Brothers and sisters, yesterday a family member posted a question on Facebook that her ten-year-old daughter Payton asked, “Why are they killing us?”
Brothers and sisters we must not forget that not all that long ago Black people were commemorating 50 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Black people understood that the Civil Rights Act ushered in a whole new era of change for millions of Americans to whom equality had been elusive for far too long.
It is said, brothers and sisters, that The Civil Rights Act biggest impact came in promoting equality in voting, public accommodations, and education. It was and still is stated that the Civil Rights Act was the movement that changed the world. It was considered the year the world woke up. It was the beginning of the end of a centuries-long struggle for freedom. It was the time brothers and sisters that the city’s most courageous citizens fought for a world where we could all live as equals.
It is in today’s context of remembering the 50 years of progress that was made by the Civil Right Act that the author Tom Burrell writes, “Don’t be fooled by the celebration, don’t even be fooled because we have a black president and don’t be fooled by others telling us that we live in a post-racial society to think that we have made much progress. Tom Burrell called this way of thinking “The illusion of racial progress.”
An illusion my brothers and sisters, when we think that in today’s society that we have moved passed seeing our kind murdered in the streets. We live in an illusion my brothers and sisters when 12 years old, Tamir Rice can’t go to the park and play like children should but rather he’s shot down and the accusers all go free. Where is the progress in that?
We live in an illusion my brothers and sisters when Sandra Bland who should have never been arrested is arrested and shortly thereafter is found dead in her cell and the accusers all go free. Where is the progress in that?
We live in an illusion my brothers and sisters when an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin headed to a convenience store is shot down by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch and he goes free. Where is the progress in that?
We live in an illusion my bothers and sisters when the whole world witnessed the public lynching of Ahmed Aubrey.
We live in an illusion my brothers and sisters when the whole world witnesses the public murder of George Floyd.
and I quote that “the same anti-black state violence that lynched thousands of Black bodies not just in the south but today still pervades our society.”
It is in this context brothers and sisters that we hear the last words of dying men and women. We thought in the twenty-first century that America would finally “honor the debts of justice,” but the old resounding phrase, reeking from the grave of our Black Martyrs, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check, which has come back marked insufficient funds.”
If Ahmed Aubrey, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Beonna Taylor were alive today, I would ask them,
“Why are they killing us?”
Since we cannot query any of them, I think it is important to offer an historian’s autopsy of a strange corpse called, “Racism,” that have become Black people in America’s Goliath. A Goliath that seemingly will not die. The roots of Black Martyrs spread far beyond the grave, sometimes crisis, especially the ones like what happened to Ahmed Aubrey, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Beonna Taylor messages for us today that rise out of the context and conditions that form new meaning for us today? Black martyrs have something profound to tell and teach us today and what should be our response?
Many may say, the days of peaceful protest overtones are long gone, but the days of Old Testament overtones of an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth seems as though it is a more accurate response. Many Black people would argue, the words that are written in the constitution do not work for us!
America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check, which has come back, marked insufficient funds.
It is apparent when we see Black bodies murdered in the streets and those who committed these murders go free – it is insufficient that the Black community response should be peaceful!
It is insufficient that George Floyd should die at the hands of so-called public servants
It is insufficient to hear the sitting President threats to unleash gunfire on Minnesota protesters
It is insufficient that every 28 hrs. Police or a vigilante kills a Black person and they go free.
Where is the justice?
The fierce urgency of the cry of justice stands at the impetus for social change. The struggle to eliminate the world’s evil is the cry of the prophet Amos 5:24, “Let Justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
It is a stark metaphor, an accusation articulated in bluntly “The debts of justice,” Kennicott explained, “The Declaration of Independence implied, and later the Emancipation Proclamation promised, meaningful freedom to Black Americans, but the promise remains never fulfilled. Instead of honoring their sacred obligation, America has given Black people a bad check and it is still marked Insufficient funds – Where is the Justice in that! .”