Silence is Violence

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Martin Luther King Day

Date: Wed, Jan. 18, 2012 January 16, 2012

It's hard to know whether to celebrate or to weep on this Martin Luther King Day. On the one hand, the civil rights movement emblematized by Dr. King has fostered unbounded aspirations for peoples previously limited by race, creed, or gender. On the other hand, in our own city at least, the language of divisiveness , of "us vs. them," of judgment and superiority has crept back into too many of our conversations, especially regarding crime and violence. The current inclination of city leadership seems to be less about making New Orleans safer for everyone, and more about making New Orleans seem safer for some. As a result, the violence that rips through individual families almost daily in our city also threatens to rip us apart as a people.

To our Leaders: Please do not allow violence, the most fundamental among our many challenges as a city, to become a racial issue. Today, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we make a special plea to our leaders to respect every life in our city as equal. No murder should be treated as acceptable on any level--least of all on the implied basis of the victim somehow deserving such a fate. We do not want to feel better, or comforted, about the violent loss of any citizen in this city. We want for each loss to jar us all into more determined action.

As we honor the memory of Dr. King, and move toward the annual Strike Against Crime that seeks to live up to his memory and the memories of everyone who has been sacrificed in the name of equity and fairness, we also ask once again for fundamental change in the New Orleans Police Department and its approaches to violence in New Orleans. The current policies and practices of Superintendent Ronal Serpas have not served us, and are leading us in ever more destructive directions. For more of our commentary on Serpas and our reasons for objecting to his leadership direction, please visit our website,

Let each of us take a moment during today's celebration of a visionary American to consider what his message means for us today. How his message still has burning relevance, especially in a city that is spiritually and physically threatened by racial divide. After all of the parades and remarks and public positioning around Dr. King's memory, we ask that this legacy become a daily, active part of how we shape a sustainable movement toward equality--including equal safety--in our challenged city.

For upcoming Strike Against Crime events, please visit