights are  universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The fourth  issue is what history teaches us about how we make progress towards  rights for all. Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are  some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that  homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays  recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true.  They are also unlikely to disappear if those who promote or accept them  are dismissed out of hand rather than invited to share their fears and  concerns. No one has ever abandoned a belief because he was forced to do  so.

(RELATED: Speech Gets Negative Reaction Among Some World Ambassadors)

Universal human rights include freedom of expression and  freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity  of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we  cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human  rights of all.

Reaching understanding of these issues takes more  than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a  constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a  willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the  conversation, not to avoid it.

But progress comes from changes in  laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have  preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a  teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of  discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral  imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case  that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.

Many  in my country thought that President Truman was making a grave error  when he ordered the racial desegregation of our military. They argued  that it would undermine unit cohesion. And it wasn’t until he went ahead  and did it that we saw how it strengthened our social fabric in ways  even the supporters of the policy could not foresee. Likewise, some  worried in my country that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would  have a negative effect on our armed forces. Now, the Marine Corps  Commandant, who was one of the strongest voices against the repeal, says  that his concerns were unfounded and that the Marines have embraced the  change.

(RELATED: Perry, Santorum Denounce Call for Global Gay Rights)

Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a  mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it  feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to  be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot  change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply  held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the  dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we  disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.

A fifth  and final question is how we do our part to bring the world to embrace  human rights for all people including LGBT people. Yes, LGBT people must  help lead this effort, as so many of you are. Their knowledge and  experiences are invaluable and their courage inspirational. We know the  names of brave LGBT activists who have literally given their lives for  this cause, and there are many more whose names we will never know. But  often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the  changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the  majorities necessary for political change.

So when any part of  humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every  time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative  effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s  rights, the support of men remains crucial. The fight for racial  equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating  Islamaphobia or anti-Semitism is a task for people of all faiths. And  the same is true with this struggle for equality.

Conversely,  when we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that  sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer  any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on. But when we do  act, we send a powerful moral message. Right here in Geneva, the  international community acted this year to strengthen a global consensus  around the human rights of LGBT people. At the Human Rights Council in  March, 85 countries from all regions supported a statement calling for  an end to criminalization and violence against people because of their  sexual orientation and gender identity.

At the following session  of the Council in June, South Africa took the lead on a resolution about  violence against LGBT people. The delegation from South Africa spoke  eloquently about their own experience and struggle for human equality  and its indivisibility. When the measure passed, it became the  first-ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of gay people  worldwide. In the Organization of American States this year, the  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created a unit on the rights  of LGBT people, a step toward what we hope will be the creation of a  special rapporteur.

Now, we must go further and work here and in  every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights  of the LGBT community. To the leaders of those countries where people  are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider  this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people  when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your  citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means  ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws,  because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t  commit crimes. They can and they do, just like straight people. And  when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a  crime to be gay.

And to people of all nations, I say supporting  human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are  shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day  from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so  much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in  the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the  schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work.  These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you  advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.

And  finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you  live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are  connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable,  please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working  hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers  you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in  the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the  American people.

The Obama Administration defends the human  rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy  and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats  are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a  range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In  Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to  support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will  provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And  we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of  human rights for LGBT people.

This morning, back in Washington,  President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy  dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad.  Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across  the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies  engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and  conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and  asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the  protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the  fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against  LGBT persons.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching  a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society  organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will  help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to  use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and  forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights  groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and  we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.

The women  and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile  places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated,  and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will  not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have  seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes  toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people,  including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on  this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it,  engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and  professional relationships with people who are gay.

This  evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi  High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago,  writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an  underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There  is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will  continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All  people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights  respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.

There is a  phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to  support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of  the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled  with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over  slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the  rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children,  people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the  march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for  expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of  history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human  rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

I know that  the thoughts I’ve shared today involve questions on which opinions are  still evolving. As it has happened so many times before, opinion will  converge once again with the truth, the immutable truth, that all  persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights. We are called  once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us  answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our  people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped  by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and  confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it  successfully together. Thank you very much.

(The Short Version: 8 Must-Read Moments of Hillary Clinton’s Speech)



12:00 min
Narrative Docudrama
Director: Richard Levien
Producer: Richard Levien

Winner of the Immigration Award


More about Immersion from Director Richard Levien

Casting was probably the most important part of making Immersion. The search to find Moises and his classmates took several months. I visited the twelve elementary schools in Oakland and San Francisco with the highest Latino enrollment. These are also schools where the vast majority of students are poor enough to qualify for free lunches. I spoke in every 4th and 5th grade classroom. I encouraged the kids to make their own films, using the child filmmaking exploits of fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson as an example. “Who’s seen Lord of the Rings” and “Guess how old the filmmaker was when he made his first film” (correct answer: 8 years old) turned out to be good conversation-starters. Of course, the kids were also encouraged to participate in Immersion.

Auditions were held either at the school, or at a nearby public library that the kids were familiar with. I was able to talk to over one thousand kids this way, and on average more than one child from each class visited showed up for auditions. Most had never acted before, and very few had ever been to an audition. Because so many children were needed for the classroom and playground scenes, kids who did not get principal roles were still able to participate in the film if they wanted to. Throughout the process, the filmmakers wanted the experience to be empowering for all the kids involved.

As a freelance film editor, I enjoy the creative and technical challenges of editing, and most of all the collaborative process of helping a director find their original vision. I recently edited and did motion graphics for the short film On The Assassination Of The President, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. I also edited the cult Internet hit, Store Wars, which was seen by 5.5 million people in the first 6 weeks of its release.

“I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

“I Have a Dream”        Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. …. more