The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which he gave the speech, commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. A century after that proclamation, “the Negro still is not free,” King told the crowd. “The life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
In this story, the only thing that stopped a bad guy with a gun was a good woman with a heart. Or to entirely rewrite Wayne LaPierre’s dumb Manichaean NRA propaganda: The only thing that stopped an emotionally damaged, despairing and unloved young man with 500 rounds of ammunition was a compassionate woman sharing her own story of damage and despair, and telling him she loved him.
Oh, and then there’s this: As we try to recover from the unnecessarily polarized aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s worth noting that Tuff is a black woman who helped save a young white man from harm at the hands of police. Of course the race-baiters at Fox News, who were so agitated about the crimes of young black men a few weeks ago, have hardly rushed to emphasize that a young white man opened fire at a predominantly black school – let alone that he was helped to save his own life by an African-American woman (for example, check out how they approach these facts here).
Orange Is the New Black defenders repeatedly tell me that Kerman is invested in prison reform. She very well might be. But the problem here lies in the fact that her investment in the issue has been repaid through a very different kind of investment in her by book publishers and budding media empires like Netflix. I don’t necessarily doubt that Kerman wants to see a change in the criminal justice system—just like I don’t doubt that she’s made a cottage industry for herself doing so. This started about a decade ago, when Kerman began selling “Free Piper” T-shirts through Paypal. As a bestselling author who’s sold the rights to stories of women that aren’t even hers, she’s profited from the criminalization of black and brown women who are disproportionately targeted for prison cages.
I should have paid much better attention to you and your trial. I could lie and tell you that I didn’t have time, but it’s simply not true. I failed you because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the many charges levied against you. I failed you because of the way the unbelievable power of the US government was used against you. I failed you because it was easy to ignore you, and leave you in the backseat of my mind. I chose to read about you only from time to time, at my own convenience. I chose to talk about you with friends and colleagues only occasionally, but would stop talking about you when they quickly lost interest. And for all of that, and more, I’m sorry.