Vick Divides the Races -- Let's Go for Justice, Not Vengeance
You're probably as tired of Michael Vick as I am but there's an issue here I just have to bark about -- race! I am amazed at how many people believe that this is a racial issue.
Somewhere along the line Michael Vick has managed to wrap himself in the hallowed cause of real heroes such as Dr. Martin Luther King. Somehow Vick and his supporters have been able to sell otherwise good and honest people on the idea that he is being prosecuted because he is something other than Caucasian. Dog poo!
Vick is being prosecuted because he has been torturing and murdering innocent dogs for his own enjoyment and the enlargement of his wallet. The public outcry has made it possible to prosecute him. Without it, frankly, the local officials would have done what they have done every other time when scumbags were caught fighting dogs, they would have released them and forgotten about it. Those of us who care about dogs spoke out and demanded that Vick be brought to justice. Was it easier to do so because Vick is so well known? In some ways, yes. In other ways, it was probably harder because he had the money and influence to hide some of the trail.
So what about the charge that Vick's prosecution is racially motivated? I can't see into everyone's hearts to their base motivations but I can give you some facts. The people pushing for Vick's censure and prosecution are the same people who have been working to shut down puppy mills (predominantly Caucasian and with an increasing number of Mexican perpetrators), stop rural dog-hogging (run by predominantly Caucasian yahoos), stop the dog meat trade in Asian countries like the Phiippines and South Korea, protect the Bully breeds against unfair Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) (often passed by predominantly Caucasian councils against predominantly Caucasian-owned dogs), rescue dogs from shelters (where those who abandoned them include every race), raise awareness of everyday abuse against dogs and cats, and spread the word on the evils of dog-chaining (once again done by all races). We do not all belong to PETA or any animal rights organizations promulgating violence. We are everyday people who strife to make the world better for dogs, cats and humans. In short, this is not about Vick or Vick's race; its about dogs and who we are as humans. Do we choose to be better, to be the kind of species that cares about other humans and species or do we continue to believe an outdated and immensely harmful myth that every man (or woman) has the right to do as they please as long as they don't directly harm another human?
This self-imposed myth of human separation and being marooned with just our forms of tooth and claw in some imagined jungle is the ultimate suicide pill for a society. We as humans cannot allow ourselves to continue to believe this much-touted theory of life that was sad enough when it was proposed in the 1800's. For if we do, then we, like Vick have to say that what he did was not evil. It was acceptable because he could do it. We heard echoes of that "defense" from Vick's fellow football players when they said dog-fighting is common in the country. Sure it is. So let's get the goods on those criminals and close them down. We don't defend one criminal by saying that the crime is common so he is not really guilty.
We as a society and a species have to regain the judicious use of public shame for those who slip through legal cracks but are overwhelmingly apparently guilty. Is he judged legally guilty? Not at this point. Should we all quiet down and let justice take its course? No! If we do, he will not be fully prosecuted and others like him (dog-fighters and other abusers, not African-Americans) will be allowed to quietly feel at peace about their evil actions. This must be a public show if for no other reason than to raise the question in people's minds about their own actions.
All that said, I will call for a lowering of the public vitriol against Vick. We all are outraged and angered by his actions. I have no doubt that almost all of us have at one time or another said that he deserved the same treatment he gave the dogs he murdered. Emotionally, I am with you. But if we are to make Vick's prosecution, and hopefully ultimate penalties if he is proven guilty, take on long-lasting meaning then we must ratchet back the hate talk. Every time we say something like how he should die or suffer, it gives his supporters and those who don't really understand the situation, a way to claim that we are racially motivated. They stop looking at what he has done and look at us and our anger instead. We must keep the focus on Vick and everyone else who supports dog-fighting and these other abuses of the soul and body.
