“Nobody is free until everybody is free.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
Why am I so hesitant to speak of progress? I think it’s because my heart is heavy and my conscience is unclear given what I know about our present. I can’t state enough that the middle and upper class, college educated, and successfully professional Black people are the exceptions, statistically insignificant sub-populations of a larger community embroiled in a struggle much like the past. The word “past” has proven dangerous in these conversations because it overplays the difference of the life of our poor from previous conditions associated with pre-civil rights and slavery.
I can’t tell a formerly incarcerated black woman from watts with a daughter in prison that the conditions and policies that currently shut her out from employment, welfare services, tax benefits, voting, and shelter, aren’t considerably similar to that of post-slavery reconstruction. I can’t. I can’t tell a sizable population of afrikan, south asian, and latino undocumented people to give back the social security, the passports, the lattes, the laptops, the privilege, and the respect that they don’t have. I can’t tell the families of those murdered by police, Oscar Grant, Deandre Brunston, Amadou Diallo, 73 year old cancer survivor Bernard Monroe and 7 year old Aiyana Jones that we have somehow progressed beyond the lynch mob mentality and violence of our past.