In the period prior to the Civil War, which began in 1861, there was slavery, Black people were denied of Civil Rights, human rights, voting tights, dignities ... all with supporting legalities. The southern sector of our country were willing to create their own country, to secede from this country in order to maintain these practices.
As this country approached the 1960s, we African Americans again were faced with a country divided. Divided between racism and anti-racism, between women’s rights and disregard, between discriminatory and racist housing practices, intentional educational gaps, return of Jim Crow practices as it related to voting rights, equal rights and justice in every aspect of our lives.
African Americans fought for, and received, relief from this history with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Finally, there appeared to be the willingness that, in spite of political and social divisions, to find room for common ground and progress.
Unfortunately, it is my developed and earned wisdom that our country has returned to the state that we were morally, politically and ideologically in the 1860s and 1960s. Déjà vu, all over again.
As this country faces 2023, we are rapidly returning to the former days of the worst America for African Americans, not the good old days, not the glory days, but the bad days. Lynching has been replaced by rogue police killings. The undiagnosed mental health in our country that had generated random acts of violence, has been replaced by undiagnosed mental issues of today, producing the rash of mass shooting events. The need for guns for hunting and wars of the past has been replaced by the undisciplined use of assault weapons to kill each other.
States are threatening to remove themselves from the sensible order of this country, to the nonsensical order of their own hate-filled, divisive assaults on democracy, which is analogous to the pre-Civil War-era and the pre-Civil Rights Movement-era. Déjà vu, all over again.
Nationally, we have leaders who look away from insurrection and assault on democracy, as was done with slavery. The ocean of inequities continue for Blacks.
Statewide, we have opposition leaders who continue to invent and create ways to suppress votes as was done during Jim Crow, and we have friendly leaders who are preventing the movement of the most significant legislation in a generation, federal funds to spur the recovery of North and South Omaha. My entire life, I have watched the disinvestment of my community, and over and over we have been either forced or asked to wait. Either way we waited. Déjà vu, all over again.
Blacks are faced with fighting all over again for our rights, respect, wealth development for gains made and lost 100 years ago and 50 years ago. No other event could illustrate my point more than the most recent actions of the Tennessee State Legislature, who in one action of expelled two Black senators from their elected posts, demonstrated racism and assaults on democracy, showed disregard for civil rights and human rights, and yet still no action on assault weapons killing people and children in their own state.
I have lived most of my life and the waters have flowed under my bridge, but our youth are just going to the river for a drink and have a thirst for a full life. What they are begging for is the recognition of the adults to understand that their future is in our hands. I agree. We need to save our children. I challenge us all to lay down our divisiveness and focus on doing whatever is necessary to save our children. Don’t forget, besides push-back on race and gender, they have climate change, potential nuclear war and unbridled assault weapons to add to their woes.
To my North Omaha community, Black Votes Matter family of educators, my Black Political Summit participants and my friendly collaborators, we must be proactive and serve in this era as leaders and soldiers, in order to stop our déjà vu cycle back to America’s dark side. Make a commitment to speak up, stand up and vote our way up!