May 4, 2012: Speaking Truth to Power

Don’t get me wrong: Chen Guangcheng’s plight is deeply moving. That this blind activist has been imprisoned, tortured, his wife beaten, his family harassed for merely speaking out against forced abortions in China is, of course, appalling. My prayers for our gal Hillary and the State Department and the Chinese government to resolve this latest USA/China flap.

But when I watch a smuggled video of Chen directly addressing the Powers That Be re his horrific treatment—and demanding that the officials who beat him and his wife be held accountable—I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. This intense media coverage is so damned smug, isn’t it!

I also can’t help but wonder what would happen if a young Black man sat in front of a camera and  recorded this:

“I wish to speak directly to the President of the United States. My name is EveryAmericanEighteenYearOldBlackMale—I live in Harlem, in Roxbury, Detroit, Chicago, I live in every community of color in this country. And every day, simply because I am a young, Black male, a police officer stops me and frisks me. Every day. This is what the War on Drugs is really about, Mr. President. That cops, needing to fill their quota, troll the streets of my ‘hood. Hoping they’ll get lucky. Sometimes, they’ll plant drugs on me and my peers, then arrest me.

“This is a human rights violation, Mr. President. I have names, dates; I have written down every encounter. I keep track.

“Please do something.”

The only difference between such a video and Chen’s? One of them doesn’t need to be smuggled.


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