I have been to the Mountaintop: April 3 ~ 4,1968


April 4, 1968, The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King, pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old.

In the months before his assassination, Martin Luther King became increasingly concerned with the problem of economic inequality in America. He organized a Poor People’s Campaign to focus on the issue, including an interracial poor people’s marchon Washington, and in March 1968 traveled to Memphis in support of poorly treated African-American sanitation workers. On March 28, a workers’ protest march led by King ended in violence and the death of an African-American teenager. King left the city but vowed to return in early April to lead another demonstration.

On April 3, back in Memphis, King gave his last sermon, saying, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

One day after speaking those words, Dr. King was shot and killed by a sniper. As word of the assassination spread, riots broke out in cities all across the United States and National Guard troops were deployed in Memphis and Washington, D.C. On April 9, King was laid to rest in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to King’s casket as it passed by in a wooden farm cart drawn by two mules.

The evening of King’s murder, a Remington .30-06 hunting rifle was found on the sidewalk beside a rooming house one block from the Lorraine Motel. During the next several weeks, the rifle, eyewitness reports, and fingerprints on the weapon all implicated a single suspect: escaped convict James Earl Ray. A two-bit criminal, Ray escaped a Missouri prison in April 1967 while serving a sentence for a holdup. In May 1968, a massive manhunt for Ray began. The FBI eventually determined that he had obtained a Canadian passport under a false identity, which at the time was relatively easy.

On June 8, Scotland Yard investigators arrested Ray at a London airport. He was trying to fly to Belgium, with the eventual goal, he later admitted, of reaching Rhodesia. Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, was at the time ruled by an oppressive and internationally condemned white minority government. Extradited to the United States, Ray stood before a Memphis judge in March 1969 and pleaded guilty to King’s murder in order to avoid the electric chair. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Three days later, he attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was innocent of King’s assassination and had been set up as a patsy in a larger conspiracy. He claimed that in 1967, a mysterious man named “Raoul” had approached him and recruited him into a gun running enterprise. On April 4, 1968, he said, he realized that he was to be the fall guy for the King assassination and fled to Canada. Ray’s motion was denied, as were his dozens of other requests for a trial during the next 29 years.

During the 1990s, the widow and children of Martin Luther King Jr. spoke publicly in support of Ray and his claims, calling him innocent and speculating about an assassination conspiracy involving the U.S. government and military. U.S. authorities were, in conspiracists’ minds, implicated circumstantially. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover obsessed over King, who he thought was under communist influence. For the last six years of his life, King underwent constant wiretapping and harassment by the FBI. Before his death, Dr. King was also monitored by U.S. military intelligence, which may have been asked to watch King after he publicly denounced the Vietnam War in 1967. Furthermore, by calling for radical economic reforms in 1968, including guaranteed annual incomes for all, King was making few new friends in the Cold War-era U.S. government.

Over the years, the assassination has been reexamined by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the Shelby County, Tennessee, district attorney’s office, and three times by the U.S. Justice Department. The investigations all ended with the same conclusion: James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King. The House committee acknowledged that a low-level conspiracy might have existed, involving one or more accomplices to Ray, but uncovered no evidence to definitively prove this theory. In addition to the mountain of evidence against him–such as his fingerprints on the murder weapon and his admitted presence at the rooming house on April 4–Ray had a definite motive in assassinating King: hatred. According to his family and friends, he was an outspoken racist who informed them of his intent to kill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died in 1998.

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Arisha Michelle Hatch, Color Of Change


Facebook’s scandals are making vulnerable communities less safe online.

Demand an independent public audit of the civil rights and safety impacts of Facebook’s policies and programs.

Dear Friend.

The Facebook scandals just keep coming; every day we learn of a new way Facebook has put our communities’ safety at risk. First, we found out Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica – a shady campaign firm working for Trump – to exploit the private personal data of 50 million people without their knowledge.1 Now we’ve learned that Facebook data is being used by ICE to track people.2

Enough is enough. Facebook needs to take responsibility for the numerous ways they continue to put our communities at risk.

Join us and our partners at Muslim Advocates and demand Facebook conduct a full and independent audit into the civil rights impacts of their policies and practices.

Though Mark Zuckerberg has signaled his political support for immigrant communities, Facebook has increasingly become an accessory to ICE’s deportation machine.3 4 Aiding in a process that not only hunts down Black immigrants and targets Black activists but helps to create cases against them in court. Like so many other issues that deal with the safety of their users, Facebook has not done nearly enough to protect the most vulnerable people.

We all know the feeling of seeing a friend’s latest hilarious video pop up in our News Feed, or clicking through the latest photos of a family member’s new baby across the country or seeing our people in the streets demanding justice for yet another murder by police. For both the joyous and the tragic, Facebook is a venue for our people to connect, to organize and to share. Facebook is enmeshed in our culture so deeply that the failure to protect our safety on the platform is an egregious violation of the public trust.

These latest scandals add to a laundry list of issues that put the safety of our communities at risk – including Facebook becoming an organizing hotbed for white supremacists, an incubator for hate speech, and a place for law enforcement to harass Black people. It’s past time for Facebook to take responsibility.

Join us and our partners at Muslim Advocates and demand Facebook conduct a full and independent audit into the civil rights impacts of their policies and practices.

Mark Zuckerberg has promised that following these latest scandals his company will finally step up and properly protect our data. But we’ve seen Zuckerberg make and break this promise before. In a recently resurfaced BBC interview with Zuckerberg from 2009, he promised that users will own their own information and that Facebook wouldn’t sell it or share it with anyone.5 Zuckerberg has shattered that promise and in doing so allowed our information to be exploited. If Zuckerberg wants to regain our trust, he must commit to a full and public civil rights and safety audit of his company conducted by an independent outside agency. The information we share with our friends and family should not be exploited for someone else again.

