July 16, 2020
Sunday’s paper had an OP-ED by Kareem Abbul-Jabar (yes, the basketball player). The question he raised is one that is on the mind of many of us as we think about moving forward. How can we sustain the momentum we are experiencing for the anti-racism movement? He began by recalling the many times in his own 60 years of activism that he has heard the cries for help and the Gospel songs of soothing, only to have the sympathetic audience once moved to tears simply go away once the chorus is over.
He went on to cite some of the events that make him hopeful. There are the city and state governments who are instituting police reforms. Private corporations are making more inclusive policies and media companies are firing executives, actors, and writers for misogynistic behavior. Celebrities and politicians are making public statements supporting Black Lives Matter. Sports organizations are offering public apologies for past acts of exclusion. Even more, he felt optimism when he saw police officers linked arm in arm with protestors. This is something he believed his own decorated police officer father would have done.
While this is great, the fight for equal rights is a life-long commitment. What Jabar finds disappointing is the white moderate. Open racism can be addressed, but moderates concerned more with “order” than “justice” is harder to confront. “There have been suggestions for reform in our systems of justice, policing, healthcare, education and economic security, all of which give preference to white people.” What is needed is a way to measure performance and manage progress. Jabar closes saying, “The moral universe doesn’t bend toward justice unless pressure is applied.”
THOUGHTS: I find two burning issues in Jabar’s editorial. The first is how to constructively move beyond our focus on order and confront the systemic injustice that pervades our society. We have taken steps in the right direction, but we need to continue the walk. The second comes directly from the first, how to continue to focus on justice and not let the voices die down. It is hard to commit to a lifetime of change, especially when it does not confront us every time we step out the door. Sadly, that is the daily reality for many. Change is coming and it starts with you.