By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
The sentiment I hear from so many Black people, many of whom were activists and organizers during the ’60s is, “I thought we had won this battle.”
They are – as am I – watching the unfurling of the rights so many fought so hard – and died – to get for Black people. They are thinking of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, of Birmingham, of Freedom Summer and the murders of three civil rights workers. They are thinking of the organizing that went on throughout the Deep South, and how people fought White mob violence populated primarily by White men who had nothing to do but carry on the legacy of resentment spawned by a belief in white supremacy.
We are plagued yet again by a federal government, which is dragging its feet when it comes to protecting the rights of Black people. The president promised to have our backs – and now would be the time to show that support – but instead, he is vacillating on whether or not to get rid of the filibuster and has not thrown his full weight behind the passage of the For the People Act and/or the full restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The United States Supreme Court is no more on the side of “liberty and justice for all” than it was in several cases that would have protected the voting – and human rights of Black people; the decision made by the high court as concerns voting rights in Arizona is as damaging to the cause of freedom for Black people, an NPR article noted, as was the infamous Dred Scott decision, when U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled that “there are no rights of a Black man that a White man is bound to respect.” It was a decision he felt comfortable with because neither he nor many White people in his day and now think of Black people as being fully human.
White violence is still understated and undermentioned; it is singularly amazing how White people are saying that the Jan. 6 insurrection was nothing of the sort, but was, instead, a group of good, loving people who love their country. As Whites have done in the past, they are changing the story of their heinous behavior – right in front of our eyes.
What will it take for white supremacy to be a memory and not an active, pus-filled sore that infects everyone? It is as toxic as is any virus, including the Delta variant of COVID-19. It is sickening to understand that it is a white supremacist, politicized mindset which has kept many people from getting vaccinated, and because of that, many more people will get sick and die – but white supremacy has been killing people and the spirits of people for generations.
We cannot take comfort in “the law.” As Diane Nash, another Civil Rights activist once said, “The police didn’t protect us.” They still do not. Violent crimes against Black people are still largely ignored or glossed over. White supremacists have been ignoring laws that supposedly protect the rights of all people from this country’s inception. Anger about the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act resulted in an increase of Ku Klux Klan terrorism. Anger about Brown v. Board of Education likewise resulted in White terrorist acts – which have never been neutralized by the federal government. White violence and anger, which stems from Black people making progress and getting power is not a new American phenomenon.
So, here we are. We are fighting White anger and resentment once again, just because Black people showed up en masse and voted for a man that many white supremacists cannot tolerate. The threat of violence from White folks ever increasing even as the media begins to spin stories about the rise in Black crime just in time for the upcoming mid-term elections. It is a perfect storm – again.
Bob Moses, the SNCC activist who died on Sunday but who made a profound impact in the work in the ’60s, said last year, after the murder of George Floyd that this country could “lurch either way – forward or backward.”
Even though it looks like we are lurching backward, I sincerely hope that we can reverse the trajectory. We have come too far and fought to hard to have everything shredded just because White people got angry – again.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.