There is only darkness in hate but in love there is light.
It can be argued that those who make the conscious decision to ignore the obvious wrong doings committed upon a segment of society do not deserve the sympathy, time or resources of those who refused to remain silent when they are inevitably impacted by the same wrongs they chose to ignore. Fortunately for them often they will find that those individuals who have been wronged are in possession of the biggest of hearts and are willing to forgive. Putting aside their differences they willingly rush in to help those who had turned a blind eye to their suffering. Yet history has shown that too often once those who have been rescued feel safe they revert to the familiar traits that have always defined their flawed nature and in the process once again make the decision to remain silent in the face of injustice perpetrated on the very people who recused them. As Mr. Spock would say it is not logical but it is often true.
I have always identified myself as African-America. I embrace who I am and where I come from. I proudly tell anyone who listens to me that despite being stripped of our culture, our language, our very identity and sold into slavery, despite Jim Crow, despite the KKK and other groups that hate us, despite the economic and social inequality thrust upon us and a host of other roadblocks African Americans are as responsible as any other people in the shaping of America into the country it is today.
Unfortunately like many African Americans I have been called a nigger, I have had the barrel of a police officer’s gun pointed directly at my face simply for throwing a football in the backyard of a friend who happened to live in an all-white neighborhood. Despite never being in trouble with the law and not really dressing like the mythical stereotypical “threating African American male” I’ve been stopped for driving while black, stopped and frisked for no apparent reason and seen white women cross the street at night when they have noticed me. Yet my story is a little more complicated than just the color of my skin.
Adopted it wasn’t until my late 30s did I discover I was basically half white. A DNA test courtesy of 23 and me confirmed that my DNA profile is mostly Nigerian, twenty seven percent, followed closely at twenty four percent Ashkenazi Jew. So, for the KKK I’m basically the jackpot, you know lynch one get one free. In totality I’m Fifty four percent Sub-Saharan African and Forty-three percent European. Bottom line is that no matter who my DNA traces back to I’m always going to be who I am and anyone who knows me or meets me should judge me based on my character, not the color of my skin, what religion I practice, my sexual orientation, country of origin or a host of other factors we have invented to separate ourselves from one another.
In the very beginning of the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes Charleston Heston’s character Colonel Taylor wonder if that throughout the thousands of galaxies, millions of stars, if there is only one, a speck of solar dust we call Earth that has been graced or cursed by human life. He wonders if man, the marvel of the universe still makes war against his brother and lets his neighbor’s children starve. At the end of the movie the Dr. Zaius informs Taylor that he has always know about man and that he must be a warlike animal who gives battles to everything around him, even himself. Science fiction from over fifty years ago or reality from today? Because as we are get ready to usher in the third decade of he twenty first century we are still waging war against each other, still letting our neighbor’s children starve, and still looking to give battle to ourselves. The ending of Planet of the Apes doesn’t paint a bright future for humanity, YOU BLEW IT UP, and it does not take much to suspend belief very much to see our future playing out the same way.
In the last few years America has seen a rise in hate crimes as a percentage of Americans increasingly feel threatened by anyone who does not look, sound, live or worship the way they do. It has always been a simmering but now with an administration that tacitly endorses it, remember a group that walked the streets of Charlottesville chanting the Jew will never replace us was said to have good people, it seems ready to boil over.
Now is a crucial time we as a people must guard against our own prejudices and make no mistake no matter who we are we all have some prejudices dwelling with-in us. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided. I have heard a few of my Jewish brother and sisters. dismissing Black Lives Matter with comments as if they don’t want to be targeted they shouldn’t commit crimes. I have heard a few of my African brothers and sisters dismiss anti-Semitic violence as overblown angrily wondering why bigotry is seemingly only deemed a problem when it happens to the Jews and not when it happens to the African American community. I have heard both groups go after one another over the nonsensical debate about what was worse holocaust or slavery. I have witnessed African Americans and Latinos who loath each other as they fight over the limited resources afforded to them because of inherent social and economic inequality. It is precisely these divides that play into the hand of those who preach racism and bigotry. Keep them divided and fighting among themselves they say it makes it easier for us to keep them down.
Yet despite all of this I truly believe as I have said many times in this blog as time goes by those who preach racism, bigotry, sexism, judge people based on their religion or are homophobic are a dying breed and we must not give them any life by falling into their trap of fighting among ourselves.
We are the voice of the many.
We see no difference in each other.
We judge each other for who we are and what we do.
