Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 14, 2007

NAACP's battles aren't just `symbolic'

Earl Ofari Hutchinson's column "Class struggle for NAACP" (Opinion * Commentary, March 9) accuses the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of embracing "showy, symbolic fights" and engaging in partisanship. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite criticism from modern-day Republicans seeking exemption from any criticism of their hostility to civil rights and from Democrats of years ago who were angered when we praised Republicans for their one-time support of civil rights, the NAACP has always been committed to nonpartisanship.

Nor do we engage in "showy, symbolic fights" -- unless that's what he thinks the Norwalk, Conn., NAACP's calls for the removal of local judges accused of bullying minority defendants are all about; or the actions of the St. Paul, Minn., NAACP in defending the city's first black fire chief against criticism from the majority-white firefighters union; or the Sulphur Springs, Texas, NAACP's complaints that a local black man's injuries were racially motivated; or the NAACP's joining with singer-activist Bono to fight AIDS, hunger and poverty in Africa.

Or maybe he thought North Carolina NAACP President William Barber's advocacy of a 14-point public policy agenda for the state's legislature was showy and symbolic.

Or maybe the NAACP's complaint that blacks were 250 times more likely than whites to be subjected to traffic stops in Slater, Mo., was showy and symbolic too.

These and other actions of our 2,000 branches scattered around America are the daily front-line responses from the NAACP to harsh racial conditions, deeds and actions.

Rather than a "retreat from visible, cutting-edge activism on thorny racial and economic problems," as Mr. Hutchinson says, today's NAACP is engaged in daily battles against such outrages across the country.

We've done so for almost 100 years -- and as long as discrimination persists, we'll keep on.

Julian Bond

Washington

The writer is board chairman of the NAACP.

Gun rights belong to every citizen

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, claims that the gun rights ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals disregarded 70 years of legal precedent ("Court voids D.C. ban on firearms," March 10).

However, in its 1939 ruling United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court made it very clear what the "militia" referred to in the Second Amendment is.

The court wrote: "The term militia appears from the debates in the convention, the history and legislation of colonies and states, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. ...

"And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."

The people are the militia, not the National Guard.

And therefore the right to bear arms is reserved for and conferred upon the people.

James Mullen

White Hall

Tough D.C. gun laws didn't stop criminals

The item "Spike in violent crime tied to access to guns" (March 9) carried an interesting bit of timing: It ran on the very day an appellate court struck down Washington's ban on privately owned guns ("Court voids D.C. ban on firearms," March 10).

Even with its extremely restrictive gun laws, Washington has had one of the highest murder rates in the country.

Yet law-abiding citizens had to petition the courts to reverse the law so that they would be allowed to own guns for the purpose of protecting themselves against those who chose to ignore the law.

This proves once again that gun laws are unenforceable, whether they be constitutional or not.

Michael Connell

Baltimore

Consult prisoners on prison violence

As Marylanders have seen over the last few months, the violence in correctional facilities affects us all ("Inmate stabs guard," March 3).

The tragic deaths of correctional officers have left more questions than answers.

The fact that several inmates have lost their lives also is a clear example of how the system has failed.

It is time for lawmakers to take their questions to those on the inside and hear from those behind the walls.

Prisoners need to be treated with respect and dignity. They need to know that there is hope. Their lives are worth more than the constant threat of violence in Maryland prisons suggests they are.

Many of those in prisons will one day return home. They need to be supported and included in our communities.

Maryland needs to become more progressive in its consideration of the incarcerated.

Connie Smith

Baltimore

The writer is the founder of Families Against Injustice, a group that advocates for prisoners and their families.

President's powers damage democracy

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