Lessons from King: Shared struggles, linked destinies

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(NNPA)—We are experiencing the most insidious assaults on communities of color we’ve seen in decades. As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy we are reminded that in times like these we can’t honor the sacrifices of our ancestors without standing up for justice today.

The passing of Arizona’s racial profiling law, SB 1070, the ensuing ban on Affirmative Action, ongoing attacks on ethnic studies, the Department of Justice’s report demonstrating Maricopa’s Sheriff Arpaio’s culture of racial profiling and inmate abuse, as well attempts to suppress the vote in Arizona and other states stand as evidence of the interconnected issues that threaten the dignity of people of color and the promise of our communities.

Sadly, inhumane immigration and anti-democratic voter suppression laws have been exported to states throughout the nation with varying mutations. Alabama’s HB 56 (a copycat of Arizona’s SB 1070) and broadside attacks on the Voting Rights Act are testament to that. These laws are harsh reminders of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “… injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” From Arizona to Alabama—we know that our destinies are intertwined.

Alabama and Arizona are on the tips of many tongues these days. As people who live in these states, we are constantly asked to give voice to the legislative disasters that are happening. Beyond the actual laws, the racist impudence of those who legislate anti-immigrant agendas give license to white supremacist ideologies and individual acts of racism such as when in Alabama, a Latino man (lawfully in the United States) was told he could not make a purchase with his bank card because he did not have an Alabama state issued identification or driver’s license.

The rising numbers of hate-crimes in Arizona, since the passing of SB 1070, are afflicting Blacks as well as Latinos. White Supremacist organizations are setting up shop in Arizona—and some have even attempted to launch clubs on university campuses. On Christmas Eve, a cross was even burned on the lawn of an African-American man’s home and was a troubling reminder that white supremacist sentiments are still alive.

During times like these, we are compelled to join in the battle against these injustices. The anti-immigrant fight is about us, and the legacy of white privilege. Immigrant rights are principally about racial justice and this also means rights for the rarely discussed Caribbean, African and Afro-Latino immigrant communities in the United States. Correspondingly, the fight against voter suppression and the prison industrial complex is one that immigrants must also be invested in as these laws and current backlash is about their growing power and influence.

Any threats to immigrants should be seen as affront to our collective dignity and to African-American liberation struggles. We must understand that the anti-immigrant agenda is a guise to reverse the gains made by the civil rights movement and divert attention from real crises such as the widening wealth gap between the top one percent and the rest of us.

In Arizona and Alabama, African-American communities are rising up and advocating for immigrant rights and racial justice. New coalitions and communities of resistance are being forged throughout the nation to respond to the multitude of intersecting issues that are afflicting both African-American and migrant communities. As African-Americans recall our own history of systemic family separation, which still plagues our communities today, as well as the diverse resistance, which ushered in civil rights, we know we’ve never fought alone.

There’s a Martin Luther King Jr. within each of us. We are the inheritors of such great freedom fighters such as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and Malcolm X. We must courageously take heed the call and not become calloused to injustice.

The time to act is now. To employ the insights and honor the history of our forebears who fought courageously to ensure liberty for all, we must do what is right and combat the ills of our times.

(Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant.)

(Scott Douglas is executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. Opal Tometi is the Arizona-based National Organizer for the Black ­A­lli­ance for Just Immigration.)

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