Reflections on CRT and MLK

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on January 17, 2022 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP and PennLive for consideration as an OpEd. 

The Russian History Museum in Moscow was empty except for one lone wheelbarrow when I visited it in 1991.  I asked our Russian guide, “Zhachem  (why in English)?” She replied, “Because everything taught about our Russian history was fake.”  

The same may happen in America as the vocal opponents of Critical Race Theory bombard school boards and convince their state legislators to pass laws such as this one in Texas (HB 3979): “Schools may not teach that ‘slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States,’ nor ‘an understanding of the 1619 Project.’” 1 The 1619 Project is a collection of essays and profiles that discusses the history and legacy of slavery in America, beginning the year the African slaves were brought to and sold in Jamestown. 2

The hysteria over Critical Race Theory (CRT) threatens democracy and will lead to teaching fake American history, or censorship of books and curriculum materials, similar to what has happened in Russia.   The Heritage Foundation3 defines CRT as “Racism that is ‘systemic’ and ‘structural’ derived from Marxism and embedded in America’s Institutions,” 4 such as our schools. Some parts of this are true. Others are not and stoke fear among parents. 

First, CRT was not derived from Marxism, the core of Communism, a movement of the proletariat that turned into corrupt authoritarianism by its leaders. Second, CRT is an academic concept taught in graduate schools and a framework for describing systemic racism in American culture, our laws, and our institutions. CRT is not part of any secondary school curriculum. Third, the Heritage Foundation asserts that CRT claims persons of white privilege must renounce their privileged position. 5

I am a person of white privilege. In the 1860s my great grandfather pastored a church in Marietta, Georgia before, during, and after the Civil War. He may have owned slaves as his church denomination did not condemn slavery and he had a large family needing to be cared for. Schools for whites only and blacks only existed in southern states up until Brown vs Board of Education in 1954. The Civil Rights Law was not passed until 1964. Jim Crow laws and segregation existed until then. 

Repressive state voting rights legislation continue systemic racism even today. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a speech in Montgomery Alabama a year after the Civil Rights legislation was passed7 that, even though the law gave black Americans part of their rightful dignity, without the vote their dignity was without strength. He also praised the white Americans who, because they valued Democracy over maintaining their white privileges, had walked and stood beside black Americans to help pass that legislation.      

As one of those persons of white privilege, going all the way back to America’s colonial days, I cannot renounce the color of my skin. I do not feel threatened or afraid, nor do I feel guilty about how my ancestors treated those with different colored skin. However, now that I am keenly aware of my ancestors’ role in accepting the racism of their time in American history, I have chosen to use my white privilege to stand beside my fellow black Americans. Today, I can honor Martin Luther King, J.r by helping black Americans pass federal voting rights legislation. As an educator I also want students to know the true history of America— the good, the bad and the ugly.  American students need to learn the truth about our sordid racial legacy. Only then can we expunge the stench of our systemic racism.  

1Critical Race Theory and the Public Schools in a power point presentation by Jason Giersch, PhD. of UNC, Charlotte, NC. slide 50.

2Hannah-Jones, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.

 3Heritage.org

4The Heritage Foundation, Critical Race Theory. 2021_CRT_ebook.pdf

5 Ibid.

 6See historical fiction story told in my book, Costly Freedom by Terry Webb.

7In a speech delivered on 25 March 1965 on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the march from Selma to the State capital.

©️2022 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

CLIMATE CRISIS: WHAT IS COP26 AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Written by Jim Sandoe. This piece was first published on November 11, 2021 in an email from Lancaster Stands Up. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

You have probably been hearing about it on the news and online, but what exactly is COP26 in Glasgow? It is the 26th yearly Conference of Parties for members of the United Nations to work on the urgent problem of climate change. At the 2015 Paris conference, a set of guidelines were adopted by all members. Since that time, nations have been meeting to work out the details of how to implement the Paris Agreement which created a limit of 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 F) in global warming while stating a preference to keep the rise to 1.5C (2.7F).  This year’s meeting has very specific goals

  1. Secure Global Net Zero Emissions (no emissions produced that are not offset by green projects) and keep 1.5C degrees within reach.  This will require all countries to start with what they agreed to in Paris and go even further. 
  2. Adapt to Protect Communities and Natural Habitats
  3. Mobilize Finance. This is the most difficult hurdle. Under the Paris Agreement, higher income  countries committed to spending $100 billion to finance climate adaptation and emissions reduction. Most higher income  countries have not yet met their pledge.

