Updated: Jun 10, 2020
My heart is heavy as I write this blog. I feel sick in heart and soul. Yet another person of color, another black man, has been killed while I sit here and write a book about Justice Reform. How can we even talk about Justice Reform if people are dying before they even get their day in court? Where is the justice, much less the reform?
As an educator who is white, it is not lost upon me that we are a large part of what needs to be changed. How can we talk about diversity, equality and inclusion from a white perspective? We must admit that there is white privilege and we have to work to break that down so there is equality.
I saw firsthand the racial disparity in prison. I saw firsthand how the majority of my students were black and Latino. They were men of color. They were disadvantaged to say the least. Many of whom could not afford an attorney or even the basic needs such as food and shelter. There was a large number who came from an environment that either was not supportive of pursuing an education, or outside forces led them to make other choices.
Whether it was systemic oppressions that lead them there or their own actions, prison has become a new path of education for many. They can educate themselves and they can better themselves. They finally have a voice, if only someone will listen. George Floyd's ability to communicate was truncated. His basic right to express himself fell on deaf ears to those who were in control. His air was cut off and he died before he could speak, before he could even defend himself, much less have a day in court.
People of color have been undervalued, for centuries. Their voices have not been heard and the leaders, those in power, who have cried out for change, have been assassinated throughout our troubled history. From Abraham Lincoln to Malcolm X, from John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King Jr., we have learned some lessons, but there is much more to learn and many more stories have yet to be told. We are approaching the anniversary of yet another slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, who was gunned down on June 12, 1963. I don’t have answers but I think about these men and wonder what their messages would be to us today.
I have come face-to-face with the fact that I was naive, thinking I had learned a lot about racism, through my time working with the men in prison. My time there didn’t even scratch the surface of what we are experiencing. The death of George Floyd happened right in front of our faces, and it was brought right into our living rooms and on our social platforms, over and over. This is today’s news but so often, something bigger will happen tomorrow, and this fight is once again forgotten. We should all take caution to not allow senseless loss of lives, such as those of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, to become commonplace.
As I reflect on how little we have come forward in the area of race relations, I think of the many injustices in our history, such as those perpetrated against Harry and Harriette Moore. Their story is one we should all know, yet we do not. This is another case where it is believed that local law enforcement’s improprieties once again coincide with a lack of justice. Harry T. Moore was killed well before his time, under the cover of darkness, by cowards who wanted to silence him. Harry T. Moore was a teacher and a civil rights activist. In 1934, Mr. Moore started the Brevard County NAACP in Florida and later organized an additional 61 chapters in that state. He insisted on equal rights and refused to be intimidated. He fought for equal pay for black teachers and helped more than 100,000 black citizens register to vote. He and his wife Harriette were fired from their teaching positions because of their activism. On Christmas night 1951, which was also their 25th wedding anniversary, Harry and Harriette were fatally injured in their home in Mims, Florida. A bomb was placed beneath the floor joists underneath their bed. Harry died on the way to the hospital and his beloved wife Harriette died nine days later.
Mr. Moore knew he was a marked man and yet he still continued to fight for what he believed. To learn more about Mr. and Mrs. Moore, I recommend you read the book about their lives, The Bomb Heard Around the World. Walter T. Shaw is producing a film and has spent 4 years lobbying to bring this story to life in the hopes that their legacy is not forgotten. We need this story to be told now, more than ever. Sadly, and in echo of our times, their Memorial sign was riddled with bullets in January 2020.
Picture courtesy Florida Today
People of color are still in danger and white people must speak up. Some may wonder how we, as white educators, can even speak of diversity, equity and inclusion, but I believe that we must.
I want my blog to be more than just my musings, and so it is here that I want to promote others' works. Their blogs, books and movies are out there, to wake us up and have us look at things from other angles, we have only to take the time. One such powerful blog is, Teaching While White, which was written just weeks before George Floyd was killed, but months after we lost Ahmaud Arbery.
I encourage you to read it, and more blogs like it.
Also visit this article, and read about 75 things white people can do for racial justice.
You can also find the book The Bomb Heard Around the World, in both hardcover and on June 15, 2020 will be available on audible.
For the Play and Docu-Drama: