Moving past fear

Larry Sutton

Where is the outrage? If we, as a society, believe all lives matter, then we should all be expressing more outrage at the fact that by age 26, 1 in 4 black males will be either a homicide victim of in prison. And since there is no widespread collective expression of outrage over this alarming statistic, one may suggest that we live in a society where all segments of our population, especially young black males, are not valued equally.

As a country, we have allowed the harmful legacy of slavery, racism and Jim Crow to linger, creating a climate and perception where blacks are viewed as having less value.

Just over a century and a half ago in 1857, the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision ruled that black people in America had no rights the white man was bound to respect. That became the law of the land, which many in the South applauded and many in the North abhorred. Of course, the Dred Scott ruling was eventually overturned, but the emotional damage had already been done, and the perception of black inferiority, perpetuated by the ruling was entrenched, still lingering in many minds today.

Now, 150 years later, no other issue requires coordinated efforts as much as helping the black male to better access opportunities and to “unlearn” negative stereotypes that have been internalized throughout their lives. In the words of President Obama, “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.” We all must do more to help all people access the possibilities, while treating all human beings as if their lives have value. This is one journey we must continue together.

Even though we have made great strides in moving America toward “a more perfect union,” we still have to move past those things that keep us fearful, creating more ordinary conversation among ordinary people. That way we can understand more and fear less, while learning to respect the humanity and dignity of all.

Additionally, there must be greater interest in creating a national narrative and climate that will value everyone equally, while promoting policies and practices that will help the nation heal from centuries of harmful effects caused by the lie of black inferiority.

If black lives really matter, we will find ways to take real action to change the climate of negative stereotypes. Our public schools will be made better for black males and low income students, especially in the area of biased school discipline, with black students being three times more likely suspended and expelled.

As we come to realize fully the impact or “unspeakable crimes” still have on us today, we will be better able to make full use of our great potential as a nation. As our journey for justice continues, there is still a great need for reconciliation, dialogue and healing, ensuring that we continue to make progress on the question of race, while continuing to develop bonds of community.

We can, no, we must do better, coming together as a people who believe in the possibilities. As we remember the past, let’s strive to bring hope to the present.