Open Letter: Enough is Enough and It’s Time for a Change
I woke up this morning at 5 am mad as hell. At first, I didn't know what I was mad about, then it came to me. I'm mad that I just witnessed another man, another human brutally beaten and killed by those who are supposed to protect us. I'm mad that it seems that every year we keep having the same conversations. I'm mad that people are so insensitive and callous. I'm mad that my friends are hurting and I don't know what to do to help them. I'm mad that there's a lot of people who would rather pretend that there's not problems in the world than be uncomfortable.
I've seen dozens of times on social media people say that 'racism doesn't exist', that 'all lives matter' and that the media is playing the race card for political purposes. And while I can't argue that things can and are exploited for political gain, I can't go along with the idea that 'racism doesn't exist'. Let's go through a little exercise: Do you know who was at the microphone performing before Martin Luther King delivered his iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech? A 22 year old singer named Bob Dylan. The same Bob Dylan who has been performing regularly for the last 60 years. While Bob has been on the road spreading his message, is it so hard to fathom that those on the other side of the argument also have been spreading their message? Racists and racism didn't die out in the 60s. Those people survived to spread their message of hate.
To put this in perspective, in 2016 convicted felon and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke ran for Senate in Louisiana. As hard as it is to believe, he got enough votes in the polls to be allowed to participate in debates and in the general election racked up 3% of the vote. 58,581 Louisiana citizens voted for a known racist and reprehensible human. Thankfully, the numbers are small. However, to say that racism doesn't exist is just ignorant and frustrating. Let's just say 3% of Louisiana is without a doubt racist. It's not hard believe that some of those nearly 60 thousand people are teachers or business owners or police officers. It isn't that big of a stretch to think that those people, no matter what their station in life is, are spreading the message of hate and bigotry. Teaching their kids and grand kids lessons that should not be taught. It's also not that far fetched to think that every community has thousands of people with similar world views.
I think back to a couple of moments in my life where those in a position of power tried to influence me. Specifically, in high school, me and 2 of my friends got caught in the hallways without a hall pass. It was a dumb thing that high school kids do. However, I remember distinctly being pulled into the principal's office and being scolded for hanging out with the 'wrong kind of people' and that if I kept spend time with those types of people, my life wouldn't amount to much. Who were these reprehensible youth leading me down a path of destruction? Two black kids who were superstar athletes and in the same AP classes as me. They were bright, intelligent, funny young men. No different than me. Doing the same dumb stuff any and every high schooler does. However, I was chastised for hanging with the 'wrong kind of people'. I asked what she meant by that. I got a 'you know what I mean'. And it's true, I did. This is an educator who is supposed to help mold the minds of the young to create a better future and that was the message she chose to send. And this didn't happen in 1964. This was 2001. I also had a similar experience with Baltimore Police after being pulled over with a black friend in my car.
Now, I could have taken that message to heart and eliminated black people from my life. Filled my heart with fear and hatred. But then I would have missed out on so, so much. Some of the brightest and most inspiring people I know are black. From Bishop Larry Brandon to LeVette Fuller to Rashad Johnson to Lajon Witherspoon. My life is better for knowing these men and women. They are inspiring and beautiful humans. And it infuriates me to no end that people hate them and judge them and treat them as lessers just because of the way they look or what neighborhood they grew up in. It's sickening. I'm thankful that my dad taught to love and respect people for who they are, not what they look like. However, sadly, I know that message isn't uniform in every home.
I know these conversations are hard. I know they are uncomfortable. I get it. But, they've been ignored for far too long. If we don't address the situation once and for all, we'll keep having these horrible situations happen over and over and over again. I keep seeing chants of 'All Lives Matter' and 'It shouldn't be about race'. And you're right, all lives should matter and it shouldn't be about race. But, sadly, a lot of the times it is and that needs to change.
Black lives matter. Nobody, at least not that I can recall, stood up when Jesus said 'Blessed are the poor' to yell out 'All of us are blessed'. Or during MLK's 'I Have a Dream' to scream out 'We all have dreams'. Our black friends and family and loved ones are hurting right now. Short term, that's what this about. Long term, we have to fix some of our systems to eliminate injustice and inequality. But right now, in this moment, we need a little empathy and compassion. A little understanding. Long term we need to quit ignoring things like the Black Wall Street Massacre or the Philadelphia police department literally bombing a black neighborhood and taking innocent lives in the 80s. If we don't turn a blind eye to facts, maybe we won't repeat past mistakes. Growth is about recognizing our short comings and failings and changing our approach.
Above, I mentioned Bob Dylan. So, before I end this, I want to leave you with a few lyrics from his iconic 1964 song 'The Times They Are a Changin' :
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'