We are all familiar with the Civil Rights movement, whether through experience, oral or written history. We have seen the horrific pictures of black bodies hanging from trees, police held water hoses spraying marchers and just police brutality during an era that depicted the daily struggles of our people. Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. has been the face and voice of the movement even after his untimely death. His efforts, work, faith and determination helped our people push forward to usher in an era of change. Furthermore, the election of our first black president many of us thought surely our nation has changed for the better and people no longer carried the sentiments of racism towards people of color. Well to that I say, “Yeah right!” I will go further and say in my Rodney Dangerfield voice, “President Obama can’t get no respect.” Since his election, he has been criticized from evey angle, mocked, subjected to name calling and overall just down right disrespected. Never in my 44 years of life have I ever witnessed such disrespect for a sitting president. Hatemongers have broke open the graves of hatred and are walking around in a zombie like state seeking to destroy and undermine all that Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and others marched for. I remember vividly in 2003 when one of the Dixie Chicks made a statement while in London that she was ashamed then president Bush was from Texas. Her statement started a major firestorm against her group. Their music was removed from the airwaves, radio stations called for their cds, tapes and concert tickets to be trashed. Her statement caused some people to clutched their chest like Fred Sanford in the television show Sanford and Son and scream, “I’m coming to join you Elizabeth.” The Dixie Chicks were ridiculed, threatened and almost exiled from the United States. However, it has been open season on President Obama. It is shameful yet disheartening to know there are many people who can not see past one’s race.
Futhermore, the Trayvon Martin and Tulsa shooting have poured salt into the already open wounds of black Americans. Daily we struggle with issues that white America never think twice about because these struggles do not apply to their priviledged lives. Even if a person is not a racist, they will never understand what it is like to be of color. They will never worry about their sons encountering a racist cop, failing to hail a cab because drivers speed by, or having to work ten times harder on the job or to gain an adequate education. A personal experience I encountered with a racist state trooper some years ago comes to mind. I was on my way from picking up my 15 year old daughter from an event at a local community center when I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I pulled over, let my window down and waited for the officer to approach. Also while looking through my mirror, I could see him calling in my license plate number. Finally, he approached my car. His first question was, “Where are the drugs” It really didn’t register in my mind correctly, so I said, “Excuse me!” His second question, “Are they in your glove box or in the trunk?” Then he replied, “Don’t make me look for them or it’s going to be more trouble for you.” His third question, “How did you get this car?” I have never used an illegal drug in my life. I was so angry. I could not believe this was happening to me. What happened to the standard questions like, May I see your license and registration? May I see your insurance paper? It was an eye opening experience. I had joined the statistical number of people who’ve suffered through this type of racial profiling. Yes, we have come far, but not far enough.
Although the tumultuous days of the Civil Rights Era is long gone, we need a current day movement to say we are here, we matter, we will unite together to fight this evil and we are not going anywhere. Dr. King once said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle and so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back’s bent.” To our young people, I say stand up for something, stand for change, stand for positive and stand up for all people of color who have lost their lives due to racism. You all use twitter and facebook daily to socialize and connect with others so for once use it to start a movement of young people of color using their voice to promote change and growth in this country. Use social media to unite as a race steeped in the rich traditions of our ancestors. Use social media to encourage your friends and followers to register to vote. We as a people need you. This country needs you. I plead with you don’t let the marches, songs or the lives lost be in vain. Reach deep in your heart and know that it is your duty and responsibility as not only a citizen of this nation, but as a member of the African-American race to exercise your right, your voice and your vote. Yes we have come far, but we have definitely, definitely not come far enough. In closing, the President Obama’s slogan is ringing in my head, “Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.”