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November 11, 2005 | Page 8

A new struggle against racism
We need justice for juveniles
Why they ignored Rosa Parks

Another name on their list

I RECENTLY attended a vigil in my town to mark the death of the 2,000th soldier killed in Iraq. At the vigil, they read the names of the 46 Wisconsin soldiers who have died. On the list was a name I recognized.

Shane O'Donnell was fairly typical of the young men and women who do the fighting and dying in wars and occupations. He was killed a year ago. He was 24, from a small town in Wisconsin. He played football in high school and recently graduated from a plumbing apprenticeship program at our college.

To honor him, his family and friends set up a fund in his name at our school to help promote the trades to Wisconsin high school students.

The majority of the soldiers in the Iraq, as in all such actions, come from the ranks of the working class. They don't have much say in why and how wars are waged, but they go anyway, some out of what they've been convinced is duty, others because it is one of few options they have to earn money for college or to support their families. And when they come back--if they come back--they are often forgotten by the government bureaucrats who sent them.

We need to work for a new society where we have a say in what happens to our young people, where wars are no longer waged to line the pockets of the powerful minority at the expense of everyone else. If we don't, we'll continue to hear the knock on the door, the name on the list.
Robin Gee, AFT Local 3872, Madison, Wis.

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A new struggle against racism

SIMON WALKER seems to suggest that I argued that Black people should shun self-help strategies and wait for "racists to heal themselves" ("Cosby wasn't blaming victims," October 28).

Mr. Walker apparently missed the entire point of my argument. I never called for anyone to wait for anything. Instead, I was calling for a new movement, a new struggle against the racism.

The question is much clearer in hindsight. Would Mr. Walker take seriously a wealthy Black man during slavery who, from his lofty perch, loudly advocated self-help for slaves and yet was quiet on the need to abolish slavery itself? Of course not--because the primary responsibility for poor conditions in that case clearly lies with the system of slavery, not with individual slaves.

I believe that today, while the "system" has changed, the need for structural change has not. The very structure of our society is racist, and we need a social struggle to transform it. The problem is that today, the "leading" (which often means wealthy) Blacks, however philanthropic, at best no longer see the need for such a struggle, and at worst outright oppose it. Given Cosby's financial "perch" and his silence on racism, I can't give him the benefit of the doubt.

And for the record, I would never advocate that anyone "wait" for "profit to be taken out of the slums." In the short term, we need to build movements for affordable housing, decent wages and working conditions, and so on. These are real "self-help" strategies that can make our lives better immediately. Individual strategies will only work for a lucky minority, never for the majority.

After the gains of the civil rights movement have been largely erased, it's no wonder that people like Mr. Walker don't look to a social struggle as a solution. Mr. Walker asks, "Is there any progress anywhere" on these issues? Sadly, there is very little. Even in New Orleans, where international attention has been focused on the horrible conditions of the Black population, the changes proposed are likely to make their lives worse, not better.

But would Mr. Walker have dismissed the need for a movement in Montgomery in 1954, before the Montgomery Bus Boycott? Would he have said, "Where is progress on this desegregation issue?" The need for collective struggle may be difficult to see at the moment, but it remains the only hope for our short-term and long-term futures.
Brian Jones, New York City

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We need justice for juveniles

I WANTED to send you this link to an online petition for Christopher's Bill (to repeal mandatory sentencing laws for juveniles). This will help not only Chris but all children caught up in a juvenile justice system that does not support children. We desperately need you to sign it. We need you to support it. Please send it to others in your e-mail list.

Mandatory sentencing does not take into consideration the past non-violent social history or the effects strong prescription drugs have on young minds. The results are ruined young lives.

We need your support. Please sign this petition and lend your name to the pursuit of juvenile justice.
Melanie Peterson, From the Internet

Visit on the Web for more information on the Juvenile Justice Reform Act.

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Why they ignored Rosa Parks

LAST WEEK, our movement lost a true hero in the person of Rosa Parks. The hidden story behind her many years of activism against Jim Crow is perhaps more important for us to hear today than at any other time since the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.

And yet the mainstream media devoted its blithering news coverage to the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. To think that Miers, who will never accomplish anything of merit in her life, trumps covering a woman who helped tear down segregation! As one classmate explained to me, "That's because Rosa Parks was a Black woman who defied the status quo." How sick our world is.
John Green, Hayward, Calif.

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