I am only one of almost all Americans and citizens worldwide who are abhorred by the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd.
I am also convinced that there is a crying and overdue need to address the methods of policing and the recruiting and training procedures so that such instances as led to Mr. Floyd’s death, and other forms of inequality and prejudice do not recur. When they do, sanctions must be applied. I further believe that not all police (indeed only a minority) are practitioners of racism when enforcing the law. Those police that do practice such racism should be disciplined, re-educated, terminated, and/or prosecuted as circumstance warrant.
I am also a firm advocate of the right to assemble and petition and protest. I do not believe that such assemblies are license for rioting, looting, and property damage. But I have watched the past two weeks the byproduct of these protests become a growing intolerance of nearly everything that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered either offensive or not in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Maybe the height (or perhaps depth) of the ridiculous extreme to which we find ourselves is that the restaurant chain of Cracker Barrel somehow “just feels racist”.
However, just as silly is the assumption that silence by individuals or corporations is seen as “proof” that the person or entity who have not voiced support for BLM must be opposed to the aims of BLM and, therefore, racist. The mere act of saying or posting the phrase All Lives Matter has now become cause for termination. Isn’t anyone in the BLM or supporting movement worried at the turn this is taking and its similarity to other, historical dictatorial movements?
Another troubling, to me, offspring of this present atmosphere is the drive to do away with all civil war monuments and the renaming of any military base or ship that bears the name of someone who fought for the south in that tragic conflict. I understand that the Confederate flag can and does bring angst to many, as does the apparent celebration of those who fought for the south or were slaveholders themselves, and renaming may well be a civilized way of dealing with that angst.
But I would ask where will this stop? Do we try to erase all mention of all slave holders? If so, how far back do we go? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (to name only two) were each slave holders, should we destroy the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Monument? Maybe take their images off currency? Rename any city or state that is named for them or any other slaveholder? Certainly, Andrew Jackson should fall into this category as well, for his treatment of the Native Americans of his time. I’ve not researched all of our founding fathers or other giants of history, but I am confident that many of those whose contributions to the founding and prospering of the United States were invaluable, were slave holders or endorsed the practice of that disgusting institution.
I sympathize with and support the drive for equality and hope that the words of Dr. Martin Luther King will someday be true when he said in 1963:
“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…. We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality…. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”