We know that public audits like this work, which is why were joining with Muslim Advocates to push Facebook to conduct one. When Airbnb lost the public’s trust in 2016 over a series of discriminatory housing issues, we pushed with them to conduct a public audit and the results drove them to overhaul much of their platform to create a more fair, just and safe experience for Black users.6 Airbnb’s audit was successful because it was done by an independent third-party, civil rights organizations were meaningfully engaged about the recommendations and the results were released to the public. Like AirBnB, Facebook can use a public audit to better understand how they have failed to protect our communities and find ways to make systemic changes that better protect users.

So far, the only steps Facebook has publicly taken to address this crisis have been to roll out an updated privacy settings page.7 This step is just a paint job masking Facebook’s deeper problems and is indicative of the company’s typical reaction of putting the burden of solving major issues like this on their users. In the past, when it came to addressing the ongoing hate speech crisis on the platform, Facebook has burdened the people being attacked with the responsibility to report and prove the threats were substantial instead of using their vast resources to invest in transformative anti-hate policies and practices.8 9 Rather than develop robust policies and practices that protect our information, our rights, and our safety, Facebook prefers to make minor adjustments to how their settings are displayed. It’s time for that to change.

Join us and our partners at Muslim Advocates and demand Facebook conduct a full and independent audit into the civil rights impacts of their policies and practices.

Under Zuckerberg’s leadership, Black users have increasingly found the platform to be an unsafe environment. Beyond the constant stream of white supremacist hate speech on the platform, many outspoken Black activists have repeatedly been banned by Facebook.10 11 12 This is undoubtedly because Facebook’s own training documents show a deep misunderstanding of what hate speech is.13 Until just a few months ago, their documents indicated that white men were deemed a more protected category than Black children.14 On more than one occasion, Facebook has punished Black users for stating “All White people are racist” as hate speech, but has refused to remove posts threatening violence against Muslims.15 Even our own recent Instagram post about the ‘March for Our Lives’ and the epidemic of white male gun violence was removed under Facebook’s erroneous hate speech rules.16 17

Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability – and it can lead to violence, intimidation, harassment, and threats. But because of Facebook’s lack of transparency on these issues, it has been difficult to keep people safe from threats on the platform.

Facebook’s disregard for the protection of private personal data and the safety of its most vulnerable users is playing a role in shaking the foundations of our democracy and shattering people’s faith in institutions. This week, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “you know we have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data and if we can’t do that then we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.”18 Facebook’s failures have put our communities at risk through their data malpractice, opaque interactions with law enforcement, erasure of Black activist voices, and inability to tackle hate speech on the platform

Only through a public audit of all of Facebook’s practices and programs can real systemic changes be identified that will make Facebook the type of platform where people can share photos without fear a white supremacists trolling them, talk about racism and Black experiences without fear of being put in “Facebook jail,” and keep up with our families over distance without worrying that our private information will be shared with nefarious companies.

Join us and our partners at Muslim Advocates and demand Facebook conduct a full and independent audit into the civil rights impacts of their policies and practices.

Until justice is real,

–Arisha, Rashad, Brandi, Johnny, Evan, Jade, Future, Corina, Chad, Mary, Angela, Saréya, Eesha, and the rest of the Color Of Change team


References:

  1. “How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions”, New York Times, 17 March 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30917?t=10&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  2. “ICE Used Private Facebook Data to Find and Track Criminal Suspect, Internal Emails Show”, The Intercept, 26 March 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30918?t=12&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  3. “Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg: What Washington may do to Dreamers is ‘cruel,'” CNN Money, 17 January 2018 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/30919?t=14&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  4. “Zuckerberg forms Silicon Valley super PAC to take on immigration,” Christian Science Monitor, 12 April 2013 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30920?t=16&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  5. BBC interview with Mark Zuckerberg, 2009 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30921?t=18&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  6. “Here’s What Airbnb Is Doing To Fix Its Discrimination Problem,” Huffington Post, 8 September 2016 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30922?t=20&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  7. “It’s Time to Make Our Privacy Tools Easier to Find,” Facebook, 28 March, 2019 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30923?t=22&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  8. “Facebook’s Complicity in the Silencing of Black Women.” Ijeoma Oluo, 2 August 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30924?t=24&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  9. “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote a 6,000-word letter addressing fake news and saving the world,” Recode, 16 February 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30925?t=26&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  10. “Another black activist, Ijeoma Oluo, is suspended by Facebook for posting about racism,” Tech Crunch, 2 August 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30926?t=28&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  11. “Mobilizing White People in the Fight for Racial Justice,”Tech Crunch, 17 June 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30927?t=30&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  12. “Shaun King Briefly Suspended From Facebook After Posting Racist Email from Critic,” 9 September 2016 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30928?t=32&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  13. “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children,” Propublica, 28 June 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30929?t=34&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  14. “Hate speech and anti-migrant posts: Facebook’s rules ,” The Guardian, 24 May 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/7981?t=36&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  15. “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children,” Propublica, 28 June 2017 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/30929?t=38&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE
  16. Color Of Change post on Instagram removed by Facebook, March 2018 https://d11gn0ip9m46ig.cloudfront.net/images/Instagram_removal.png
  17. Color Of Change message to Instagram about removed post, March 2018 https://d11gn0ip9m46ig.cloudfront.net/images/Message_to_instagram.png
  18. “Mark Zuckerberg in his own words: The CNN interview,” CNN Money, 21 March 2018 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/30930?t=40&akid=10169%2E1174326%2EAp1vQE

The worst law in America exists to protect gun manufacturers from being sued 


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