We unite as one people.
We are America!
And we are gaining in strength everyday and it’s just a matter of time before we defeat you.
So today someone ask me after reading one of my social media post about Tucker Carlson why am I so angry? We get it there are still people who do things that speak to either blatant or implied racism. Ignore them, let it go, don’t let them consume you they said. Well that may be easy for you I said but I can not mute my voice in the face of any type of racism. I will never allow my voice to become a whisper to their screams simply to make others feel comfortable when it comes to race. As my Jewish brother and sister say never forget and I will never forget that we were forcibly took from our home, stripped us of our culture and told we were not people but property.
I will never forget that sheets were donned, crosses burned and men rode through the night to strike terror into our hearts.
I will never forget our voices were silenced at the voting booths with violence and intimidation.
I will never forget we were turned away at the lunch counter, the doors to the school were locked, the dogs were set free and the hoses were turned on us.
I will never forget that one leader after another was assassinated for daring to ask we be treated as equals.
I will not go quietly into the night because my patriotism to a country I love and my people helped create as much as anyone else is questioned if I dare protest its continued racial inequality.
I will not go quietly into the night as they attempt even to this day to hold us down, strip away our dignity, our pride and our self-worth.
So I told him no I am not mad I simply am one of many of all races, colors, religions, creeds, genders and ethnicities who refuse to be silenced. A group that is rising up now together as one. A group determine to ensure America marches forward and not back even if there are those that believe that was when America was great.
America has no face.
America has many faces.
How refreshing it was to watch the democratic debate on CNN last night and see so many of faces. White, Black, Latino and Asian; Men and Women; Straight and Gay; Young and Old, Progressives and Moderates. All vying to be the democratic nominee for President. Now you can agree or disagree with their politics, but you can’t deny that almost everyone in America could look at that stage and see someone they could personally identify with and that’s what makes America great. We are a country of many different races, ethnicities, beliefs, religions, sexualities, economic levels and social beliefs, an incredible mosaic woven together to form very fabric of America. It was the founding fathers who imagined this America when declaring independence from British rule proudly stating:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal
At the time it was more of an ideal than something that was practiced, there was still the little issues of slavery and displacing Native Americans from their home land, but it was an ideal never the less of what America could and should be. Today there are still those among us who would have you believe America was at its greatest when segregation was the rule of day, when opportunities for women in the workplace were far and few between, when being gay was meet with societal shame. That America is no more. America is changing, some may think not fast-enough, but it is changing. Evolving beyond its past prejudices. We are now the majority, we are the coalition of the righteous. It is why I believe you see individuals who turn a blind eye to alleged corruption by our current President and cling to his mantra of hate and division and a time when as a Americans we were less enlightened time fighting so hard now. They are afraid of the new America, unwilling to open themselves up to anyone or anything that is different from themselves and what they believe to be right. This is their last stand and they know it, but it is to late momentum is against them, the new America is here, and it is many faces coming together to form one voice and shout:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal
It is after all the ideal that America was founded on.
On May 12, 1961 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. John Lewis, an African-American seminary student and Albert Bigelow a World War II veteran and white Freedom Rider were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting area. Two days later in Anniston Alabama a vicious mob of about 200 people bombed a Greyhound bus and brutally beat the Freedom Riders as they fled the burning bus. Later that day in Birmingham Alabama a Trailways bus carrying another group of Freedom Riders was meant with a similar fate These Freedom Riders were aware of the dangers they would encounter and over several months they were attacked repeatedly yet they persevered so that the racist practice of segregated bus terminals would come to end and in the fall of 1961 their perseverance bore fruit as the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations that prohibited the segregation of interstate transit.
THE FREEDOM RIDERS STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Liu Xiaobo was a human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate from China who through nonviolent protests fought against communist one-party rule in China. For his efforts he was imprisoned in 1989 to 1991, 1995 to 1996, 1996 to 1999 and 2009 until his release in 2017 after he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. He died less than 3 weeks after his release. Despite his multiple imprisonments he continued to fight until his death for the betterment of the Chinese people.
LIU XIAOBO STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Razan Zaitouneh was a Syrian Human rights activist who was involved in the Syrian uprising. She acted as a lawyer for political prisoners, was one of the founders Human Rights Association in Syria and the Syrian Human Rights Information Link through which she reported about Syria human’s rights violations. Razan Zaitouneh worked tirelessly for years to bring light to Syria’s oppress regime despite the obvious dangers involved with doing so. On December 9 of 2013 she was kidnapped and has not been seen since, presumed to have been killed.
