For some of us, we have not seen the magnitude of multicultural participation in the protest marches for justice and other important matters since the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.
For the 28 of us who boarded the train here in Florence the night before, we did not realize that by the time the “I Have a Dream” speech was so eloquently delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 250,000 marchers from across America had peacefully moved from the lawn surrounding the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Although there was concern about the possibility of violence, there were no such reports.
The purpose of the march was to call the United States of America’s attention to unfilled promises related to the dignity of every human being, education, jobs and housing. One of the protest signs carried by African American (Negro) men stated “I Am a Man.” Fifty-seven years later, those same issues remain front and center.
I know some of us are tired of seeing the video of the murder of George Floyd and others. I know that some of us are tired of seeing the peaceful protest marches locally, statewide, nationally and worldwide in response to the death of George Floyd particularly. There are many reasons why we need to be reminded.
How refreshing it is to see so many of our white brothers and sisters, Latinos, Asians and people of other countries join African Americans in a cause that transcends race, gender, faiths and socioeconomic status. More than anything else, my prayer is that the non-African Americans viewing of the 8-minute, 46-second George Floyd experience will provide 20/20 insight and hindsight into the daily experiences of some African Americans, literally and figuratively speaking.
The documentation of the recent deaths of some African Americans at the hands of some policemen and others is a constant reminder of the inhumane sufferings we as a people have experienced since having been brought to the United States of America.
Let us be clear. Our interactions with law enforcement officers are a function of our personal experiences. Some of us have had both positive and negative circumstances to deal with.
Nevertheless, all police officers do not model the negative behaviors we have witnessed by those arrested for their misconduct. There is a serious need for police reform in some areas as it relates to policies and practices, but there are successful police and community relationships locally, statewide and nationally.
In communities where there is no justice, there will be no peace. We need justice and equitable policing, because some people will not obey the just laws of our land. The Bible says, “Thou shall not steal.” However, if some of us stand still, one may steal “thou.”
There is a need for serious talk and substantive actions conducted in all of our communities about the racism that exists in all areas of our community — jobs, education, health care and housing, just to name a few. Our attitude and willingness to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us” has more to do with obtaining successful outcomes than perhaps anything else — and everyone needs to be represented at the table throughout the endless process of collaboration. Honesty must be a prerequisite for participation.
For all of my brothers and sisters, irrespective of race, color, gender, faith or national origin, I want to share with you what I hope you will share with others.
These are the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Being a Negro in America is not a comfortable existence. It means being part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the scarred and the defeated. Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and being hated for being an orphan. Being a Negro in America means listening to suburban politicians talk eloquently against open housing while arguing in the same breath that they are not racists. It means being harried by day and haunted by night by a nagging sense of nobodiness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of bitterness. It means the ache and anguish of living in so many situations where hopes unborn have died.”
Now, perhaps you will have a better understanding why you may hear the song being sung in the African American household, “Where could I go, O where could I go. Seeking a refuge for my soul. Needing a friend, to save me in the end. Where could I go but to the Lord.”
I have a special place in my heart for interracial couples. I pray for the husbands, wives and children, because in spite of the racism, love lifted them above it all.
I pray likewise for all people of color. Despite the daily challenges described by Dr. King, I agree that our disappointments are not to destroy our hope. May we all, as members of our community, build more peace and unity, and let it begin with each of us individually.
Know justice, know peace.
Allie E. Brooks Jr. is the former superintendent of Florence School District One and the past principal of Wilson High School.
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