today in black history

April 25, 2024

Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Song," was born on this date in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia.

A National Crisis

POSTED: August 05, 2019, 3:00 pm

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In less than 20 hours, in two American cities, 29 people were killed in mass shootings. In addition, shootings in other communities added to the weekend’s bloodshed. In the United States this is not an aberration, this has become the new normal. Deaths by gun violence has become a standard statistic and the bullets have been nondiscriminatory in their accuracy – they have taken the lives of children, teenagers, the elderly, pregnant women, poor, affluent, Black, brown and white people. Sometimes the perpetrator is a criminal, enraged civilian or police officer. It is the one common thread that runs through the United States. Strangely, gun violence is the one thing that binds Americans.

While cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia have long struggled to contain gun violence that has become commonplace in the face of poverty, long-term joblessness and failing public schools, the scourge of guns has also afflicted communities victimized by hate and racism. This past weekend’s bloody rampage in El Paso Texas was inspired by the hate-filled vitriol of an America president who is hell bent on legitimizing white supremacy. It can no longer be doubted or seriously disputed that Donald Trump has unleashed a torrent of white male violence directed toward Blacks, Latinos, Latin American, Caribbean and African immigrants, the LGBQT community and women. This president, through his policies, words and silence has sanctioned violence as a tool to intimidate and suppress nonwhite populations in the country. His obvious glee in hearing his supporters chant “Send them back” and “shoot them” should leave no doubt that our government is in the hands of a despot who sees violence as an effective tool for manipulation and control. He is not alone, his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill have been complicit as well, choosing to curry political favor through their cowardice.

Racism has been given new oxygen. It has been and will always be present in our nation. We have at times though cut off its air supply and asphyxiated it. Many of us hoped Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 in Charleston South Carolina was the act of a single madman. It was not. The 9 Black victims were simply the opening chapter of a series of connected events. The incidents we see today in places like Charlottesville and El Paso is the result of white nationalism being revived, administered CPR when some of us thought it had been declared dead. What we see today is the consequence of decades of racist seeds being planted by white extremists through unchecked rhetoric, hate-filled rants on social media and white supremacist music, and aided by the white evangelical church, right-wing media outlets and politicians, and a ‘mainstream’ more interested in profits than the truth.

It started with the capitulation to white resentment over affirmative action and the unwillingness of many people to define white reaction to a minimal approach to inequality as racist. The fight over affirmative action legitimized white anger and invalidated the legitimate claims of Blacks and Latinos over their exclusion from economic and academic opportunities. Suddenly, every instance of discriminatory behavior in the workplace and on college campuses that was called out what labeled a ‘complaint’ and the word ‘merit’ was coopted to suggest that white people were being undermined by unqualified Blacks. The mainstream media aided and abetted this false narrative by defining the issue as one over ‘quotas’ when the law expressly prohibited the use of racial quotas. While many of us were defending affirmative action against a phantom menace, the portrayal of the issue made whites the victims of ‘reverse discrimination.’

“Generation Z gives me hope and makes me cautiously optimistic that it will serve as the foundation for tremendous change in this nation.”

This past weekend’s violence represents the fear of white males and accumulated white rage. As the United States limps its way to nonwhite majority status, the suppressed rage of white males and resentment of white females is evident. We hear it in the angry voices and contorted faces of Donald Trump’s supporters, and in the blatant lies and misinformation spewed over rightwing radio and the Fox News Channel. We see it in the rise of white hate groups and their footprint in the White House. It is obvious in the politics of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his joy in reviving the politics of Dixiecrat icons Eastland, Wallace and Faubus. In a more pedestrian way, we see it in whites who feel empowered to criminalize Black leisure and use local police as their personal hit squad. This is not a passing phase. It is a reinstitution of an old order that will take a strategic and sustained effort to end.

While our attention is understandably focused on Donald Trump and the 2020 election, we risk becoming Charlie Brown being duped by Lucy when trying to kick the football. The presidential election cannot be seen as the silver bullet. Removing Trump alone will not end this wretchedness. Congressional and state legislative and gubernatorial elections matter too. As do elections to local school Boards. There has to be a determined and sustained effort to recognize that politics at the local level fuels the national narrative. Our money and how we use it matters to. In many instances we have funded our own demise by spending with companies headed by individuals who support the politics of our enemies. We must also take on the hardest task – having that internal conversation about our own values and behaviors that we will no longer tolerate or accept.

It will not be easy but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. Generation Z gives me hope and makes me cautiously optimistic that it will serve as the foundation for tremendous change in this nation. While often described as technologically addicted, this generation appears to me more worldly and conscientious and unafraid to confront racism, xenophobia, environmental injustice, gender inequality and the lack of attention to climate change. They seem to me more closely aligned with the children and youth of the 1950s and 1960s than millennials and more unwilling to compromise their principles. It is why I stand solidly behind them and see my mission as providing counsel and support, and defending their defiance. Generation Z is the call to conscience America needs and it’s time to turn our attention to preparing them for battle.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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