Nov 08 2013

“I Bring an Indictment against the American System” by Rev. Ralph Abernathy

I’ve always loved this speech by Dr. Abernathy about Angela Davis and haven’t seen it available on the internet so (since I’m an insomniac) I decided to re-type it and share it here. It is still very relevant today.

I Bring an Indictment Against the American System
by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy
February 2, 1971

We meet in defense of Miss Angela Davis; therefore, let us ponder the question first, who is Angela Davis? Let us first recall this young Black woman who was born twenty-seven years ago today in Birmingham, Alabama, where the blood of her people flowed under a reign of official racism and terror.

She lived in a Black community which came to be known as “Dynamite Hill.” As she grew up she learned of fifty bombings against Black people in her native Birmingham, all of them unsolved.

MCNAIR ROBERTSON COLLINS WESLEY She knew four little Black girls, who were her friends, who were murdered in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in Nineteen Sixty Three, but none of us knows the exact identity of the bombers today, because there were no arrests and the FBI did not possess the ability and the skills to find those bombers.

In the face of death every day of her life, Angela Davis began to learn the life of struggle — struggle for survival, struggle for her people, struggle for justice.

She participated in the battle against segregation in voter registration drives conducted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

Her courageous family made personal and financial sacrifices for the movement. Miss Davis pursued a brilliant academic career.

She found racism and oppression of poor everywhere she went. She knew the profound outrage of all Black people over the fact that the prisons and the jails of this country are filled with Black men and women while the college campuses and the offices of the American military-industrial government empire are filled with white men; and we don’t like it.

Angela Davis is one intellectual who did not hide out in a library or behind a desk. She transformed her mental principles into an active commitment of struggle against injustice. She was not afraid to express her political beliefs; this ultimately cost Miss Davis her job, led to her imprisonment and presently threatens her with death. Let me repeat this point. A racist, oppressive criminal society is attempting to kill a militant, Black woman activist because of her political beliefs, and her commitment to those beliefs, and you and I will be just as guilty as the racist society if we permit it to happen.

Let me warn all of you this evening that today it is Angela, but if we sit silent and keep our peace, tomorrow it will be you and it will be me.

Angela Davis would be the first to remind us that she is not the only political prisoner in America. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, there are thousands of political prisoners in America, and the only way to free them is to get out and struggle in a mass movement of the people. We need fund raising for Angela Davis, but we also need hell-raising for millions of others in this country.

Let us work to teach the people these things about the case of Angela Davis. Number one, in a democratic society, an accused person is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And already in my estimation Angela Davis has been tried and found guilty in the news media.

Number two, an accused person has a right to a fair trial in which the accused is entitled to be judged by a jury of his or her peers, but I raise this question with you — how can Angela Davis get a fair trial in Ronald Reagan’s California?

angeladavis3 Number three, since the state itself has placed the political beliefs of Angela Davis in question, and since public officials and the mass media have unloosed a torrent of adverse publicity before Miss Davis has ever or even been brought to trial, this in fact is no ordinary criminal case, but a political case that raises overwhelming questions about the possibility of a fair trial. In fact I see it as a trial, not of Angela Davis, but a trial of America.

I see the American system charged with the kidnapping, the murder and the conspiracy. I charge the American system with the kidnap of Black people from Africa.

I bring charges this evening against the American system for the enslavement of Black people on this continent.

I charge the American system with the kidnap, with the imprisonment and the starvation of Black children on the plantations of Mississippi, in the ghettos of Chicago, and even right here in the ghettos of the North.

I charge the American system with the kidnap of young men and sending them to die in a criminal, racist, godless and unwinnable war in Southeast Asia ten thousand miles away.

I further charge America with being a liar and a hypocrite. For almost two hundred years ago the cry was heard in these streets of America, “There must not be taxation without representation,” and yet today we are over-taxed and we are under-represented.

Almost two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson dipped his pen deep in the wells of ink and etched across the pages of history a document we call the Declaration of Independence. He said that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I want you to know today that we do not have those rights, we do not have that liberty but we are more determined than ever before that we are all going to have freedom in America or there will be no America to have freedom.

