When is enough, enough?

To the Journal editor:

Once upon a time I was talking to a group of fifth-graders in a public school about a lady named Madame CJ Walker who invented hair care products for black women and became the first female Black millionaire. And I got to the fun part of the story describing how successful she became and how she went to business conventions for Black businessmen and she showed all the men up by donating $5,000 to an anti-lynching society. One child raises his hand and asks, “What’s lynching?” And all the breath went out of me — because in that room of fifth-graders most of the room are children with skin that is darker than mine.

And I shut my eyes for a minute to help me think, opened my eyes and spoke:, “There was a time when domestic terrorists, who were white, used to murder Black people … they used to kidnap and hang Black people from trees and take pictures of the dead person and celebrate like it was a party. They did this so other Black people would be scared and wouldn’t demand their rights. They did this because they couldn’t stand the idea that the Civil War was lost and the slaves were freed and they didn’t want to have to treat Black people like people, with rights. They wanted to treat Black people like slaves, without names and without rights. And the eyes of those children got so wide and their voices got so quiet and my heart broke for them.

Since then the killing of Black people by police and by private citizens without the killers being punished has continued. The only thing I got wrong when I told the fifth-graders about lynching was that it “used” to happen. It’s still happening. Fortunately, and I’m quoting Will Smith here: “Racism never stopped happening, it’s just now we are seeing the videos.” Thank God for the cell phone camera. Without the video of George Floyd being killed by one police officer while three other police officers stood there and let him be killed, his death would have been dismissed as “accidental death while resisting arrest.”

Yes, Black lives matter. And until Black people stop being killed for just being alive and being Black, all of us have to stand up and say, enough!




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