By Senator Lena C. Taylor
If you look really hard, the playbook is right in front of you. No original thoughts. No new research. No credible desire to be equitable. Just naked or willful ignorance, on issues of race, and the impact of systemic racism on every facet of life for Black and brown people. Yet, if you listen to many Republican legislators around the country, we’ve reached the Promised Land.
Not the biblical land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants, but the secular version. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous “I Have A Dream” or the “Mountain Top Speech,” seemingly merged the two when he said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
While the specifics of the “Promised Land” are debatable, most will agree, that some basic attributes apply. It represents a society or a world where all are free, treated fairly, and not denied access, opportunity, or liberty on the basis of the color of your skin, faith, or national origin. Sounds good right? Remember, the devil is always in the details.
You cannot divorce the role that race has played in every facet of American life. Black people were enslaved and declared property, labeled 3/5 human, devoid of civil rights, denied the right to be educated, legally separated and segregated in public accommodations, and if they would stop banning books, you would know the rest.
Race has been used against Black people to deny them admission to college, trade school, housing, credit, and bank loans. We have been playing catch up to lawfully sanctioned discrimination since our ancestors set foot, on what is now American soil. However, we are belittled for understanding and calling out our plight. We are scoffed at for “being victims” of racism, by people who are not, have not, and would not choose to be Black.
Nevertheless, we must endure the legislative nonsense that is playing out in state houses around the country. Many who have benefited, directly and indirectly, for hundreds of years, from racist policies and laws, are now concerned about being race neutral. While Black and brown people continue to lag behind in every positive and healthy indicator of American life, there is a concerted effort to now be “fair.” But, their work to end consideration of race in college scholarships, grants and loans is anything but fair.
Affirmative policies to address past injustices, in most cases, are less than 60 years old. The slave trade, in what we know as America, lasted at least 248 years (1619 to 1867). The Black Codes and Jim Crow, laws designed to limit the freedom and advancement of blacks, lasted from 1865 to 1965. In total, Blacks have been the victim of racist and unfair treatment for a minimum of 348 years, in America. We have never been paid for stolen labor, the millions of wrongful deaths during and after slavery, the loss of civil rights, and on and on. Legislators, the Supreme Court, and sympathizers, should learn the difference between fair, equitable, and the need for affirmative actions to right past wrongs.