Where do we go from here?

[Photo credit: Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries]

What every Black American already knows and what we can only hope people are learning from Jan 6th, 2021, is that racial inequities and injustices are the greatest threat we face in our country. The violent images of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis only tell part of the story. We know factions still glorify the 400+ years of slavery and segregation that haunt our nation’s past. But what was finally exposed to the world is a much graver threat.

We have seen the sitting President and GOP lawmakers attempt to overturn the election based on allegations that were rejected by courts, election officials, and the Electoral College. When court actions and other interventions failed, we watched as the sitting President and GOP lawmakers incited insurrection, with some fighting alongside those white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. We know lawmakers and officials from both parties were targeted, including the sitting Vice President.

Events over the past year indicate a large percentage of White Americans do not understand or believe the severity of systemic inequities and injustices that people of color and marginalized communities face today. They do not see the lasting effects of discrimination in employment, justice, education, housing, health care, and the environment, compounded over hundreds of years. They do not have to navigate the lingering Jim Crow and Jim Crow 2.0 legislation at the state and local levels and the rolling back of legislation at the federal level. We are like two separate countries in our worldviews and that division has been intentionally exploited.

The unrestrained violence that Capitol rioters were directing toward lawmakers is what many Black Americans face in their daily lives. It is dehumanization that allowed people to rationalize slavery, genocide, and segregation and that culture persists today. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, immigrants and their children, and other minorities are often dehumanized in our culture through legislation, policies, and rhetoric. The insurrection of Jan 6th and the attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power through violent means is unprecedented, but the culture that gave rise to that event is not new. Jan 6th simply exposed it for the world to see.

So where do we go from here?

The sitting President has been impeached for the second time, rioters are being arrested, and there are more investigations to come. All must be held accountable. Accountability is more than just walking away – it means taking responsibility. We can’t know someone’s heart, but we know if they admit their mistakes and we know if they take actions to undo the damage and ensure it doesn’t happen again. I am waiting for accountability from those who failed to condemn or actively condoned the debunked conspiracy theories, documented lies, and calls for violence. They are culpable for the attacks on our constitution and democratic process and for perpetuating this culture of dehumanization.

With accountability comes healing and we can move forward again to address the root causes of racism and discrimination. We can begin to create a culture of inclusivity, free from dehumanization.

We have been here before as a nation and we know our path forward will not be easy. But on this day, we rededicate ourselves to the hard work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who are part of the African American Freedom Struggle, past and present. We recognize today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the young people across the country and the world who are leading the way in grass roots activism. We commit ourselves to learning from young people as well as those who came before us. And we honor those we lost along the way by doing this work.

The events of Jan 6th and throughout 2020 underscore why Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is something we need to embrace and teach to every generation. We will continue to support the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, The King Center, Black Lives Matter, the Gandhi-King Global Initiative, and other organizations dedicated to ensuring the education of every generation.

There are universal truths that can guide us as individuals, organizations, nations, and as a human species. Among these are equality, equity, justice, and forgiveness. These truths help guide where we go from here. We will continue to follow a path blazed by the African American Freedom movement and Dr. King, inspired by Gandhi, and now reborn through the next generation of grass-roots activists. Together, we will strive to build the interconnected and inclusive World House and Beloved Community King envisioned.  

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