This is an Open Letter from a Black Man to His Fellow Black People; it is meant to be Read by People of All Colors.
First off, Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die. Eleanor Bumpers did not deserve to die. Amadou Diallo did not deserve to die. Sean Bell did not deserve to die. Patrick Dorismond did not deserve to die. James Byrd, Jr. did not deserve to die. James Craig Anderson did not deserve to die. And there are others, so many others, who absolutely did not deserve to die simply because of the color of their skin. Let us honor them and commit ourselves to raising our collective game by changing the institutions and beliefs responsible for their deaths. The alternative is to surrender to hatred, mindless rage and senseless murder. But again, those are the things that people who give up tend to do, but we, as black people, have a history of not giving up.
Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten our common past as African-Americans. Many of us have stopped fighting for what is right and instead simply fight because hate, anger and frustration are all we know and all that drives some of our communities, and when it does, it evinces itself through immature youths such as the teens who allegedly killed a young Australian baseball player and those who allegedly killed a decorated WWII veteran. Through their alleged actions it must be understood that they purportedly exhibited the same murderous hatred against members of another race that is so often visited against blacks by right-wing hate groups. If they committed the murders, then theirs were not acts of vengeance for neither victim was known to have committed any heinous offense against the accused, thus making the murders of the innocent men all the more senseless and shocking.
The spilled blood of the innocent is proof that now, more than ever, is the time to teach our youth. Now is the time to instill within them a respect for others and a respect for life. Now is the time to teach them humility and control even as we encourage them to respect themselves. Now is the time to channel their wants into desires for honest success and genuine happiness. Now is the time to raise young men and young women who will fight for change the right way, with dignity and courage. Now is the time to have them say "no" to street life and social dysfunction. Now is the time to make sure we raise children who again establish a moral high ground for their people.
Yes, a "moral high ground". Back in the 1950s and 1960s, members of the various Civil Rights movements succeeded in their efforts largely due to their occupation of what was called "the moral high ground", a position of being unquestionably in the right as they pointed out inequities towards blacks in America to the majority population. They were absolutely right in their assertions and Americans largely knew they were right, but white America was slow to shrug off the warm comforter that was the false notion of "separate, but equal" in order to embrace the cold truth of the racist principles underlying the "separate and unequal" existence that formed American society. Once the bitterly cold truth struck them, white Americans of the time knew that blacks did indeed occupy the moral high ground in the racial debate.
My black American brothers and sisters are largely the descendants of strong men and women who lived through the nightmare of slavery; men and women who started the Historically Black Colleges and Universities; men and women who embarked on the Great Migration during the first half of the 20th century in search of better living conditions; men and women who founded Seneca Village here in New York and who rose again when the village was destroyed through acts of racial hatred; men and women who created a thriving community in Tulsa, Oklahoma who rose again after it, too, was destroyed through acts of racial hatred; men and women who turned the apparent folly of upper Manhattan living into the jazz-filled Harlem of the Cotton Club era; men and women such as Garrett A. Morgan, Granville T. Woods, Dr. Patricia Bath, Otis Boykin (and many others) who advanced the sciences and made the world realize that black intelligence was not an oxymoron.
Trailblazers such as they left us with a history of strength and often unrecognized courage, a history of achieving that which we set out to do in ways that made us all proud. It is time we made history happen again. We need to cease murderous expressions of our frustrations and we need to again embrace alternatives to violence as a means of acting upon those frustrations. We need to rise again, my people. Dr. King spoke of a mountaintop; we need to climb it and regain the high ground.
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