By Edelia Dr. Jay Carthan
The ‘Other America,’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of 53 years ago, is still present today. “America must see that riots don’t develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear,” Dr. King said in a speech given at Stanford University.
“It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and status quo than about justice, equality and humanity,” Dr. King articulated.
“And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
Dr. King articulated in 1967 what is still apparent in 2020. Most Americans have been glued to their televisions and phones as media outlets report on the peaceful protests and riots breaking out across cities in the United States. Americans, African Americans in particular, are tired of being overlooked, underserved, mistreated and murdered, and denied justice and equality in a system that pledges liberty and justice for all.
Hundreds gather in major cities not only in the United States, but in Britain, Germany, France, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, and other countries in protest against police brutality in solidarity after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
George Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for nine and half minutes while onlookers filmed and pleaded for him to stop. Floyd said, “I can’t breathe,” while gasping for air.
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot eight times in her home by Louisville police executing a search warrant after midnight.
At least 40 cities have imposed curfews and the National Guard has been activated in at least 23 states including Washington, DC as riots unleash in America because of these senseless deaths.
“We cannot be brainwashed by the same system we are fighting against,” explained activist Marquise Hunt, former NAACP State President (Youth and College Division) and senior Mass Communications major at the historic Tougaloo College.
“For too long, Black people in America have never been able to enjoy the fruit of which America has had to offer. Now, more than ever, we are seeing and hearing the voices of young people who are tired of their brothers and sisters being killed at the gangs of the government,” Hunt exclaimed.
When Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully on one knee, he was labeled unpatriotic and lost his NFL contract. What language does America understand? We have marched, rallied and protested year after year and still have yet to benefit from equal protection under the law guaranteed to every American by the U.S. Constitution.
Malcom X said, “Anytime you live in a society supposedly based upon law, and it doesn’t enforced its own law because the color of a man’s skin happens to be wrong, then I say those people are justified to resort to any means necessary to bring about justice when the government can’t give them justice. But when a Black man strikes back. He’s an extremist. He’s supposed to love his enemies.”
White America has a history of using violence to make their voice heard not only in America, but around the world. As such, White Americans must be careful when commenting on violence. There are posts on social media calling people terrorists for rioting. Yet, White America’s history of unpunished violence against Black people is documented, studied and even celebrated. There are books, films and museums to remind us of that history.
May 31 and June 1 marked the 99th anniversary of Black Wallstreet, also known as the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, one of the worst racial violent massacres in U.S. history. A white mob attacked residents homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands left homeless. We had our own schools, hospitals and businesses and they burned it to the ground.
Today, we are dealing with the same pandemic. Not only COVID-19, but a racial manufactured pandemic against Black people. President Trump’s tweets suggest the police should use more force and violence amid the protests and riots.
“The President’s policies have worsened racial divisions in this country,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “His rhetoric has consistently inflamed them. Either the President is too afraid to lead or is simply incapable,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.
“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as it’s promise,” Barbara Jordan, the first African American Congresswoman said in 1964.
Simple, yet African Americans still continue to fight for freedom and justice. We want to be heard. America didn’t hear us when we were whispering. Now hear us as America screams for change. The violence will end when justice begins!