(Updated with Video) – Awarded with MLK Scholarship Fund ‘Outstanding Advocate for Justice Award,’ and Speech

David Greenwald and Tim Malone with the award after the presentation

By David M. Greenwald

Yesterday I was honored to be presented by Rev. Timothy Malone, President of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholarship Fund with the “OUTSTANDING ADVOCATE FOR JUSTICE AWARD” for 2021.

Here is the text of my acceptance speech.

Never Again – Obligations of Whites To Oppose Racism

I want to thank Tim Malone—a man whose work I have always greatly admired.

I also want to thank my wife, my daughter Jasmine and Jeremiah for allowing me to do the work that I do even when it’s more difficult on them than it is on me.

I have joked a lot of times over the past year that my job is actually very simple—convince a bunch of 60-something white men that such a thing as systemic racism exists.  Some days that is an impossible job.

The problem that we face in 2021 is not simply that we have had a demagogue for the past five years who has inflamed racial tensions—because we have—but rather that his act worked as long as it did BECAUSE there were racial tensions to inflame.

Until white people are willing to recognize that none of us can be free until we are all free, there will be no justice.  Until white people are willing to recognize that income inequality, concentrated poverty and mass incarceration are threats to all, we will have no justice.

It is an overused statement from MLK—but one that gets to the point—injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere that must drive our thinking.

When I give these talks I always talk about how I began the Vanguard in 2006 based on my education on police reform issues or how I started the court watch project based on the injustice of the Ajay Dev case in 2009.

But I have never talked about the story of where my passion for racial and, indeed, social justice comes from.  I was thinking about this recently—here I am, a middle aged white man, raised in white, upper middle class San Luis Obispo, fighting for police accountability and criminal justice reform.

Where does this passion and drive come from?  In 1990, I was heading into my senior year of high school and I went to Israel and took a course in Jewish history and, of course, eventually you get to the Holocaust.

I was well aware of the Holocaust but I had never taken it from a Jewish perspective and had never taken it in the totality of historical mistreatment of the Jews.

What upset me beyond anything was stories like that of the Voyage of the Missouri where hundreds of Jews were turned away from this country and consigned to their deaths.

The lesson I learned is the lesson taught by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Or to put it into the Holocaust context, “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up,” because they had done nothing to fight injustice when it might have made a difference.

The true lesson of the Holocaust is that there are bad people, but good people have the obligation to speak out against injustice.  We are not going to create a just society by white people of privilege standing on the sideline—they must forcefully engage in the fight.

As Ibram Kendi argues, it is not simply enough these days to be non-racist, one must be an anti-racist.

That is the lesson that I have learned and that I take with me each day and drives me through long hard hours and, at times, withering criticism.

Let’s look at my passion the criminal justice system.  Policing as society has seen first hand is in need of change.  I remember watching the Rodney King beating when I was still in high school, marching to the police station in college after the acquittal, and the subsequent riots and the transformative nature of video evidence that has over the last 30 years convinced many that police disproportionately beat and kill people of color.

Mass incarceration is underpinned by mind-boggling inequities.  In San Francisco, where we started court watch in 2019, 6 percent of the SF population is Black, but 55 percent of the jail population is black.

Here in Yolo County Tracie Olson, the Public Defender, dared to point out that 28 percent of the jail one day last April was Black even though Yolo County was 3 percent Black and, when she did, the system, in the form of DA Jeff Reisig, lashed back at her.  How dare she hold up a mirror and point out the inequities of the system?

Wrongful Convictions are not evenly distributed across the races.  Black and people of color systematically have less resources, less access to quality defense, and end up being wrongly convicted at huge disparities.

One thing people do not fully appreciate is the extent to which a system of injustice enslaves us all—not merely the people who are subjugated by the system.

Former President Barack Obama made an astute point at Mandela’s funeral: “It took a man like Mandela to free not only the prisoner bu the jailer, too.”

Indeed, just as slavery dehumanizes the slave and master both, a system of oppression, whether it is Jim Crow or the New Jim Crow—i.e. the system of mass incarceration—keeps both the public and those incarcerated locked up together.

The last year has really been a tale of two cities—the best of times and the worst of times.  We have seen the ugly in the last month.