Enhance Collaboration by Defining and Agreeing to detailed rules of the Paris Agreement and accelerating action against climate change— Here we run into how much of a monetary penalty countries that don’t meet their goals will incur and the mechanism for enforcement.As the devastating effects of climate change increase year after year,  this year’s conference has an extra sense of   urgency.  At our current rate of emissions, we will hit the 1.5-degree target by the early 2030’s.  To solve climate change we must also solve global poverty—they are inextricably linked. Climate change amplifies the already existing divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  We can already see this happening in real time. For poor people living in low-income countries agriculture, water, heat, and drought are already happening at an alarming pace. By 2050, more than 1 billion people will be forced from their homes and forced to migrate.  Even in higher income  countries, coastal cities and towns will suffer major financial losses and forced migration. In the U.S., the burden will fall mostly on our Black and Hispanic populations (and mostly women within these populations). Historically, these peoples have created the least pollution among us, and yet they will receive the vast majority of the consequences.

This morning, as the summit approached its end, a draft of an agreement was written. It calls for a doubling of funds to assist poorer nations to deal with climate impacts, and calls on all countries to boost their emissions-cutting targets by next year. But many provisions of the draft face an uphill battle. Nations are nowhere near agreement. There are disputes over the amount of money and the pace of emissions reductions.

Last week the summit world leaders made two new pledges to reduce deforestation and to cut methane emissions by 30% in this decade. But climate activists are skeptical of new pledges when past pledges have not been met. Tens of thousands of protesters descended upon Glasgow this past weekend to voice their impatience.

 The only way to make sure that these world leaders live up to their lofty promises is to keep up the pressure. For the sake of the planet and humanity we must make sure they follow through. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s up to us. Get Involved with our local Citizens Climate Lobby: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/chapters/PA_Lancaster/.

NOTE: COP26 was held on November 7-12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

About Jim Sandoe

Jim Sandoe, a U.S. Army veteran, has been doing climate presentations and climate research since 2013.  He’s  done original research on fracking chemicals and on PFAS, the “forever chemicals” or “Teflon” chemicals and their effect on military bases in the U.S.  Jim has also worked on a team that wrote an amendment that was adopted into the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Since 2011, Jim have taken 45 masters credits in climate and sustainability.

Demand Public Input!

Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on November 4, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

The roughly $106 million that Lancaster County received from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is intended to make whole the families and communities devastated by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Essential workers, caretakers, and restaurant workers of Lancaster lost their jobs and now struggle to pay their bills and face the threat of eviction.  Yet, incredibly, our county commissioners have downplayed the need for the money and are sitting on it as Lancaster families suffer.

 Clearly, the commissioners need our help to see where the money can be used.  Let’s start with one of Lancaster County’s major problems—the affordable housing crisis, which pre-existed but was made worse by the pandemic. A household is considered cost-burdened if they pay more than 30% of their income for housing.  Among extremely low-income households in Lancaster County, 82% of households are cost burdened. Here are just a few ways the commissioners could allocate the ARP funds to help the households:

  • Affordable Housing projects face substantial funding shortages due to pandemic-caused rises in construction costs. Funds could go towards filling gaps caused by these rising costs. 
  • Use the funds to address long-standing challenges in financing and repairing existing affordable housing. 
  • Fund an increase in staff for reaching out to hard-to-reach tenants to help them apply for Emergency Rental Assistance.  

Join me in demanding that the commissioners create a public input process. We cannot count on them to act quickly and effectively in meeting the needs of Lancaster families.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

New Writing Meet Up Day!

With the changing of the leaves come a change in our meeting schedule…

Starting this October, we will be meeting once a month on the first Thursday of each month and will alternate between a daytime meeting (10-11:30 AM) and an evening meeting (7-8:30 PM). We will continue to meet over zoom for the time being.

If you would like the zoom link to these writing sessisons, please email us at lancasterspeaksup@gmail.com

Come and join us!!!

Why White People Should Like Critical Race Theory

Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on July 1, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor. 

People are trying to get Critical Race Theory (CRT) banned from being taught in school districts (even though schools can’t teach this since it isn’t a “training” but a way of questioning the role of race and racism in society). People are worried that if CRT is discussed in the classroom, white children will be made to feel guilty.  Some people believe CRT promotes masturbation and homosexuality (even though it’s about race, not sex).  After researching CRT, I have to admit, I don’t understand why white people are against it.

