BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published February 13, 2002
BAMN should learn from mistakes of past militants
To the Daily:
I have spent the beginning of the winter semester engrossed in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, through my participation in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program"s Civil Rights class (and upcoming trip). After witnessing last weekend"s rally and then reading further about the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary in Monday"s Daily (BAMN defends purpose, 2/11/02) I feel compelled to respond to what I see as a gross misrepresentation of the legacy of the struggle for civil rights.
Reading first-hand accounts of participants in the original movement, most notably John Lewis (now a Congressman, but former leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it is clear that the strength and success of the American Civil Rights Movement were due to its leaders" unshakable belief in nonviolence. From the Birmingham bus boycotts of 1955, to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and through to the Selma, Alabama protests of 1965, Civil Rights workers, and especially college students, stayed true to the precepts of non-violent "direct action" as the most effective way to fight segregation and bigotry.
They were not afraid to face firehoses, dogs, bullets or bombs, because they knew that in the long run, their lack of violent response would provide powerful evidence of racial injustice to both the country and the world.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s achieved huge gains for the fight for equality specifically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. When it began to fall apart, however, was when it turned towards violence and militance. The peaceful marches and protests of the early 1960s dissolved into the riots of the later part of the decade. Now, BAMN claims to be taking part in a "New Civil Rights Movement."
It is undeniable that significant racial inequality still exists and BAMN deserves respect for trying to right the wrongs of this injustice. To compare this "new" movement to that of Dr. King, even if by name only, fully derides the lasting impact of the first movement. The coalition"s acronym stands for "By Any Means Necessary," which carries clearly militant implications. In a rally to motivate the crowd last Friday, which consisted of a majority of non-University students, University of Tennessee student Dumaka Shabazz was quoted as saying, "If we have to destroy some things, we will destroy some things."
I fail to understand how this mentality can come from the same group that rallied in honor of Dr. King last month, without it being seen as a direct affront to every belief for which Dr. King lived and died. In the last speech that he ever delivered, one day before he was assassinated, Dr. King said, "It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world: It"s nonviolence or nonexistence." These words comprise the incredible impact of the Civil Rights Movement of the "50s and "60s, but I find them every bit as relevant (if not more so) today as they were 35 years ago. BAMN may have labeled its struggle the "New Civil Rights Movement," but their militant ideology is lightyears away from the one that came before.
Socioeconomic and racial inequality are among the most significant issues that face America today and BAMN deserves respect for trying to address them. It is a shame, though, that they are so short-sighted as to ignore the way that the first American Civil Rights movement lost all relevance when it turned from nonviolence to militant radicalism.
Daily picture did more to advertise for Nike than SOLE"s golf balls
To the Daily:
I have been asked numerous times "what was up with the golf balls" in reference to the Daily"s Editorial yesterday, SOLE Sporting Nike? which commented on the fact that Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality used Nike golf balls Monday on the Diag. The answer to that question is both incredibly simple and much more involved.
The easy answer is this: Those are the golf balls that friends of people in SOLE had and therefore those are the golf balls we used so that we didn"t have to buy new golf balls. If we had bought new golf balls, perhaps the Daily couldn"t have commented on them, but I would bet anyone that they too would be made in sweatshops.
The longer answer to the question "what was up with the golf balls" is that today in this country corporations have so saturated our daily lives that no one can avoid tacitly supporting a brutal global economy, not even SOLE. We can only work daily to change the system that currently dominates. The Daily stated that we are not anti-Nike this is true, we do not oppose any one corporation. I and SOLE collectively do stand in opposition to a global economic system that allows large multinational corporations to encourage and campaign for a race to the bottom that exploits people in the United States and internationally.
What was lost on the Daily"s editorial page yesterday were the workers in sweatshops around the world. Specifically, yesterday, it was the 215 women and men currently walking the picket-line in Derby, New York people who can tell you the intricacies of stitching the Michigan "M" while they explain to you that they simply cannot feed their children on the salaries being offered them. They will laugh about stories of rush orders after we win large sporting events while chronicling grotesque numbers of needle punctures not pricks, but punctures that go straight through to their bones.
It is the global reality that sweatshops are so pervasive it will be years before we can all truly be sweatshop-free. The fact that the Daily chose to run a photo that so prominently displayed the Nike logo on the front page of its newspaper represents an editorial decision that did much more to advertise for Nike than a few golf balls scuttling across the Diag. This University has an opportunity and responsibility to be apart of the change that is to come, as does this editorial page.
The letter writer is a member of Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality and the United Students Against Sweatshops Coordinating Committee.