“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Have we made enough progress on racial issues in America? There is a weighted question for you to ponder. The quote above embodies the gravity of this moment. Dr. King speaks to the intricate complexity that every agent for change must face. The first thing that we must embrace is that we are looking to make progress and we are dealing with humans. As humans, we are emotional beings. Even more, the issue of race in America invokes a great deal of passion on both sides of the argument. However, the focus should be on progress. Progress intrinsically requires movement beyond emotions into rational behavior.
A few years ago, I wrote about a devastating incident at McNally’s that I experienced while playing in a blues band. My parents worked hard to send me to Catholic school. The neighborhood they moved me to was changing from an all white neighborhood into a more mixed neighborhood. Although the school was a reflection of that, I had become accustomed to being the only or one of the few black people in the room. As a result, it was not weird for me to be the only black musician in an all white blues band. However, in 2014 it was shocking to experience such blatant racism.
As bad as the event itself was, the response to it was worse. If you read the article you will find a host of internet trolls and real people who are willing to write some of the most hateful statements you can think of. I must admit that this is not the racism of my grandmother’s generation. However, regardless of how much progress we have made in this country there is so much more work to do. In the middle you will find a generation of young blacks that would love nothing more than to not have to talk about slavery and racism but are realizing that it is just as real now as it used to be but now exist in a different form. There is also a generation of young whites that are so removed from the harsh realities of that time in American history that they just want the conversation to change. Those groups of people have a hard time talking to each other about the realities of race in America.
What we have come to do in this country is ignore the majority in the middle and focus on the few extremes on either side of every argument. The comments in the thread of my article represent extreme views. In response to this past election, we have heard more and more from the extremist on both sides. One side has been louder than the other in my opinion but there is still an ideological tug-of-war between extremes. This is hindering our PROGRESS. How can we move forward when we dig ourselves deeper into our current views without consideration for other people, their perspective, and their opinions? How can we expect progress when we are not willing to work at change?
The actions required to make progress from here will not automatically identify themselves nor will they inaugurate or perpetuate themselves. They will not be easy. They will require “dedicated individuals” to sacrifice, suffer and struggle for a cause that is greater than themselves. They will require passion. But these passions must not be those of unbridled hatred and anger. Instead, these passions must be subdued and channeled through the filter of justice for ALL. One person addressing one incident may not be able to fully answer the complicated question of why this issue happened or why issues like it continue to plague our society. Nevertheless, it can be the pebble that starts a ripple of steps toward justice and equality.
In the comment section of the original article someone challenged me in a why that I took serious. They said that I should not start a conversation like this one and simply walk away from it. I wrote this article and a lot of life happened so I stopped focusing on writing or anything else related to the matter. However, my dad used to always say that in today’s civil rights fight, we must all find OUR way to contribute to progress. Everyone will not be an activist. Everyone will not go out and march. Everyone will not join the political fight from within. However, everyone can contribute something.
I am finding my place in the pursuit of liberty and justice for ALL. I decided to use this platform as a place for a real discussion and exchange of ideas. I know this is not enough. My distain is against the institution of racism that is hiding in the shadows of isolated incidents like mine tells me that I have to do more. It is chilling that any officer of the law would feel that there are “too many blacks” in any place. It would be equally as forbidding if there were too many Christians, too many Jewish people, too many Asians, too many homosexuals, etc. Our constitution was written “with liberty and justice for ALL.” Those that uphold this constitution should do so with the same fervor for all people.
I do not profess to have all the answers. No person claiming that they do can be taken seriously considering the complexity of this issue. My passion has been laying a foundation upon which future entertainers can build a career without having to face some of the struggles and circumstances that I have had to face. Unfortunately, racial tension is only one of many relevant issues connected to my mission. I am exploring other ways for me to get involve with the progress of justice for all people but I will continue to share my ideas on how we can move forward as a community. Instead of sharing frustration and hatred, let me humbly encourage all of you to share yours as well.