I further charge the American system, I can bring an indictment against the American system. I charge the American system this evening with robbery of the Puerto Ricans, the Mexicans-Americans.

I charge the American system of almost completely exterminating the Indians and then stealing the country from the few Indians that were left.

I charge America with hypocrisy. We have talked one thing and we have practiced another. We have falsely taught in our educational system; we taught our children that Columbus discovered America in Fourteen Ninety Two. But we have discovered that that’s nothing but a lie. What did Columbus do? All he did was to sail across the Atlantic in some Spanish ships and once he got here in Fourteen Ninety Two he discovered that America had already been discovered.

But that’s not the only charge that I bring against the American system this evening. There is a second charge I bring against the American system this evening. The second charge is murder. I charge the American system with the murder of the Vietnamese people. I charge the American system with the murder of Malcolm X and my dearest friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. I charge the American system with the killing of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Viola Liuzzo, Jimmy Lee Jackson, Medgar Evers and a host of others.

I charge the American system with murder in its genocidal tendencies which are clearly defined in the United Nations Charter. And the third charge I want to bring this evening. I’m the judge, I’m the jury and I bring the charge against America this evening.

The third charge I bring against America is conspiracy. I charge the American system with conspiracy to steal the resources of other countries. To cooperate and support not only a puppet regime in Vietnam, but a racist regime in South Africa. I charge the American system with a conspiracy to exploit peoples throughout the world, and to oppress millions of our people here in our own land. I charge the American system of spending billions of dollars to put man on the moon and spending countless of dollars to send Spiro T. Agnew around the world to pass out moon rocks when he ought to be passing out loaves of bread to hungry children.

I charge the American system with conspiracy to repress and violently subjugate those who resist. All you have to do is to look in any corner of this nation of ours, and you will see the conspiracy to repress the Black Panthers and to destroy this group of individuals under the disguise that they believe in violence.

Well what about the Ku Klux Klan? What about the Minutemen? What about the Birchites? What about all of these forces and groups in white America that have always believed in violence: CIA, Tricky Dick. We cannot sit idly by and let them repress and destroy the Black Panthers, for they are our brothers in this struggle.

So not only do I call for the freedom of Angela this evening, but I call for the freedom of Bobby as well as Ericka. I call for the freedom of the Berrigan brothers. Yes, they were in a conspiracy — to save lives, to feed the hungry, to stop the killing in the world. They were a part of a conspiracy, and I’m part of that same conspiracy.

You are a part of that conspiracy to save lives.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth was a part of that conspiracy, for he said that the “Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to free the captives, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and then to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

We must stand up and cry out for the freedom of Brother Phil and Brother Dan Berrigan.

Now what is the penalty for these charges? The penalty for these charges is death. Either the death of kidnap and murder and conspiracy against the people or the virtual death of America.

angeladavis2 Let us not only cry Free Angela Davis. Let it also be said “Free Twenty-five Million Black People in the United States of America.”

Let the cry be heard, “Free Forty Million Poor People, Brown, White, Red, and Yellow or Polka Dot in this wealthiest nation in the history of mankind.”

Let the cry be heard “Free the Nation of Racism, Free It of Poverty and Free It of War.” And let the cry be heard from the highest mountain peak to the lowest valley, “Free the Nation of a Nixon-Agnew-Reagan Administration.” “Free the Exploited and the Oppressed People Throughout the Society and Throughout the World. Free Men and Women Who Stand Up for Their God-Given Rights.” Free Men and Women so they can live in dignity. Free men and women so they can stand up and know that if a man has not discovered something that he is willing to die for, then that man is already dead.

Let us speak until the jailhouses fly wide open. Let us speak until Angela Davis is free as a bird in these United States of America. Let us speak until we can roam the streets of America and there will be no policemen to beat our heads and we will not have to raise our sons to go off and be slaughtered somewhere in war.

Let the people speak. Power to the people. And may the people rise up as never before, and no longer be a part of the so-called silent majority, but let us rise up and get on the case and do our thing and sock it to America.