CRT states that racism is a social construct, not the result of individual bias or prejudice, but something embedded in legal systems and policies.  For white people, this should be good news! It basically says that you, as a white individual, are NOT responsible for the racism inherent in the prevalent systems of our country.  Individual people are not at fault unless they currently engage in racist behavior  (eg. part of the KKK, Unite Evropa, QAnon, etc.). 

Now that you know that you, personally, are not responsible for the racism in the USA, what are you going to do about it?  If you fight against CRT – you’re basically saying that you WANT racism to be the responsibility of individuals and not of systems. Is that what you really want? The choice is yours. Just make sure you really know what CRT is before you decide. Otherwise, your behavior will make you responsible for the very ideals you are fighting against. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

What Will We Choose?

Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on June 28, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor.

There’s a child tonight being tucked into bed. She is falling asleep surrounded by her books and toys. One day this summer, there will be a knock on her door—the sheriff’s deputy evicting her family. They will leave with only what they can carry.  There is no room for extra things in a car, shelter, or on a family member’s couch.

Most of the child’s toys, books, and clothes will be piled in the street. They won’t have money for storage fees, so the neighbors will pick what they want, and the rest will end up in the landfill.

This story will happen throughout the country this summer. The CDC Eviction Moratorium ends soon, but 10 million Americans are still behind on rent.

Of course, child homelessness is nothing new. More than 1.3 million children were homeless at some point during the 2018-2019 school year. But the pandemic fueled spike in families behind in rent should give us pause.  County Commissioner Josh Parsons might think “this money is arriving after the COVID crisis is over” but the crisis is not over for children who face eviction.

Lancaster County has received over $100 million from the American Rescue Plan. This money can be used to provide rental relief and affordable housing for families in Lancaster County. We can choose for no child to be cast out of their home, or we can turn a blind eye to the crisis before us. What will we choose?

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

VACCINE JUSTICE

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on June 21, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor.  UPDATE: This piece was published on June 28, 2021 in LancasterOnline/LNP. 

Now that we, Americans, have a surplus of vaccines and monetary incentives allure the vaccine hesitant to get their shots to prevent Covid-19 from killing us, what about the rest of the world?  Delta and other variants threaten the unvaccinated in low-income countries around the world. Halting the pandemic may mean making vaccines global public property, accessible to all. One patent litigation attorney, Ben Bourke, says that “providing public access to vaccines during a pandemic is paramount.” 

In Uganda, where I have led mission trips, they have just begun to vaccinate health care workers and the elderly with vaccines donated by COVAX, a vaccine alliance.   The World Health Organization (WHO) set up this Gavi COVAX pool of vaccines for 92 African and other low-income countries. Their plan is to reach 20% of these countries’ populations with Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. However, it still needs $50 billion more to purchase vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.   The Linda and Bill Gates Foundation and UNICEF have donated funds to COVAX for this purpose.  Global Citizen has set up a Recovery Plan for the World so that any citizen from the global community of nations may contribute online for this purpose. 

            Currently, COVAX relies on donations of surpluses from developed countries. At their recent G-7 meeting, leaders of member countries pledged to donate 870 million Covid-19 doses, half to be delivered by the end of 2021.  Although WHO’s director, Tedros Ghebreyesus, welcomes their pledged donations, he needs 2 billion doses by that date in order to stem the spread of the pandemic.    Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have been slow to respond to donate to the pool.  COVAX has only been able to contract with Pfizer and Oxford Astra-Zeneca to contribute vaccines. Moderna promised vaccines in 2022. 

           Two factors may hold up the worldwide need for vaccinations even further: a lag in WHO approval of what vaccines can be in the pool and the stalled effort by the World Trade Organization to waive Intellectual Property protections for vaccines. Some companies don’t want their trade secrets revealed. Although Moderna has pledged to not enforce patents relating to its mNRA vaccine, Pfizer has not done so. 

         The United States has agreed to promote voluntary licensing of the Covid-19 vaccines and not-for-profit global production. But promotion alone will not meet the need for vaccine justice. 

        While determination of whether public health interests take precedence over profits is yet unclear, the Covid-19 virus and its variants rage on. You can help today by donating through Global Citizen’s website: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/involved/donate. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

A Mom Finds Her Political Voice

Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on May 16, 2021 with permission from the author.

What kind of world do I want my children to grow up in? This question has been one of my guiding principles as a mother and Lancaster SPEAKS Up member. 

I want my children to grow up in a community that reflects the values that our family believes in. After the election of 2016, I realized that I could no longer be a bystander in my community, riding out the ebb and flow of politics. I needed to be an active part of my community. I needed to take a stand to promote the values and beliefs that I was teaching my children. I also wanted to be a better role model for my children and “practice what I was preaching.” 

