About 250 people gathered at the capitol in Madison, WI, at noon today to rally in memory of Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison, the 20-year-old African American who was killed in Slinger, Wisconsin, on March 3. The sister of Bo Morrison spoke first and thanked everyone for coming. Several other people gave speeches.
Here are the remarks I prepared, though I abbreviated them in delivery.
On behalf of the entire staff of The Progressive magazine, I’d like to express our condolences to the families of Bo Morrison and Trayvon Martin. No family should ever have to suffer like this again.
There is something terribly wrong in America today.
And there is something terribly wrong in Wisconsin today, when two young black men can be gunned down, unarmed, and the shooter goes free.
A lot of people are comparing the Trayvon Martin case to that of Emmett Till back in 1955, who was savagely beaten to death by whites in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
And what was Trayvon Martin doing? He’d gone out to buy a bag of skittles!
And what was Bo Morrison doing? He was hiding from the cops on a nearby porch. Hell, my own sons have done the same thing. Did that give someone the right to shoot them dead? I should hope not.
So let’s name what’s terribly wrong in America, and in Wisconsin, today.
One obvious thing is racism.
It has not gone away. We are not living in the mythical post-racial society. It’s with us like a virus that we just can’t kick, and it flares up in lethal forms.
But it’s not just racism we’re dealing with here. There’s another afflicting this country. It’s a virus that hasn’t been here as long as slavery, but almost half as long.
It’s called oligarchy. It’s called plutocracy. It’s rule by the rich and by the corporations and by the special interests.
Because let’s look how the “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws got passed. These are the laws that legalize and immunize vigilanteism.
There was no groundswell for these laws. Tens of millions of people weren’t clamoring for them.
No, these laws were pushed by the NRA and by a shadowy group called ALEC, which the NRA funds, as do a lot of corporations.
ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council.
It’s a coalition of corporations and rightwing state legislators where the corporations actually vote on “model” legislation that they then pass on to state legislators to ram through.
That’s right. The citizens don’t vote. The corporations vote, and then their water boys in statehouses like this one pass the legislation.
So that’s what happened in Florida.
And that’s what’s happened here.
Scott Suder, the State Assembly Majority Leader, last year was the chair of Public Safety and Elections Task Force of ALEC, and the NRA was the corporate co-chair.
So Scott Suder and Scott Walker, an ALEC alum, pushed through the Castle Doctrine.
It says that homeowners have the right to shoot to kill someone who is unlawfully on their premises. And in Wisconsin that means not only in their house but on their porch, as Bo Morrison was. And it also means, in their driveway, on their lawn, or even in their swimming pool.
How many people own swimming pools in Wisconsin?
This law is meant for them.
And just think for a minute. It’s a hot summer night and the neighborhood kids want to sneak a dip in the rich man’s pool. It’s now OK for that man to blow those kids away.
That’s where we’ve come to here in America.
The gun owner and the property owner now have a license to kill, and they’re using that license to kill young black men.
This racism has got to stop.
And this rule by shadowy corporate groups like ALEC has got to stop.
We must eradicate racism.
We must beat back oligarchy and plutocracy so we can at last have a chance at a real democracy in this country.
And so we can say, as Langston Hughes once said,
“O, let America be America again—
This land that never has been yet.
And yet must be.
The land where every man is free.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Adrienne Rich, In Memoriam."
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