Monday, November 27, 2006

NYC Shooting Incident: What About the Women?

The dynamic of crisis and victory in American race relations just keeps on rockin' and rollin' with yet another incident of black men being shot to death by the police:

NEW YORK -- Angry residents demanded to know yesterday why police officers killed an unarmed man on the day of his wedding, firing a hail of bullets that also wounded two of the man's friends. Some called for the ouster of the city's police commissioner. At a memorial vigil and rally the day after 23-year-old Sean Bell was supposed to have married the mother of his two young children, demonstrators led by the Rev. Al Sharpton shouted "No justice, no peace."(Read the Whole Article Here)

Whether or not this incident represents the all too frequent and lethal expression of institutional white rage that those protesting it seem to believe remains to be seen. There was one little detail though that as a responsible American Baha'i I could not allow to slip by before the discussion of this tragedy becomes exclusively about race. This little detail is that the incident occurred outside a strip club where one of the soon to be married black men had been being "entertained" with his friends. Anyone who has read my comments about the Duke Rape Case, knows how I feel about such "entertainment".Now I know that my role here as a fellow black male is to be in solidarity with my brothers and not bring up any "inconvenient truths" (as Al Gore might put it). I know that I am also only one unlucky encounter with the wrong police officers, in the wrong neighborhood, at the wrong time from ending up similarly filled with hot lead. I just can't play the game that way though. I have to ask myself, what about the women in that strip club? Who will speak for them? Will the streets of American cities burn with righteous anger at their exploitation and victimization by an outrageously well funded sex industry that routinely causes serious harm to women, children AND men everyday in America? Once Reverend Sharpton is finished leading the charge against police brutality, will he lead a protest of the strip club? Will he perhaps put out a call to members of the black community in New York to raise money so that they can purchase that strip club and turn it into an educational center for the empowerment of young black men, or perhaps a community clinic where black men, women and children could receive access to the high quality medical care that far too many of them are denied in the richest nation on the face of this earth? I am reminded of a recent article in the U.S Baha'i News about the efforts of American Baha'is to emphasize in international circles the importance of moral education to combat violence against women and children around the world:

The Baha'i International Community has released a statement that highlights what it says are often neglected solutions to eradicating violence against women.

"Beyond Legal Reforms: Culture and Capacity in the Eradication of Violence Against Women and Girls" acknowledges the importance of political, legal and economic change in eliminating violence against women, but places special importance on developing individuals' moral and spiritual capabilities.

"Sincere efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls must begin by educating children both in school and at home with values that promote equality and justice," said Sharona Shuster, U.S. Baha'i representative for the advancement of women.

According to the statement, violence prevention strategies must include "cultivating in them (children) a sense of dignity as well as a responsibility for the well-being of their family, community, and the world." (Read the whole thing here)