RAZAN ZAITOUNEH STEPPED INTO THE GAP.
Michael Todd has been getting bullied at his new school since the year began. He would wear the same clothes every day and students at MLK College Preparatory School would make fun of him for it. High school football players Kristopher Graham and Antwann Garrett didn’t just go along with their class mates to be part of the crowd and on September 10, 2019 they surprised Michael with a bag full of bags full of shirts, shorts and shoes and apologized to him for previously laughing at him.
KRISTOPHER GRAHAM AND ANTWANN GARRETT STEPPED INTO THE GAP
Everyday countless number of individuals step into the gap. But sadly many in a position to do the most good lack the courage to step into the gap Last week at church my pastor preached to us from the book Ezekiel 22:30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
In Bible times, cities had walls around them to help defend them from attack. Broken parts of the wall created a physical gap in the city’s ability to protect itself from invading armies. In this Bible verse, because there is a gap in the wall, God is looking for someone to step in and guard the broken, vulnerable territory.
Today God is still looking for us to step in and guard the broken and the vulnerable. Victims of violence, oppression, discrimination, bigotry. Those who are denied fundamental human rights such as medical care, food and shelter and education. Yet when we turn our eyes to Washington D.C. we find there are far too many concerned with their own self, maintaining their power and reaping the benefits that come along with it than with stepping into the gap. We see children, the Lord’s most innocent souls, gunned down in mass shootings yet no action has been taken to enact sensible gun control to protect them. We see mothers and fathers working two and three jobs, sixty and seventy hours a week yet still unable to earn enough money to put a roof over or adequately feed their families. Yet at every opportunity the very social programs designed to help them through these troubled times are slashed, and more and more money is appropriated to building weapons of war. Racism is unbelievably on the rise again in this country but far too many in power either pretend it doesn’t exist and simply ignore it or worse tacitly give their approval, so they can appeal to a base of unenlightened individuals they believe will allow them to maintain their power. Education budgets are cut and college tuition soars while tax breaks for the wealthy are passed into law. Prescription drugs prices rocket, inflating the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies while the affordable care act remains under constant attack. The gap between the haves and have not continues to expand as CEOs take home millions and workers struggle to survive yet steadfast opposition to raising the minimum wage continues.
We are witnessing the abject failure of the very individuals we have tasked with stepping in the gap. However, it is never too late as a people to change things. United each of our whispers becomes a mighty roar for change. We can demand that change takes place and we can start at the voting booth. We can educate ourselves on the issues and not let some 24-hour news network “opinion” show host skew our perception of reality. We can protest racism and social injustice and when those in power try to change the narrative and quiet us we can roar louder. We can rise as one and let our voices be heard. We can let them know that it is we not them who are the coalition of the many and if they won’t stand in the gap we surely will find someone who will!
As a New Yorker who worked blocks away from the WTC I will never forget that day 18 years ago.
The sadness in my heart that day for the countless innocent lives so tragically taken from us remains to this day.
The respect I had that day for the hundreds of first responders who without a second thought rushed into the danger to rescue others and paid the ultimate price with their lives remains to this day.
The pride I had for my City and its response to the worst day in its history remains to this day.
It has been 18 years and still to this day the hate that took so many from us remains. Let us never forget 9/11/2001 and pray that as a people we will one day vanquish that hate and truly be able to say it will never happen again.
No matter what you look like
No matter where you’re from
No matter what language you speak
You are a part of the beautiful fabric of diversity that made this country what it is
Keep America Great – Embrace Diversity
”Go back where you came from.”
“If you don’t love it leave it.”
Words of those who are the most unpatriotic among us.
Words of those who would rather see a country divided against itself than united for the common good of all.
Words of those who don’t care if America ever truly lives up to the ideas on which it was founded on.
Words of those who hate.
Words of those who look to profit from humanity’s natural fear of the unknown.
Words of those who look to tap into, for personal gain, the innate prejudices that we all harbor with-in just waiting for someone to unleash it.
But they are only words.
We as a people must rebuke these words.
We as a people must come together through our actions to shout down those words.
We as a people must form a coalition of the righteous to defeat the hatred of those words.
We as a people must shout for all to hear:
Your words mean nothing!
Because I am here!
Because this is my country as much as yours!
Because I love my country and as such I will continue to fight for the values it was founded on!
Because we as a people ain’t going nowhere!