During times this nation deals with racial anxiety and protest people often ask what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say. It can be seen that 50 years after the civil rights movement, things have not changed, when it comes to oppression of the average minority in America. So there is no need to wonder, but to go to his speech “The Other America” following the Watts riots when he spoke at Stanford University April 14th, 1967. I thought it best to include his words within my commentary amidst the ongoing protests in Ferguson and nationwide.
I want to discuss the race problem tonight and I want to discuss it very honestly. I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth. Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. And I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it…Richie Havens in 1969 opened up Woodstock, his last song was a rendition of an old spiritual “Motherless Child” and “Freedom”. I can’t help but get chills when I hear some of the verses of the song. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from my home.” When I hear this I can’t help but hear the sorrow of the black man and woman in America. It seems as though the African American is just like that motherless child, a nation-less child, a long way in time and distance from the African continent. Now it’s been over 150 years since the signing of the emancipation proclamation that dismantled the owning of slaves in America. However, it seems as though African Americans have never truly been able to escape the plantation. Whether it was sharecropping, Jim Crow, and now Mass Incarceration. The trials of the black man do not diminish but simply transform from one form of institutional oppression to another.
There are two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. In this America, millions of people have the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality flowing before them. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.Now it has been some time since the shooting death of Mike Brown but the wounds are still fresh, and it looks as though a movement may be starting out of Ferguson. It is clear that race is still a very big issue in America, which ties in the issue of police brutality and police militarization because while people may say this is more than a color thing. You cannot overlook the fact that many of these problems such as police brutality and militarization first happen in the black community and then bubble up to the broader range of the poor class, and middle class. One has to do their history. There is no such thing as a bunch of vigilantes like that of Cliven Bundy if it were African American. In 1985 police bombed an entire neighborhood in West Philadelphia combating a radical group called MOVE.
Police brutality hasn't changed from the end slavery, from Rodney King, to Eric Garner and Mike Brown. As long as the color of one's skin can still cause a women to clutch her purse a little tighter, or a police officer to shoot an unarmed 18 year old college bound child 6 times, twice in the head. This country will remain mentally chained to the skeleton of slavery.
If CNN anchors can openly suggest using water cannons on peaceful protesters in 2014, the nation is still chained.
If peaceful protesters of men, women, and children, are met with police in military dress, armored vehicles, dogs, tear gas, and arrests, this nation is still chained.
When reporters are being arrested and tear gassed for documenting the situation in Ferguson, this nation is still chained.
When city officials and state senators are being tear gassed for standing in solidarity with peaceful protestors, this nation is still chained.
When amnesty international has to observe the events passing in Ferguson, this nation is still chained.
When John Lewis and Jesse Jackson are still marching for the same problems 50 years after the March on Washington, this nation is still chained.
It seems as though every time an unarmed black child is shot down in the streets there is a cry from the nation of minorities and oppressed and sympathizers, some discussion and discourse on the matter, and then another unarmed black child is shot down in the streets. There needs to be more discussion on what it means to be a black man in society because it stretches across cultural differences among minorities and oft times a precursor to how the rest of the nation will be treated. The Occupy Wall Street movement in some respects did not start until middle class white America felt financial burdens minority communities have been facing for decades.
But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, thousands and thousands of people, men in particular walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist. In this other America, millions of people are forced to live in vermin-filled, distressing housing conditions where they do not have the privilege of having wall-to-wall carpeting, but all too often, they end up with wall-to-wall rats and roaches. Almost forty percent of the Negro families of America live in sub-standard housing conditions…Probably the most critical problem in the other America is the economic problem. There are so many other people in the other America who can never make ends meet because their incomes are far too low if they have incomes, and their jobs are so devoid of quality….
Now Michael Brown’s parents have laid him to rest. Protests are still happening in Ferguson and around the country for Mike Brown and all the Mike Browns across the nation. Just after Brown was shot, another young black man was gunned down in St. Louis not too far from Ferguson. Here in the Boston area you cannot go on without remembering the name of Burrell Anthony Ramsey White who was gunned down during a routine traffic stop by BPD in 2012 and still does not have a headstone on his grave. In California people have taken the streets to protest for the shooting death of unarmed Ezell Ford, who suffered from mental illness, by LAPD. How about the shooting death of John Crawford in an Ohio Wal-Mart for holding a toy gun. Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD for allegedly selling loose cigarettes leaving behind 5 children. The constant question asked by these communities facing such harsh police brutality is who is policing the police? Some in Ferguson are referring to the protests as a “Negro Spring” because there needs to be a drastic change in lawmakers and policies in the area. There are various petitions circulating at the moment like one to make sure officers wear cameras in order to record disputes. The Dream Defenders have kicked off a Hands Up Don't Shoot campaign for policy change and continuing the dialogue regarding police brutality. The hope is that justice can be served in the case of Mike Brown. Concern with the man prosecuting police officer Darrel Wilson is of serious concern seeing that the prosecutor’s father was a cop killed by an African American on duty. As Eric Holder has visited Ferguson and the Department of Justice is monitoring the case America and the world will see if justice is served to Mike Brown.
Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must always help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.
You can find this piece featured in the LA Progressive
Written by: E. Rey