Every generation in the United States has moments when the state of race relations becomes painfully obvious to everyone. In the middle 20th century, it was Emmitt Till. In the late 20th century, it was Amadou Diallo. Last year it was Trayvon Martin. This year, it has been Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. The tragedies associated with the demise of Mr. Brown, Mr. Garner, and Master Rice are exacerbated by the fact that they were killed by individuals who took oaths to protect and serve the public. In two cases, grand juries made decisions that harkened back to the Jim Crow era when Caucasian males could kill their African American counterparts without worry of arrest much less prosecution or conviction. The hopes of a post-racial society that were ushered in with the election of the nation’s first African American president have been brutally dashed as the events over the past few weeks force us to inhale the vile stench of racial injustice and inequality that has been festering throughout the history of this country.
Prophetic visionaries throughout our existence as a nation have challenged citizens to clean and dress deep wounds caused by practices such as slavery or policies based on a “separate but equal” doctrine. Unfortunately, we have responded to these calls for action with benign neglect. As a result, our collective capacity for greatness has eroded because some of our best and brightest lights have been extinguished by social policies and practices that prosecute too much and provide too little care.
In times like these, it is tempting to give in to the cynicism, apathy and nihilism that appear to be ever-present. However, times of great challenge are also times of great opportunity. The events in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland have motivated individuals from all walks of life to protest, march, and chant, “Black lives Matter”. The sparks of activism and advocacy have flared up and only time will tell if these sparks will coalesce into a multicultural movement for justice. It is my hope that posts on this forum will contribute to this movement is some small way through ideas that illuminate, encourage, and challenge us to see the humanity in mankind with greater clarity and to seek solutions to our social ills with fervor.
It is important to understand that social transformation does not come without sacrifice. Some people will have to give up time. Others will have to sacrifice money. Still others will have to give up a way of life that may have existed for generations. This is the price of social change. African Americans who preceded us have paid the price for racial minorities and women to have the lives we have today. The torch has been passed to us and we have a great opportunity to challenge this country to live up to its creed and create space for all children regardless of social background and/or social standing to grow up to be whole, healthy, and productive citizens. The question is, are we willing to do the work?