By Jamala Rogers
Last year, African American actress Taraji P. Henson feared that the COVID-19’s impact on the Black community would be “trauma on top of trauma.” Henson was on point. Black suicide rates are off the charts.
Over a dozen HBCUs met Black History Month with threats of violence that forced their temporary closures, leaving many students fearful and angry. One Spelman College student wondered out loud why she was experiencing the same white supremacist terrorism her grandparents were subjected to, for simply trying to get a better education.
You may not ever have had any historically Black colleges or universities in your state but know that these are not isolated actions. They are connected to the growing anti-Black campaign throughout the U.S. Police murders, vigilante murders, food insecurity, health disparities, unhoused, hostile school environments, and the list goes on.
The Ahmaud Aubery case in Georgia gained international attention for its blatant racist vigilantism of three good ole’ boys, but similar acts have not received the same publicity. For example, in rural Missouri there have been at least three known cases of young Black men killed at the hands of white men. All the lethal shootings were ruled justifiable before there was any mention of criminal prosecution.
It may be driven by a rabid, white extremist movement but it also enjoys the complacency of a silent majority of all racial and ethnic groupings.
The anti-Black climate is growing and becoming more intense – and ugly. It may be driven by a rabid, white extremist movement but it also enjoys the complacency of a silent majority of all racial and ethnic groupings. This has nurtured an environment that supports not just anti-Black ideologies but anti-gay and anti-woman ideologies as well – in short, anti-everything except white, male dominance.
The former president set a lot of negative attitudes and behaviors in motion while in office. Most of his tyrannical ideas and actions would not have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the complicity of the diverse majority. This complicity is not necessarily intentional. Some of us are in perpetual survival mode with scant energy or time to confront the sources of oppression. Others understand the systems of oppression but are confused or hesitant about how to tackle them.
In this next period, those of us who know an injustice when we see it have to be more proactive, more organized and more tenacious in advancing the ideals of democracy. The forces of reaction are aggressively moving us towards an authoritarian model – some say fascism. Our goal is not just to resist these political tendencies but to put a decisive end to it.
While we currently have some limited powers in the Executive Branch and a little in the Legislative Branch, the enemies of democracy are exploiting all branches of the government to move their agenda whether it be legislative or judicial. The two branches can greatly suppress the powers of the Executive Branch despite the fact that all three branches are supposed to be checks and balances while operating cooperatively in the name of The People.
This is a time for us to be acutely clear that passivity is the enemy of democracy. There are many tragic and historic examples of how this has manifested itself for different societies but trust and believe, the masses of people are always the losers.
Our pledge to one another is not to repeat the most egregious human rights violations but to move ourselves and our communities to a deeper purpose and a higher level of civilization. There are intentional obstacles being created and policies being implemented with which we’ll be stuck for a long time.
Black History Month is as good a time as any to talk about the importance of our history and culture in the context of our right to exist in this country as long as we want. No amount of book burning will change that.