I wanna share with you my favorite quote in the world, my life quote, 8 words that have guided me, inspired me, grounded me, and shaped me in so many different ways. It’s a quote from Dr. King, you’ve probably heard it before, but sometimes, something happens in your life, an aha moment, a light bulb moment, where all of a sudden you see a quote or a Bible verse that you’ve known and loved your whole life, and it all of a sudden means something very different to you. Here’s the quote,
“Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I’ve probably said this quote publicly, from the microphone, or in my writings, hundreds of times, but I wanna be honest this morning and admit that when I’ve said it, what I was mainly thinking about was how injustice anywhere IN OUR COMMUNITIES, injustice anywhere AGAINST BLACK FOLK, is a threat to justice everywhere for black folk, but I have evolved over this past year to realize that injustice anywhere, against anybody, from any ethnic group, or sexual orientation, or gender, or economic background, or religion, injustice anywhere, against anybody is a threat to justice everywhere and that when we are silent about injustice in other communities it makes the possibility of injustice in our communities that much greater
For my entire life, I have almost exclusively fought against oppression and injustice being faced by African Americans. It’s not that I don’t care about what happens to men and women from other ethnic groups, but what the people in our own communities are facing is often so overwhelming, so all-consuming, that it takes every ounce of energy and focus I have to be even a little bit effective inside of my own circle of comfort. Right now I am actively working with dozens of black families all over the country who have experienced some type of extreme police brutality or racial injustice. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about Deborah Danner or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland or Philando Castile.
But this morning, I’m here to talk about 4 flagrant injustices not against black lives, but against the lives of our indigenous Native American brothers and sisters. Each injustice is so ugly, so flagrant, that our silence is simply not an option. We must speak up.
First, on this past Friday, about 30 miles outside of Seattle Washington, police shot and killed a 23 year old Native American woman named Renee Davis. Renee was 5 months pregnant, was a mother of two, and lived on tribal land. Like we see so many times, in so many other cases, a friend of hers called the police to check on Renee because they believed she was having a mental health crisis. Some friends have said she was struggling with depression, but police shot and killed her right there in front of her children. I’m struggling to believe that police would’ve done the same to an affluent pregnant white woman – no matter the circumstances. I’ll say this over and over and over again, but our country has to create better solutions for mental health emergencies than sending a cop with a gun to check on somebody.
I wanted to start with Renee’s story, because what I am about to share with you will likely blow your mind. When I first learned it, it shocked the hell out of me. Not white folk, not Latinos, and not even Black folk are the most likely ethnic group to be shot and killed by police in this country, it’s Native Americans. Last year, a study was released by the CDC showing that from 1999 – 2014, no ethnic group in America was more likely to be shot and killed by police that our Native American brothers and sisters. Of course, African Americans are a close second, but even this year, right now in 2016, and I just looked again at the data this morning, Native Americans are still the most likely ethnic group to be shot and killed by police.
We don’t hear about their cases and their stories because they often happen in much more remote communities and Native Americans don’t have the media presence that we do, but they are catching hell all over this country and it’s not OK.
And that quickly brings me to my final two points.
Right now, people from all over the country are converging on Standing Rock, North Dakota. My family and I are going there next month to protest the Dakota Access Pipleline – an oil pipeline that goes right through sacred Native Lands – and was done so without permission or concern for the water quality or the indigenous way of life. These folk have been abused and mistreated for far too long
And lastly, I have to say a quick word about the logo and mascot of the Cleveland Indians, the outrageously red-faced, toothy grinned Chief Wahoo. You don’t have to be a Cubs fan to know that this mascot and logo are deeply offensive and anybody who says otherwise is lying. It’s relevant now, not just because the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series, but because it’s a part of the easy mistreatment and abuse that this nation has directed toward Native Americans for hundreds of years. The logo must go.
I’ll close this morning just how I began – injustice anywhere, on a reservation with Renee Davis, in Standing Rock North Dakota with the Dakota Access Pipeline, or with the Cleveland Indians mascot, is a threat to justice everywhere.