I suggest we make sure our call is for real JUSTICE and not vengeance. What's the difference? Vengeance is the kind of emotion that darkens our minds and spirits. It makes us lust for blood. That doesn't mean it's a racial hatred; vengeance becomes a blood-lust against anyone perceived to have done harm. Granted, the Vick supporters in the following article are calling for "justice" but in many ways their justice is not that; it is allowance for Vick's sins. Poor Vick, he just had too much money and the NFL is so rife with dog-fighting he just couldn't help himself. And yes, he has not been convicted but, as I pointed out before, if there was no public outcry there would be no prosecution.
Real Justice is the higner goal. Real justice addresses the roots of the problem and does not merely lop off the top of the plant. Let's demand justice for the thousands of dogs who have been murdered to amuse emotionally-deformed humans. Justice has to start somewhere and Vick is that somewhere.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a great admirer of Mohatma Gandhi's, the great proponant for peace and justice among all humans and animals. Let's carry forward both their dreams as we make sure those who would defend Vick know that we do not care about the skin color; we want justice, not hatred.
Thanks to Yahoo News for this article.
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
July 26, 2007
RICHMOND, Va. The crowded, chaotic sidewalk on Main Street, across from the federal courthouse, was an unlikely location for a lesson on the virtues of the fifth amendment.
But standing behind a throng that wanted a pound of Michael Vick's flesh people that had just screamed for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to "burn in hell" and held signs advocating his murder, torture and neutering was Thomas Smith in work boots and a white t-shirt.
High above his head he held a simple sign with just a single word: "Constitution."
"These folks have convicted a man who hasn't even had a chance to defend himself," said Smith. "They just forget everything about America."
But here was America in full force, full vision, mixing it up while Vick pled not guilty to federal charges pertaining to an alleged dog-fighting ring on property he owned in rural Surry County. And front and center, impossible to ignore, was race.
Like Smith, almost all of the people supporting Vick or holding signs pleading for "due process" and "innocence until proven guilty" were African American.
On the other side was an emotional, angry, passionate anti-Vick group that was overwhelmingly white.
Certainly not every animal rights supporter was screaming for Vick to die. Many were just there to support the cause of caring for animals, ending the barbaric practice of dog fighting and using the massive media presence to benefit good.
But a significant number were focused on Vick. When he emerged from a black SUV and made a slow walk up a ramp and into the courthouse, they pushed toward police barriers and let loose.
"Burn in hell you (expletive) (expletive)," repeatedly screamed one woman.
"Die like those dogs," shouted another.
Not long after Vick got inside the courthouse and in a scene that was repeated when he left less than two hours later the two sides clashed in shouted voices and dueling signs.
White people screaming for justice; black people asking if they still remember everything justice entails.
That a case involving dog fighting can break so quickly along racial lines is a testament to how it bubbles below just about everything in this country. We all wish it wasn't so, including both sides here. No one wanted this. Almost no one even wanted to acknowledge it. But it was there, plain as day in black and white.
"I wouldn't say it's a racial thing," said David Williams, an African American, in a hopeful tone. "It's not racial. But for these animal rights people to take one person and crucify him isn't fair."
The thing is, the "animal rights people" here were an estimated 90 percent white. The pro-Vick/due process crowd was probably 95 percent black.
Obviously, both animal rights advocates and due process proponents come in all colors. And certainly a circus show like this, revved up by a massive media presence, isn't representative of America.
But, then again, I also know what I saw and what I heard.
"They are not going to give the man a chance?" Williams said. "You're innocent until proven guilty. He hasn't even had a trial yet."
There should be two undeniable, 100 percent agreed upon truths concerning this case: First, dog fighting is a barbaric felony and whoever participated in it on Vick's property should get hammered by the justice system.
Second, Vick deserves the right to defend against the charges. The indictment cites four "cooperating witnesses," but presuming each is a dog fighter himself, potentially facing prosecution unless they rolled on Vick, who and how reliable are they?
That said, the U.S. Attorney's office is known for its detail and diligence this isn't some hack county prosecutor like the Duke lacrosse case. They rarely lose, so the challenge for Vick is serious and significant. But he has the right to fight.