This is a powerful and prophetic piece by Genevieve Mitchell, a potent political activist in Cleveland, that makes the connections between racial, economic and political injustice — and the need for ongoing grassroots social action. It was presented last Saturday at the Cleveland Civil and Human Rights Coalition Meeting.
We are confused about what to do when we see downtown ferguson decorated and lit up for Christmas with “seasons greetings” signs strewn across the light posts, amidst the backdrop of 2500 uniformed police and national guard, armed with tanks, rifles, mace, smoke bombs and bullets… locked and loaded to kill civilians protesting police brutality. Merry Christmas.
We are angry because the purveyors of institutionalized racism advance the notion that black life has no value as black men, women and children are killed with political impunity.
We are frustrated with a system that we recognize, has failed us.
The civil unrest in ferguson, new york, cleveland and throughout the nation is the direct result of state sanctioned abuse of police power and authority.
It is a political problem that requires a political solution.
The tragic deaths of Michael brown, Tamir rice, Eric garner, timothy Russell, Malissa Williams and thousands of others has an historic premise. Long before “911” and isil ever existed, blacks, minorities and the poor have seen the paddy rollers, posses, gulags, and the Klan.
Our mothers and fathers have seen a few things. They’ve seen lynchings. And bombings. They’ve seen their country churches and homes burned to the ground. They’ve seen emmett till’s, Medgar evers’, Fannie lou hamer’s and Carolina skeletons’. Black men in military uniform with a rope around their neck, swingin from a tree. mama done seen a few things.
They’ve had to sit in the back of the bus and be denied the right to read and be educated. They’ve been remanded to the nations’ jails and prisons for vagrancy and peonage, with life sentences. They’ve seen “no nigger signs on stores and restaurants and hotels”. And been denied housing or had to pay more for less. Mama, done seen a few things.
They sharecropped and no matter how hard they worked, it was never enough to do more than break even or still owe the plantation boss. Couldn’t never get free! They done seen the aftermath of what happened to three civil rights workers tryin’ to register blacks in the Mississippi Delta to vote. Mama….. done seen a few things.
Terrorism to black people then, is a relative term. We recognize it when we see it.
We recognize when someone ain’t treatin somebody right. we recognize it when we don’t get treated right.
It is all part of a much larger narrative on slavery, race, racism, class, privilege, and the residual effect of state sanctioned violence, social control and power over those deemed ….expendable.
It’s a sad day in this country, but I’m hopeful. I am so very hopeful, because I saw young folk; white, black, Hispanic, Asian marching in the street for justice and social change and that’s a good thing. It’s a good place to start, but the real work has yet to be done.
The real internal work is to perform an “exorcism” on the American psyche, to excise the racism and hatred that creates the rules that allow a grown black man to be murdered on international television with no one called to account.
The real work is to change the modus operandi of the institutions that defund black studies. The real work is to change institutional behavior that won’t allow black institutions to exist and thrive with the same propensity as other institutions.
The real work is to Change the core of police departments nationwide. The real works is to work toward judicial reform. The real work is to change court dynamics which remand black and poor to the nation’s prisons. The real work is fighting for government system reforms that create an environment inclusive of everyone. The real work is to change the internal operations of the nation’s academic and cultural institutions to include the youth locked out and on the street, giving them an opportunity to succeed. Additionally, the real work is to work for changes in sentencing and shut down the nation’s privatized prison systems. To create campaign finance reforms that does not allow political incumbents, beholden to private interests with ulterior motives and not public interest, to exist and proliferate.
To work to humanely protect and value the lives of all of us in a way that is growth oriented and sustainable. That is substantive and not superficial.
Dr. King said, America has been issued a blank check that has been sent to the nation’s repositories for the black, brown and poor white folk, marked insufficient funds. This check is now payable and due, the collateral of which, must be paid in full. This then, is the great work which must be done if America is to save itself, from itself. This is our charge, this is our moment, this is our time…..carpe diem!
– Genevieve Mitchell