The year 2020 has been a stressful
one. With George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis,
Minn., police officer as an inflection point about race and racism in
America, an unprecedented presidential election and social unrest
during an ongoing pandemic with a rising death toll, something is
deeply broken in America’s body politic.
has been divided and broken before - just look at the Civil War and
the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But is America so broken now
that we can’t turn back? Do we want to turn back? To invoke the
words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., where do we go from here?
That’s the daunting question for 2021. We have revisited it
several times in American history, resisting the work and change
needed to be done - individually, collectively, and systematically.
wrote Where Do We Go From
Here? during the long,
hot summer of 1967. It was his fourth and final tome before his
assassination a year later. King wrote the book because there were
159 race riots across America that summer. The nation was a
tinderbox. Many wondered whether, with the rage and frustration of
young black America, the government could extinguish the
conflagration. Sadly, what caught the nation’s attention was
not the protesters’ plight but the violence.
is worrying about the long, hot summer, with its threat of riots,”
King said that summer at a luncheon in his honor. “We had a
long, cold winter when little was done about the conditions that
riots were public cries for better jobs, higher wages, decent
housing, quality education, health care, voting rights and an end
mass incarceration and police brutality. They were a clarion call to
end systemic racism.
summer of 2020 was long and hot, too. The United States saw 7,750
Black Lives Matter protests between May 26, the day after Floyd died,
and Aug. 22, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data
(ACLED). The protestors came from all walks of life, representing not
just African Americans but the entire face of America. And the
overwhelming majority of the protests were nonviolent. This year’s
demonstrations were the same as the ones in 1967 - a public cry for
better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, quality education, health
care, voting rights and an end mass incarceration and police
time, however, the clarion call is to end systemic racism now!
know where we go from here, we must honestly look at where we are
now. Doing so doesn’t excuse those who think they are on the
right side of justice. While many white people would not think of
themselves as racist, there is a difference between not being racist
and being anti-racist.
supremacy is an ideology and a belief system. It is not the province
solely of white people; there are black white supremacists, too.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Dr. Ben Carson are
examples. They uphold a white, heteronormative, nationalist
government that has set policies that impact us all - LGBTQ people,
women and people of color especially.
supremacy is in America’s DNA. Clinging to it for so long is
how we got so broken as a nation. The fact that we still have to ask
where we go from here means America’s race problem has not been
addressed. While the COVID-19 vaccine will eventually stop the spread
of the pandemic, sadly, the pandemic of racism will persist.
Americans cannot be blamed for the misinformation we have absorbed
from our culture, but we are responsible when we repeat that
misinformation and unexamined racism after we have learned otherwise.
death of George Floyd - a cisgendered man - is a symbol of the new
face of anti-black violence, just as the death of Matthew Shepard in
1998 was a symbol of homophobic violence. His death forces us to look
at what’s broken in America as well as in ourselves. But his
death can also be an opportunity for reconciliation and healing,
recognizing our shared humanity. It starts by calling out and
addressing racists, whether they are well-intentioned white liberals
or ill-intentioned white nationalists, because both erase our lived
reality of a multiracial society.
the end, we cannot think that white supremacy and white privilege
exist outside ourselves. Rather, it must be assumed. With that
assumption, democracy can fully begin for those on the margin to
experience what others take for granted.
we won’t be united as a country. Divided, we will continue to
be petty people.