This has been a rough week. On the one hand we had the inspirational moments in the 50 anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. President Obama gave what some have argued is the best speech of his presidency. His rhetoric soared to great heights while simultaneously challenging the nation about the reality of 21st century race relations. The Department of Justice’s also released its report on the Ferguson (MO) Police Department that revealed a pattern of systemic racial discrimination that linked its behavior to using racial profiling as a way to generate revenue for the department. In Madison, WI the city is still tense and anxious regarding the shooting of a 19-year-old Black young man by a police officer. And, members of a national fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) University of Oklahoma chapter were captured on video (and posted on social media) singing a racist chant about never admitting a Black member. Later, the chapter’s housemother—an older White woman who could be Paula Dean’s sister—was also caught on video singing along with a rap song and joyfully repeating the N-word!
The University of Oklahoma President took swift action. He ordered the fraternity’s campus house closed and expelled the student who was clearly identified on the video. In less than a day, talking heads started saying that rap music was responsible for White college students’ use of racial epithets. Seriously? It’s Waka Flocka and L’il Wayne’s fault that your children spew racist language? I think that word was both invented and perpetuated by White folks and pre-dates rap music by CENTURIES! Can I avoid paying my taxes because I’m inspired by Al Capone? Can I rob banks because of the allure of Bonnie and Clyde? This is starting to sound surprisingly similar to Geraldo Rivera’s insistence that wearing a hoodie caused Trayvon Martin’s death or a generation ago when we said that wearing short, tight dresses caused women to be raped!
I’m someone who has been in the civil rights fight for a long time. I’ve experienced gains and setbacks but I’ve tried to hold on the old spiritual that says, “I don’t feel no ways tired; I’ve come too far from where I started from…” But I must confess the events of the past week have me more than a little weary. I’m weary of explaining to college students why race still matters. I’m weary of trying to help middle and high school students understand why the color of their skin seems to offend so many people. I’m weary of teachers who insist on ignoring the pain of children who are victims of this madness. I’m weary of colleagues sitting on the sidelines talking about inequality in theoretical terms but never rolling up their sleeves to engage in the fight. I’m weary of politicians and pundits who pimp the entire situation to be re-elected or raise their ratings. I’m weary of “I marched in the 60s brothers and sisters” believing they are “retired” from the struggle. News Flash: There is no retirement plan in place for freedom fighters. You may take on a different role but you do not get to sit back and observe.
I know that once I get a little sleep I’ll probably catch a second wind and will be a little less cranky. However, right now in this moment I am engulfed by the weight of racism in this society. I won’t stop fighting for racism’s eradication. I won’t stop championing the causes of the dispossessed. In the grand scheme of things I don’t feel no ways tired…but I am getting a little weary!
Stay Black & Smart!