By Kim Williams
Special to the AFRO
“Give me liberty or give me death!” On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry made this statement in his speech at a church in Virginia. He was against the oppressive and cruel British government fighting for the truth to be told. Sound familiar? As much as things change, they stay the same. Here we are in 2020, and unless you are hiding in a cave or living on a deserted island, you know how hard it is to distinguish what is the truth. We are inundated with so many mixed messages and, to add to this, they spew out sky covering smog of political rhetoric attempting to cloud our judgment. For example, “the press is the enemy of the people,” is what we hear when fact checking reveals the lies being told. During a time when we are overwhelmed with misinformation on social media, it is difficult to trust anything we hear or read as being the “truth,” hence the word social. It is left up to us to do fact checking.
1965 • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wife, Coretta, center, lead marchers from Selma to Montgomery in protest against racial discrimination in Alabama.
News reporting has changed over the years. There was a time when news was based on the reporting of facts and it was not heavily reliant on expert opinions making it easy to introduce bias. News reporting also steered away from having a bias slant. Nowadays, depending on your political beliefs, you may choose to get your news from FOX over CNN or vice versa, with each having their own political bias. Not all, but most news reporting broke their code of honor and ethics, which opened the gate to the perversion of the truth. We are left on our own to decipher the truth. However, lest not we be deceived, fooled, or hoodwinked. This reminds me of a Marx brother’s movie in 1933 called Duck Soup, which made the phrase popular, not to believe your lying eyes. Chico Marx said in the film, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” Coincidentally, this was said by someone who was caught lying, and instead of admitting it, they say that the evidence is wrong and the person looking right at it is wrong, too. Thank God for the availability of cameras everywhere realizing this can be debatable for some against “big brother,” but it sure makes it harder for police to get away with the brutality against Black people. Video recordings of such brutality sent shock waves throughout the world, causing protests. The same tools in the media that are used to deceive us are the same that can set us free.
In 2014, a video captured Eric Garner in a chokehold by New York police, saying “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd being the latest horrific killing and Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician murdered in her home by the police. There are countless incidences of African Americans victimized by the systemic racism within the policing system that are now caught on camera. Armed with this irrefutable evidence, the cry for justice was expressed by millions of protestors that gathered to let their voices be heard all over the world to influence government leaders to change the laws.
Freedom March in Baltimore. (AFRO Archives)
The next call to action to effect the change is to vote. When you choose a candidate or choose whether you are for or against a political question, your single vote is your part of the collective decision. You see, protesting and voting are bedfellows. Protesting raises awareness as to the grievances of the people and voting is the legal right to act. Protestors can participate in the political system to demand change. The right to protest and the right to vote are critical to democracy.
Finally, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees citizens five basic rights – religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly. The first amendment also states that Congress cannot make any laws that restrict or prevent citizens from exercising any of these rights or freedoms. There were several civil right laws that were enacted during the 60s as a direct response to the Civil Rights Movement and the efforts of the protestors. Although it was mentioned, as much as things change, things stay the same. There is a remarkable difference with the past massive protesting during the mid-60s as compared to today’s protesting. Back then, our Black leaders were murdered: Reverend Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and Malcolm X. Today, there is not one person that can be singled out to murder. Instead, there are organized groups. The attack on our rights of the constitution are their same weak efforts, which is to continue confusing the message and spreading lies. Through it all, we must have faith in God and that good will prevail. The protestors are exercising their right to assemble and petition the government, and it is the job of the people to effect change by voting. The master of fake news is like the emperor’s new clothes, only fooling himself not the people.