But we are also reminded of just how far we have come.

When giving the eulogy for George Floyd, Al Sharpton told the story of him being at a march years ago when a young white women told him “n-word” go home.  But he noted recently that he was headed to the airport and, talking to a reporter, he explained that “a young white girl—she didn’t look any older than 11 years old. She tugged my suit jacket and I looked around and I braced myself, and she looked at me and said, ‘No justice, no peace.'”

He said, “It’s a different time. It’s a different season.”

That’s what we have to keep reminding ourselves.  We have made progress, but we must keep fighting—all of us, together.

Thank you for joining me.


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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41 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

    The problem that we face in 2021 is not simply that we have had a demagogue for the past five years who has inflamed racial tensions

    I don’t think it was the demagogue who inflamed racial tensions it was more the party that always uses it for political gain.

    1. John Hobbs

      Congratulations, David. you are well deserving of an award for your advocacy.

      As a 60 something heading for 70 white man who was born in Georgia in 1952 I appreciate your efforts to illuminate those unfamiliar with Jim Crow.

      “Some days that is an impossible job.”

      Some old white men are intentionally obtuse.

       

    2. John Hobbs

      “I don’t think it was the demagogue who inflamed racial tensions…”

      I don’t think reasonable people care (or believe) what you say you think.

       

       

    3. Bill Marshall

      Actually, KO, it was/is demagogues from both ‘parties’, towards the 2nd deviation, both conservative and liberal… no “clean hands”… they have some things in common , one of which is disparaging and mistrusting moderates, be they Dem/Rep/Ind… another is, acceptance of violence to further their ’cause’…

  2. Ron Glick

    “I don’t think it was the demagogue who inflamed racial tensions it was more the party that always uses it for political gain.”

    You might be making progress David because K.O. is finally calling out the Republicans.

  3. Eric Gelber

    We have made progress, but we must keep fighting—all of us, together.

    Agree. And comments like KO’s 5:47 a.m. remark—blaming those who bring attention to the problem for enflaming it—illustrate what a difficult task remains ahead of us.

    Congratulations on the award.

    1. Keith Olsen

      blaming those who bring attention to the problem 

      Democrats like to bring attention to it for political gain.  They always have and always will.  Divide and conquer.

  4. Ron Oertel

    Joked a lot of times over the past year that my job is actually very simple—convince a bunch of 60-something white men that such a thing as systemic racism exists.  Some days that is an impossible job.

    Probably true (regardless of age, gender, or skin color) – as long as differences in crime rates are purposefully ignored (apparently, because it doesn’t fit that agenda).

    We’ve been down this same path in decades past, as well.  Perhaps ultimately, with the same response (e.g., “tough on crime” bills, as crime inevitably rises). I guess we’ll see if it’s different, this time.

    I don’t think that victims of crime care about the skin color of perpetrators.  They just want to not be a victim of crime. Maybe some think that’s an unreasonable expectation.

  5. Ron Oertel

    “No justice, no peace”.

    Leaving aside the issue of possible “brainwashing” of young children, there always will be peace for those able to avoid the fray (e.g., gated communities, flight to suburbs, etc.).

    Which increasingly are not just “white” people.

    For those folks, the lack of “peace” is only something that they see on the news. Well, until it impacts a sub-class of that group, in the form of high-level politicians for example.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The meaning of slogans often changes, over time.  😉

        Pretty sure that those folks would think that it fits their concerns, as well. Regardless of whether or not it does.

        What really surprises me is the number of voters (beyond that group) who apparently don’t trust the result of the election. Which means that they don’t trust the mainstream media to accurately report it, either. I’m not sure that you can entirely blame that on Trump.

        1. David Greenwald

          No. The slogan means that without justice, there can be no peace because citizens will agitate until there is justice. I first heard it during the LA Riots in 1992, but apparently it goes back further to 1986 with a killing of a Black man by a white mob.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Again, I’m pretty sure that the folks I referred to would think it “fits” – regardless of whether or not it does.

          Regardless, unless your name is “Reginald Denny” (had to look up that name), my other point remains, as well (regarding where that unrest usually occurs, and who it impacts).

          Which generally brings up the issue of “infotainment”, again – for those not impacted by it. (Though when it gets that ugly, it’s definitely not entertainment – regardless of ratings.)

