Civil Discourse - Civil Society - Civil Rights

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Civil Discourse - Civil Society - Civil Rights

by Barbara Yerby

(Pictured above Barbara Yerby giving her speech - pic by B.J. Yerby)

What do you think of when you hear the words, civil rights? Do you think of Black people marching? Protests? Martin Luther King? Rosa Parks?

Do you also think of women, children, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, the poor, Irish, Italians, LGBTs, religious groups, and left-handed people?

Civil rights are those guaranteed by the United States Constitution and amendments and laws that guarantee fundamental freedoms to ALL individuals. ALL people in this country have rights and when these are taken away, it is wrong.

Denying rights of people leads to destruction. Destruction of property, faith in humanity, friendships, neighborhoods, and souls.

Hitler was a prime example of someone who denied basic rights to humans. It is known that to feel powerful, one must put down others. Blame others, create red herrings to take away attention from themselves and to stir up the masses. Beware of people like this as they do not have anyone’s best interest in mind but their own.

My mother grew up in Germany under Hitler and lost family members in the war. My own grandmother died in a concentration camp only because she was listed as Jewish. Didn’t even practice it. My mother was shot at as a child and escaped bombs in Dresden that we dropped. She watched the SS soldiers slap her parents, watched as many of her classmates disappeared. It’s amazing she even survived but yet she became a humanitarian and raised us to be accepting of all people. I remember her being involved when segregated businesses didn’t want to be integrated. She knew what it was like to be ostracized and treated as an outcast. She wouldn’t stop until the businesses were integrated or shut down.

Campaigning for or holding a political office does not excuse anyone from disrespecting these rights. Politicians are supposed to respect all people and the Law.

This type of behavior starts with bullying. We know that bullies don’t like who they see in the mirror and when they treat someone else wrong, they feel better but that is fleeting because they still do not like themselves.

We feel like removing the offenders from this earth but the best way to get revenge is for them to feel remorse. Living a life of shame is far worse than being hurt or killed. It won’t work for all of them but we cannot stoop to their level and act in kind.

When we are treated badly, when our rights are not respected, it is easy to react in a like manner. But, it is hard and brave to react passively like King and Gandhi did. It is brave NOT to fight back, NOT to hit or throw things or shoot. Greater changes have occurred because Gandhi and King were respected for their leadership, honesty, and bravery.

In light of recent campaigning, we realize even more how deeply buried the hate has been and how it is coming up and while we have progressed a long way we still have a long way to go so it is imperative that everyone who can, vote correctly.

In the words of Dr King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


- This speech was given by Barbara Yerby at the MLK Celebration and Rally held in Taylor Texas on Monday, Jan. 18th 2016

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