IT’S MLK Day and America is truly missing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as we observe this special day for his special contributions of “setting the moral standards & fixing the moral compass” of our nation. I can’t help but to wonder what he might say and do about the resurgence of racism at the national level in America to the point that it has transcended onto the world stage after the death of Mr. George Floyd. Having grown-up during segregation and participating in the Civil Rights Movement really compels me to offer the following “words of reality, wisdom and omission” to the People of the CNMI.
The Dream is NOT Over!
I think Dr. King might say “my dream is still not over and we as a people still have some difficult days ahead before it’s all over.” Fifty-two years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. Minutes into his speech, King stated, “One hundred years later, the Negro is still not free,” and here we are 52 years after that speech, “free” is still something of a pipe dream as we are still not even free to walk and drive the streets of America for fear of “death-by-police”! Too many of us people of color are still being faced with denial of the freedoms to vote, too many of us are still the last hired and the first fired, too many of us still can’t put food on the table but they changed the “Food Stamp” requirements to disqualify more of us when we are living in the times of a world pandemic, police are still murdering our people without facing any consequences, and our biggest obstacle to progressing racial harmony & equality with any sense of normality has been our President who has embolden racism and empowered White Supremist who had the nerve to think they were “entitled & empowered” to take over our Government. We still have some difficult days ahead America!
White people stormed the capital and approached the Police, thinking the police were actually on their side, as if they were “ENTITLED” to be a mob of insurrection and in fact, some police are now under charges for helping the mob. The days of Jim Crow thinking are not behind us yet and We the People still have some difficult days to get our National and Local Governments to stop the “gerrymandering” (manipulating the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party (Republicans) or class, as too many Blacks have to travel toooo many miles to vote. Prior to the pandemic, I actually saw on CNN a Black woman being kick-out of a hospital “in the snow and in her wheel chair” because she was indigent but we can turn on the TV at any time and see sad heartfelt NATIONAL ASPCA commercials on dogs in the snow who need help. But you never see these national commercials to help people. We need to start helping the people who need the help the most, like young Rep. Edwin Propst just said about the CNMI.
There was a time when us Black folks were worried about “police brutality” but now we are worried about “murder by the police” as times have gotten more dangerous. The introduction and transportation of drugs directly to the Black ghettos of America changed the paradigm from the “rope to the dope” that laid the way for mass arrest and strict sentencing for many nonviolent crimes. Today, there are Blacks in jail for drugs with more time-to-serve than some people with murder and manslaughter sentences. Private Prisons became the rewarding “cash-cow” for white entrepreneurs who keep getting richer at the expense of African-Americans. We still have some difficult days to turn the corner on racist agendas but the “good trouble” we can continue to make is through VOTING like we did to get rid of #45. The People of Color in America have learned that WE far outnumber the white conservatist who are still in bed with racism, so WE have a real fighting chance for change — just continue VOTING like your life depends upon it, because it DOES — for TRURE!
WE also have very similar challenges to finish the Dream of Dr. King here in the CNMI but we are just fortunate that the Local People are also “People of Color” and systemic racism is virtually non-existent. The CNMI’s challenge is that there is an element which is associated with the Republican Party in our Government and within the CNMI Society who are “prejudice towards fellow Americans” whom they have deemed “outsiders,” as they have an unwritten rule against mainland Americans having real positions of “decision making power.” For the past two decades Republicans have hired mainland attorneys to do their dirty work but they refuse to appoint mainlanders to any Boards or Commissions, as John Joyner was one the few mainlanders appointed to a Cabinet post since the conception of the CNMI. After 31 plus years in the CNMI, I know for a fact this form of prejudice exist, as I was even told these things by a former Governor of the CNMI. These “bigots” do exist and I have even witnessed some locals who seem to think they are white or can pass-for-white with the “entitled attitude.” But they need to know they would have gone to school with ME during the Segregation Era. Straight hair and light skin weren’t good enough to be treated with dignity and respect like whites in America as you had to be WHITE. In fact, Locals have been called the “N-word” in the past and more recently a Chamorro who was on the mainland from Guam was mistaken for an African-American and was killed as the perpetrator said “get the Black guy” before he was shot. Locals have been mistaken for Native American Indians and Mexicans too so no Local should take it for granted that they won’t be adversely affected by the racism in America when they travel to the mainland.
But the most challenging change for the CNMI is the “Locals v Everyone Else” when it comes to a fellow American owning their business & house lot in a Commonwealth of America that has pledged allegiance to America and our U.S. Constitution. I truly understand the desire for preservation of lands FOR future generations but that doesn’t mean you should nor do you have the right to treat people “un-equal” today in America. “Freedom and Equality” don’t always come FREE and the CNMI must shoulder its fair share of the cost by “sharing the land” as “sharing is truly caring.” The People of the CNMI were duly warned in the Covenant Negotiations and even given a “time limit of 25 years” for Article XII to be fixed which is why I KNOW for TRUE that Article XII is going to come back to haunt the CNMI one-day just like the idea of segregation (separate BUT equal malarkey) did to America and it’s just a matter of time. My admonishments about Article XII will surely be another one of my I Told You So events but I hope and pray it will be a nonviolent and peaceful change for “equality.”
But for sure, the Dream is not over on America’s mainland and in the CNMI as we still have some difficult days ahead before the Dream comes to an end. I can remember telling my students “racism is a learned behavior and they need to un-learn it if you were taught to be a racist” and some even admitted they had been taught to be racist — for TRUE. As long as WE have leaders TEACHING the “Racism of Article XII” the Dream will never end in the CNMI and more importantly they are literally delaying the growth and development of the CNMI promoting racism. Not a single village is fully developed with sidewalks after over 3 decades of becoming a U.S. Commonwealth, including our “Downtown Village of Garapan” — sad when Garapan used to look like San Francisco under the Japanese. But it needs to be made known that “Education is the only real countermeasure to ending racism,” Ambrose M. Bennett and in the words of Dr. King, “WE got to learn how to LOVE”! The Dream will only end when America has finally lived up to its creed of “all men being created equal” and being TREATED equally because everyone in America is entitled to be “equal” as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Thanks for reading & Happy MLK Day. We must all try to do our part to keep the Dream alive until the end of the Dream that will signal the end of racism in America.
To be continued: One People One Direction for Ending the Dream and Racism in all parts of America!
The writer is a retired teacher, former CNMI Board of Education Member, James Madison Fellow (U.S. Constitutional Scholar) and a Fulbright-Hays Foreign Scholar who resides in Kagman III.