We are at another critical junction in American history. The recent death of Freddie Gray, along with those of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Minnesota’s own Terrence Franklin are stark reminders of America’s centuries-long struggle of valuing Black lives. This is not a new issue; it is as old as our country itself.
It is not an issue that will be solved without struggle, or the unfair sacrifice on the part of Black folks and more deaths at the hands of the justice system. If we are honest with ourselves, Freddie Gray’s death is not the last unjust death that will occur at the hands of our justice system. Mr. Gray and his grieving family are but a part of a pattern that will continue unabated unless new tactics and a new approach to leadership are approached from within the community.
The African American Caucus is not asking for the greater community to hear the pain, fear and anguish of a community under attack. That should be expected by all American citizens who claim to value the lives and contributions of their fellow citizens. For citizens who subscribe to the inalienable rights of all Americans to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it should be obvious that the broken spine and crushed voice box of Freddie Gray are of far greater concern to achieving the American Dream than the hurt, devastated and outraged responses of an affected community expressing themselves in a manner that has occurred countless times throughout American history.
Riots are nothing new in America. One need only pick up a history book, or Google American riots and a long list of civil unrest will appear, reflecting people expressing themselves when they are terrified of the future ahead of them. In general, those faces in past riots have not been Black and Brown faces, but they do reflect that America does not always deal with her issues fairly or expeditiously. This is not to excuse such behavior, nor is it to demonize any particular group, but it does point to a symptom of real fear in a community that has had to deal with countless Emmitt Tills every generation.
We are not requesting this press release be published in the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press. This needs to be an internal discussion. Nor is the African American Caucus seeking to lead on this issue, because leaders do exist in Minnesota that have consistently stepped up to injustice; they will again.
What the African American Caucus is asking is that leadership within the Black community turn inward to deal with these issues. We are asking that the disagreements be put aside to deal with the coming storm of a blatant disregard for Black Life. The Caucus itself has, in the past, allowed itself to be bogged down by countless internal battles and disagreements with leadership in the community. We freely admit that.
We’ve learned, we’re learning, and that past behavior was unacceptable. But now is the time to organize, to work together, to realize that while we may disagree on an approach, our hearts are in the right place and ultimately we want to see a community at peace and free to live in peace — not because of the benevolence of America — but because our leaders support one another and make that dream a reality.
The Caucus will support its leaders and community and contribute in any way that we can. Hold us accountable.
Hollies J. Winston and Kelis Houston are members of the African American DFL Caucus. They welcome reader’s responses to 651-202-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.