EPILOGUE: VOICES FROM SELMA ARE STILL BEING HEARD 2020

In 2020, as I write this Epilogue in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, millions of people in the Unites States and across the globe are marching in protest. Images of the brutal modern-day lynching of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have gone viral, along with photos of other Black men and women brutalized and murdered by law enforcement. The long list of killings against people of color, and the faces and names of so many of these victims, is more than most people can tolerate. It is clear that state terror, especially executed on Blacks, cannot be denied. And to remain silent is to be complicit.

Disgusted by white supremacy and its murderous outcomes, more whites than ever before, especially youth, are on the streets in a multiracial coalition. As a white woman, I am hopeful because of this.

The scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor points out that the Black Lives Matter movement, started in the last years of the Obama Administration, laid the groundwork for the current response of demonstrators to ongoing, deadly racism. In brief, B.L.M. awakened millions to the fact that racism is not only interpersonal and about one’s feelings toward another, but systemic and structural. They argue that since before the country’s American revolution, racial division has been able to grow by systemically pitting whites against Blacks, and developing laws and customs to structurally support the antagonisms. Structural mechanisms like segregation, redlining, voter suppression, mass incarceration, tax policies that favor the rich, and the militarization of the police are just some of the structures the B.L.M. movement is asking protesters to address.

In its totality, ongoing racial division helps maintain a racial-class structure with most people of color on the bottom and, since the country’s founding, with elites able to generate power and wealth upward. Most whites, whether consciously or unconsciously, benefit in this system. The denigration of Blacks, in this process, has proven deadly to them. As a result, the cries on the streets today are to directly tackle the system and its structures. Given the nation is about to become a “minority-majority country,” it’s about time.

Though I am currently restricted to my home, as are many other older adults, today protesters all across America brave the Pandemic on behalf of progressive change, and show that Foot Soldiers never die. Thankfully, they come one generation after another. And, confidently, we rely on them to “bend the arc of the universe towards justice.”

As Martin Luther King said:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable . . . Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions, and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

You, too, can be a Foot Soldier. Join us.