In 1944’s U.S. south a black woman living in Abbeville, Alabama, married and with one child, was taken at gun point into the woods by seven young white men and raped, not once or twice but six times. Contrary to the usual silence of raped black women in that part of the country this woman went public and identified the boys involved. At first her accusation went unheeded but hundreds of citizens from all over the country asked for justice. The governor of Alabama yielded to public pressure and convened a Grand Jury, made up of white, local members. The Grand Jury absolved the white boys. The black woman, born in 1919 died last year in Alabama, after living a hard life as a field hand, picking oranges in Florida or doing diverse agricultural jobs. Her marriage ended prematurely. She did not live a happy life after her ordeal failed to receive justice.
Of the seven young boys at least two died tragically and one went to prison but not in Alabama. He was captured by the North Koreans during the Korean War and spent long months as a war prisoner. The fight put up by the woman inspired, years later, the civil rights movement, particularly Rosa Parks challenging the prohibition for blacks to sit in the forward section of buses and the bus boycott by black raiders, an excellent example of non-violent civil disobedience.
Racial discrimination is one of the most odious forms of human behavior and, to its credit as a nation, the United States has found ways to fight it. It has not been easy. Even the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote that “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with the inalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, found no contradiction between his words and his owning of slaves, an issue that would lead to a tragic, bloody civil war soon after Jefferson’s death.
Years later, in the deep south, in Venezuela, discrimination has taken many forms during the despotic rule of the deceased Hugo Chavez and, now, of Nicolas Maduro. Discrimination and abuse of power has been political, gender, social, economic and, even, racial, as illustrated by the persecution exercised by Chavez and Maduro against middle class whites. Venezuela during the XXI century has been a country where injustice has prevailed. While the honest are being reduced to poverty and despair, the gang in power has pocketed millions of dollars and lives totally outside the laws of the country, with total impunity. At this moment, for example, the life of one of our beloved comedians, “Cayito” Aponte, is at great risk because he lacks the medicine that would help him. In parallel, dozens of Chavistas have bought and are buying mansions in Europe or large racing horse ranches in the U.S., bought with the money they have stolen from the Venezuelan nation. One of them, Diego Salazar Carreño, has become (in) famous for giving 5000 euro tips to waiters in the restaurants of Paris.
When justice is absent in a country civic resistance becomes mandatory. This resistance can lead to tragic wars, such as the U.S. civil war or to massive, non-violent, street demonstrations, such as the ones led by Martin Luther King or by Gandhi. In Venezuela this resistance against the Chavez-Maduro dictatorship has been expressed in non-violent ways but still has not produced the required effects of expelling the dictators from power. The examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King show that victory can be attained by persistent, non-violent, civil disobedience. This is the path Venezuelans should follow.
Because if justice does not come to Venezuela soon, revenge and violence will.