An American Struggle
My initial response to the events of last week, Amy Cooper assuming white privilege to use the police as her own personal weapon against a black person who offended her and the tragic murder of George Floyd was not to take to the streets. As much as I wanted to recognize what George Floyd's murder tragically symbolized, I also desired to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr who admonished in his 1963 “I have a Dream” speech, “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.” From the beginning I was skeptical about the ability of some to “conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline” as Dr. King advised. I have always been concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement in that it is a concept without any central leadership and without a unifying voice like that of Martin Luther King.
In this past week the Streets of America have looked more like the weeks following Martin Luther King’s assassination with the ensuing riots. Perhaps that is appropriate after we have seen another assassination of a black man through 8 minutes and 46 seconds of witness video. Still instead of taking to the streets Friday I began a teach-in. All day Friday I communicated with people on social media hoping to present a cogent perspective of not only why black people are angry but why all people of the United States should be angry regarding what the events of this past year symbolize. The October 2019 police killing of Atatiana Jefferson while she was at home babysitting her nephew, the February 2020 vigilante killing of Ahmaud Abrey while jogging, EMT Breonna Taylor being killed by police in her home in March, and the killing of George Floyd by police are poignant symbols that America has not yet risen up to ”live out the true meaning of its creed: ' We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’" My references to Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech” are particularly relevant in that therein he rhetorically posed the question, “When will you be satisfied?” His direct answer was “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Certainly during those 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video tape in which George Floyd was killed we saw an unspeakable horror of police brutality.
Nonetheless I am revolted by those who have coopted the struggle for justice to further their own agendas and I am horrified at the unnecessary killing that has occurred in the streets of America. The cry, “No Justice No Peace” remains appropriate. The collective conscience of America should not be at peace, not sleep comfortably at night, as long as injustice remains, but the manifestation of that unrest of the soul should not be burning, looting and killing but people stirred up to tirelessly hold the judicial system accountable. This is an American struggle not just a black struggle “for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence [in the lines of protest], have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.” An America that lives up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal” and endowed with rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and a nation that fulfills its pledge of “justice for all” is a great nation.
- Pictures taken from "35 Pics showing the other side of the George Floyd Protest..."
- "I Have a Dream" speech copyright 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.
- Personal narrative from Derek V. Taylor Friday teach-in can be found in "By Whose Authority" in Days of Elijah which is also available in ebook form.