Lift Ev’ry Voice!
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Most (every) black man remembers when they first encountered Malcolm X. Although I grew up as the son of two parents who were raised in Memphis, Tennessee at the height of the civil rights movement, I did not truly meet Malcolm until I went off to college at Towson University. I remember reading his words and becoming appalled and enthralled. “Message to the Grassroots,” is one of the most spellbinding speeches I have ever heard. And then I saw the movie by Spike Lee.
As the credits rolled, tears streamed down my face right there in my dorm room. There are only a few times I can remember being that undone. I think the trigger for my tears was the idea that this man who at his best, stood as a reclamation of black identity, was taken so publicly. So violently. So quickly. If he could speak the savage truth about this county and be cut down before turning 40 years old, what could that mean for someone like me? What could that mean for truth?
I did not know at that time that I would even be an educator, much less make my life mission to increase the level of equity in every classroom in this country. However, that is where I am today and it is my life’s purpose. Speaking about the full story of our country and how it shows up in our education system has led me to situations where I have felt (at least emotional) harm and danger. In fact, speaking up in any way that forces people in authority to be accountable for their actions on others has plunged me out of safety so often that I have at times chosen to ‘sit this one out.’ Honestly, it is exhausting.
However, I cannot and YOU cannot sit this one out.
The Pro-Trump loyalist thugs that breached the Capitol on January 6th are enemies of the state. But they aren’t the only ones.
Every media personality, keyboard warrior (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) or ‘well actually’ person that has enabled a brand of racism that conflates patriotism with anarchy is complicit as well. This. is. not. normal.
It is outrageous and UNACCEPTABLE.
Of course the ‘president’ should resign or be impeached and removed or brought up on federal charges (or all of the above); but that should have happened over 350+ thousand COVID-19 deaths ago. Therefore, those congressmen and women of either party who have stood by and allowed this to continue are also complicit in the scene we watched unfold this past week. A scene so public. So violent. So quick.
Yes, we have had a narcissistic Svengali in the oval office who has spread a message of hate for (over) four years; but that does not absolve grown ____ adults from their responsibility to think and reason that maybe it is not a good idea to scale the walls of a government building and try to overthrow an election. They must all be held accountable; there is no excuse. If I cannot duck a toll charge of (not joking) $1.15 for using an HOV lane inappropriately (don’t judge); then mask-less, videotaped men (and women) breaching a government building with the current and future vice presidents in it should be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
This is yet another area where white supremacist ideology and logic split apart — whiteness cannot be both a superior way of being and at the same time powerless to reject anarchist thinking. It is neither. The poet Lucille Clifton once wrote that “things hold and lines connect in thin ways that last and last…” White supremacy (and anti-black and brown racism) is the through-line that connects the lawless acts on January 6th to Charlottesville to Mother Emmanuel Church to many other deplorable (pun intended) events in our nation’s history. It is a thought process that places low value on Black intelligence, but high value on Black exploitation. It is a mindset that can become outraged at a Black president wearing a tan suit (seriously) or increasing access to healthcare for millions of (white and black) American citizens but can still argue on the senate floor on behalf of baseless election hoaxes hours after an attempted coup! It is a way of thinking that encodes school curricula with certain messages about American history, literature and science that prioritizes the contributions of white Americans and minimizes the contributions of Black Americans - and then builds tests around it.
This ideology is what must be centered, studied and denounced by everyone. Yes, we must talk about the historicity of the moment, the failure of security, Twitter bans and such. However, if we don’t center what is at the heart of the problem, then we are choosing to let it continue to exist underground like tectonic plates that have been rubbing together for centuries.
So what about you?
How have you used your voice to speak against not just the acts of oppression, but the ideology of oppression? We can’t stop at ‘wow.’
How have you used whatever platform you have to uphold the beauty of blackness and the ugliness of white supremacist ideology? It’s not enough to love Lizzo.
How will you lift your voice today or tomorrow to bring attention to these issues? The children you teach, raise or are related to are watching.
What policies, practices and laws will you use your voice to change? The injustice that is seen, felt and implemented is the injustice that has been regulated, codified and protected.
What will you do?
As of this blog, I have spoken publicly about president Trump and the ideology he has been spreading maybe twice in four years. I tend to not get into politics over social media because it is about as useful as trying to get Cheerwine chosen as the official drink of this country or convincing Nick Wright that Josh Allen is a good quarterback (fingers crossed for today’s game). I have to reflect on why I have been so silent and what that has enabled. Perhaps an entry like this one is too little to late. Whether it is or it isn’t, I no longer will have to look back on this period and say I was silent.
What about you?