When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.That is essentially the same message we hear from Rev. William Barber when he talks about the fact that we are in the midst of a third reconstruction.
Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.
White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash.
The reason its important to remember this is that it keeps the focus where it should be...on racism. But it also allows us to acknowledge the strength of our cause. Change is happening and the backlash is very real. But as I've said so many times, the dying beast is lashing out in its death throes. That's why I loved how Rev. Al Sharpton ended his remarks at Michael Brown's memorial service.
I don’t know how long the investigation will be. I don’t know how long the journey’s going ot be. But I know how this story gonna end. The first will be last. The last will be first. The lion and lamb gonna lay down together. And God will! God will! God will make a way for his children! I been to the end of the Book. Justice is gonna come!The backlash we're experiencing now was triggered by just that kind of hope.
We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change...P.S. Perhaps that's why I can never watch this video without shedding a few tears. And perhaps its also why Rev. Joseph Lowery chose to include these words in his prayer at the inauguration of Barack Obama as this country's 44th president:
For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.
It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path we pray