It is not by mistake that African Americans saw it as Mr. Floyd being on trial - having to prove himself worthy of fairness - even beyond the grave.
The death of injustice in America, from the first arrival of enslaved blacks from the motherland Africa, has always been the dream and prayer of the black man. It not only impacts black men, it also wrecks havoc on the black family for generations to come.
But, it is not enough to dream of justice. For African Americans, including myself, we just want the injustices to simply die and cease to exist.
As an infant during the Civil Rights movement, for me the witness of its devastating impact has become a lifetime of trauma. My own father's personal story of injustice, while I was in the womb, flows from parent to child.
On March 27, 1952, my mother gave birth to me - her fifth and last child. Unlike my other four siblings, born in Lincolnton, Ga., my birth place was Anniston, Al. The circumstances surrounding this still haunts me to this day.
The supposedly rape of a white woman sent my mother and four siblings, with me in womb, fleeing in one direction - with my father secretly taken in a separate route. Yes, the underground railroad still existed then. It was the saving grace for our family, as my father, for his own safety, was secretly taken in one direction, meeting up with us later.
However, it was not long before they found us. Posing as door-to-door insurance men, they came knocking at the door - claiming there was a pay-out of an insurance policy for my father. The wisdom of my mother kept us safe, as she alerted my father not to come home.
Again, we fled. This time to Chattanooga, leaving behind, everything in tack, in order to give time to escape unnoticed.
The story of my family having fled from Georgia and Alabama to save my father from being lynched haunted me most of my life. But it also has given me the zeal to push forward for racial equality.
It has been the drive for not just my personal self-obtainment. But to ensure it for others for generations to come. For this cause, my entire life has been dedicated to overcoming inequities and rising up to take the rightful place in society for those of my race.
But it also has engraved in me the "never hate anyone" zeal. Because hate is at the root of it all. Instead I firmly stand on the universal premise that all mankind is either my brother or my sister.
It has taught me that justice and racial equality is not just about the victim or perpetrator, it is about the devastating emotional impact, the separation and loss to families, and the societal upheaval of harmony and communal interaction and fellowship.
It is even about death - mob trials and the lynching of the innocent who are guilty of no other crime other than just being black in America.
But when we love one another and seek harmonious relations with each other it is a power beyond belief that resurrects the proposition that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
With life being fundamental, liberty a right and the pursuit for happiness truly being a reality for Americans of African descent, then perhaps this verdict sparks a new era for change. Perhaps now those of us left of my generation may bear witness to having lived to see that day within our own lifetime. Perhaps the outcome shall engrave in history that moment when the black man's last cry to his mother, "I can't breathe", shall mark the beginning of a new era of racial equality and justice.
Perhaps even it shall generate change in policing, if for no other reason than the needless self-inflicted pain on the officer's family and stain on law enforcement. All because of the indifference for the life of another human being.
Perhaps I shall live even to see that day.
Dr. Jean Howard-Hill
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I read every word twice of the letter from my sister, Dr. Jean Howard-Hill. Having known her for many years, I never knew the story of her family having to flee their homes twice. That is a tragedy which I believe doesn’t have to be dealt with often today, and if so, it’s both ways now, both black and white.
I know that the injustices of today pale in comparison with the injustices before the mid 1960’s when we had a great President in John F. Kennedy and a great Attorney General in Robert F. Kennedy. They both fought to change it for all of us. I know my brothers and sisters with black and brown skin have to deal with injustice much more than I. However, some of this injustice has been across the board and not exclusive to skin color.
We have dealt with it for years in our court systems, where people with money could make better deals than those without. Even some of our attorneys used this injustice for their advantage, having cases delayed until they could get the judge they wanted. It’s the very reason I ran for Circuit Court Clerk 18 years ago. I ran as a Republican and felt the pain of certain Republican women fighting against me because I had called them out for being unkind to my sister, Dr. Howard-Hill, all the while having Republican attorneys fight against me because they knew I would correct the system. I even had a judge violate his judicial canons by introducing my Democrat opponent to juries called for their initial meeting as a jury pool. I have a recording of it to this day because injustice can be so hard for many of us to relate to. I'm thankful to have a person with the integrity of Larry Henry serve today as the Circuit Court Clerk.
To achieve the social justice I believe we all desire, we are going to all have to do our part. My part will be different that Dr. Howard-Hill’s part in many instances, but all parts will have to be done with balance. The NAACP will have to become relevant again. I don’t see them as being so now as I only hear from them when they have an opportunity to grandstand. They must step forward and take an active part in changing culture where it needs to be changed. Our community needs to stand up for what we know is wrong and not worry about being chastised or ostracized for doing the right thing.
We can’t keep using the past to justify bad behavior in the present. We are not going to achieve justice by looting, vandalizing and destroying, and surely not by killing.
In the words of Earl Pitts, “wake Up, Uhmerika”. United we will stand and divided we will fall. Let’s all commit to being our best self.
J. Pat Williams