Like many people, I’m an introvert. Attending a protest or canvassing our community is not easy for me. As a mom my life is very busy, but my urge to participate and add my voice to move my community towards a greater good remains– so that leaves me wondering, how can I make a difference?

Luckily, I found Perry Hazeltine through a mutual friend. Perry is the founder of Lancaster SPEAKS Up, a group that focuses on making a difference using the written word. The idea of writing letters to the editor or emails like this one appealed to me. I have always been a writer and have kept a blog for a number of years, but writing for political purposes was a skill I needed to learn. Perry and the talented writers at SPEAKS Up were very helpful. Not only did they give me feedback, but they also discussed current events and issues and provided multiple points of view that made me re-evaluate my writing. Meeting in the evenings was difficult for me, so Perry and I started the daytime SPEAKS writing sessions for people (like moms) who were not able to join the evening writing sessions.

Working with Lancaster SPEAKS Up fits my schedule and has enhanced my writing. It provided the outlet I needed to be an engaged citizen in my community. Since I have joined Lancaster SPEAKS Up, I have had a letter to the editor published. I also lead the Lancaster SPEAKS Up blog, where we promote and support the SPEAKS writers.

If you’re someone who has limited time or if you’re unsure about how to get more involved, I highly recommend joining a SPEAKS writing session. Come for discussion, writing, and connections with like-minded people. This group provides a great opportunity to be involved and voice your opinions!

Our next virtual daytime writing session is on Thursday, May 20th at 10 AM. Please email lancasterspeaksup@gmail.com for the link. 

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

If God is Love, God is for Gun Control

Written by Rebecca Branle, Ephrata Township . This piece was first published on March 24, 2021 in basicallybeckyblogs.com. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

I think, deep down, we all know what’s right. And if we wonder, finding the answer is easy. Regardless of the God we pray to, or if we pray at all, we just have to consult love.

For me, God is love and love is God and Jesus’s life is love in action. For you, the God stuff might be different, and I honor that without judgement. The cool thing is that regardless of where you stand with God, love is the same. Love is good. So lately I’ve been wondering what would happen if instead of looking for answers from the politicians or political parties often assigned to us by houses of worship, we consulted love. Because Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist…these are all exclusionary labels, but love, love is accessible to all. A Christian can lead with love while standing alongside an atheist doing the same, and love can be the tie that binds. Love can be the litmus test we use to answer our most urgent problems. Like gun violence.

I wonder if 10 people in Boulder, Colorado would still be gone, still stolen from their families, if politicians and people had come together and consulted love after any of the previous mass shootings. What if, after Sandy Hook, after 27 people, mostly children, were massacred, lawmakers and citizens alike used their their love and not their political labels to respond?

What would love do?

Image courtesy of the author. (c) 2021 Rebecca Branle. All rights reserved.

Wouldn’t love choose life over assault weapons? Wouldn’t love be happy to have to pass a test to earn a license, to prove responsibility, in order to own a weapon too often meant to murder? Love would. Because love is patient. Love is kind. And love would know that while their heart was pure, some hearts are damaged and dangerous, and so love would say okay to licensing their gun, to background checks that might take time. Love would be willing to do the work to end this madness.

Can you imagine a scenario where love said, “do nothing?” Can you imagine love holding on to an assault weapon and refusing to let go? Can you imagine love saying the time it takes for a thorough background check is a bother or that gun control won’t save 100%, so we might as well save none? Can you imagine Jesus carrying an AR-15?

When you cut out all the noise and just meditate on what’s right, guided by love, the answers are so easy.

And if God is love and love is our compass, why do some Christians seem so confused? Because the Bible tells us to welcome the stranger, just as love does. Because the Bible calls on us to feed the poor, just as love does. Because Jesus was an activist for peace, just as love is.

Apply this reasoning to any question of our day. Would love deny healthcare to the sick, to freelance writers or small business owners, or mechanics or the un- and under employed? Would Jesus? Would love look a family fleeing violence in the eyes and spit, “Go home?” Would love say black skin has less right to life than white? Would brown-skinned Jesus? Would love scream “perverts!” at hearts joining hearts, regardless of their gender? Would Jesus? Or would Jesus have shown love to love? When did Jesus ever model exclusion, or hate?

He never did. Not once.

Because love is love is love.

Love is for gun control.

And God is love.

©️2021 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

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