2021 MLK Day Reflections
on 2020 & The Heavy Lift of Racial Healing
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.
The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro
Typically, the national anticipation of a new President and administration in our country would be a less complicated and more exciting time. Whether your political party prevailed or loss, life would resume normally, and our democracy would continue. The inauguration of a new President would not come with as much fear, uncertainty, and activated National Guardsmen. Surely, there would be more celebration in anticipation of the first female, first HBCU graduate, and first woman of color to be Vice President in our history.
But the violent attack on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald J. Trump has exposed the depths of racism and turned divisions into chasms in our country. A now fatigued nation must muster every ounce of itself during a time of unprecedented crisis in healthcare, the economy, and police involved shootings, to immediately begin the reparative work of reconciliation.
Many Americans are just recently awakening to the darkness that Black communities have been grappling with for centuries.
The attack on the Capitol was not a byproduct of hateful rhetoric from our elected officials, rather unresolved hatred that persisted in the South long after 618,222 Americans, freed and owned, died in the deadliest war in American history. It brings forth the painful truth that The Reconstruction Era only physically rebuilt our war-torn country, but never addressed the moral stain or the beliefs and hatred that became our customs and laws. The Emancipation Proclamation, Constitutional Amendments and Civil Rights Acts that followed worked to address equal rights, but no law could change the hearts that built the systems of the America of today.
As we have tried to move away from the ugliness of slavery and racism, small and large eruptions of racial violence have seen thousands killed in the dark corners of America’s poorest communities, in mob violence that grew crowds of thousands, and in extrajudicial killings captured on video. Generation after generation, episodes of violence, like deceit in the practice of medicine, and the disparate response to protest, reminds us that these United States are bound together by a fragile democracy and values that are routinely undermined by racial double standards. But, never before has there been such a breach to expose the violent underbelly of American society and show her vulnerabilities to herself and the world.
This is a watershed period in our nation’s history, and we are bearing witness to the mettle of our country and her people being tested. We find ourselves under the rule of a now twice impeached President, the promised peaceful transfer of power in question, and our individual and collective safety, threatened. And we must push ourselves to answer those seemingly impossible questions: Where do we go from here, and how do we heal?
While the Black community is still in the clutches of COVID-19 and grappling with post-traumatic stress from the murders of unarmed Black men and women across the nation, we are met with the long-delayed task of healing and moving forward. Even on the heels of the Confederate Flag making its debut in our nation’s Capitol in an insurgency that claimed the lives of five Americans. Even with mob violence sending a poignant and resounding message to all those indifferent, blind, or apathetic to the danger of unchecked privilege and violence: Racism is no longer America’s pesky nuisance, rather a full-grown bear with entitlement and guns. The lift of reckoning with that belongs to those who needed to see the full depths of racism to believe in its violent propensities. But, it is our collective duty to take up the mantle, no matter how broken, to repair this country and secure better tomorrows for our children, and their children, and beyond.
The path to reconciliation and racial healing will not be the same for us all. Many are seeing, for the first time, how racial double standards do not only exist, but prevail in this country, and how they undermine progress and the equality promised in our constitution. Therefore, our path will require that we work toward honest healing individually and collectively. And it begins with truth. America must expose her hypocrisies, no matter how humiliating, and denounce her crimes, no matter how grave. We must be bold, courageous, and unrelenting in our truth-telling, whether it be naming the wrongs, or owning the wrongs done to this country and her citizens.
Our next steps must be intentional, honest, and preceded by careful and daily introspection. Our memory must be long and vivid, that we may never forget the deadly legacy of white supremacy and the ugly stain our democracy bears because of it. Our work must be targeted to root and stamp out all remnants of racism and all othering that prevents this country from embracing all her citizens, equally.
As we begin a new year, we must do so bearing the weight of the responsibility to right this ship, and set this country on a new course, one where greatness is accessible to everyone.
Ada Goodly, J.D.
Owner, The Goodly Group, LLC