          And when it does get that ugly, we get the “tough on crime” movement again. Full circle. And concerns regarding impacts on particular skin colors takes a back seat, again. (Impacts referring to both victimization and perpetrators.)

  6. Alan Miller

    my job is actually very simple—convince a bunch of 60-something white men that such a thing as systemic racism exists.

    #phew# . . . as a 50-something Jew, dodged that bullet 😐

    60-something white men, you have my deepest sympathy.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Thanks Alan, from us 60-something white men.

      Though there’s hope, maybe a re-education camp if we are to believe some of the rhetoric coming out of Washington the last few days.

      1. Alan Miller

        maybe a re-education camp

        Already happening . . . I was recently assigned to a month at “Jewish Fragility Camp” at the newly wide-opened Foothills Park in Palo Alto.  Used to be you couldn’t get in to the place, now you can’t get out.

  7. Bill Marshall

    I am struck by the video… and where Tim Malone, and MLK Jr, “come from”…

    Both use the name of God… both are/were Christian pastors/ministers… they believe(d) in God… they both often quoted New and Old Testaments (as did the first Republican president, Lincoln).

    It is written (NT), “those who are not against us, are for us (Luke 9:50)”… so, will give the ‘benefit of the doubt’…

    But still sniffs like this is a self-promoting set-up… another ‘notch on the belt’… worst case, craven… best case, emerging respect for folk of faith, be they Jew, Christian, Muslim, other, who value justice and righteousness… we’ll see… time, and words, will tell…

    Congratulations for the new notch on your belt.

    Just don’t do the Trump thing, David, by holding a Jewish scroll, Christian bible, or Islamic qu’ran upside down for a photo-op… didn’t work for Trump…

  8. Ron Glick

    “my job is actually very simple—convince a bunch of 60-something white men that such a thing as systemic racism exists.”

    David writes the quiet part out loud.

    As Jack Nicholson said “You can’t handle the truth.”

    1. Ron Oertel

      There’s some other related truths:

      1)  There’s quite a few older, white folks who browbeat other older, white folks into believing the “truth”. While simultaneously ignoring other truths which don’t fit the agenda.

      2)  Fill-in-the-blanks with anything other than “60-something white men” and David would likely be facing an “online insurrection”, if not an online tar-and-feathering. 

      3) Only older people have the time to comment on here in the first place. Others are out living their lives.

      1. Alan Miller

        Only older people have the time to comment on here in the first place. Others are out living their lives.

        Not just older people have the time to comment here.  Basically anyone who can’t find their way out of jury duty.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Ha!

          Commenting on here probably provides a reason/justification to be excused from jury duty.

          By either the defense, the prosecution, the judge, or a doctor! 😉

        2. Alan Miller

          Ha!  You caught me.  I make outrageous statements here not because I believe anything I say, it’s so I can say – ‘your honor, check out my opinions on X on the Davis Vanguard, and you’ll see I’m fit as an unbiased citizen with an open mind, ready to serve’.

          No one who comments here need ever serve on a jury again.

  9. John Hobbs

    “Not just older people have the time to comment here.  Basically anyone who can’t find their way out of jury duty.”

    “Commenting on here probably provides a reason/justification to be excused from jury duty.”

    “No one who comments here need ever serve on a jury again.”

    Real patriots there, right guys?

    1. Ron Oertel

      Some of those who want to serve are the very ones who “should” be excused, by one of the parties that has the power to do so. They’re usually the same ones who don’t understand “why” they should be excused – which is the scariest part of all.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I’m going to refrain from offering my opinion regarding who in particular (among the commenters/good citizens on here) should/would likely be “excused” – regardless of their desire to serve.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Jury service is not the topic of this article.

      True story… might be ripe for “cleanup on aisle two”…

      Yet, it would be an interesting topic in the future… I have some insights, but not enough to author an article…

      1. Bill Marshall

        Good citizenship certainly is. [on-topic, sorta’]

        That is also a true story… and worthy of discussion… separate from this semi-‘polluted’ one… and in might include discussion of ‘good winners’ and ‘good losers’ in politics, which is an expression of  ‘citizenship’… but, not here, not now…

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