Speech Alameda City Hall for Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday
I am humbled standing before you addressing this crowd at Alameda's NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and rally. To Alameda's Black community, and all her communities of color I offer my heart and support. My message however is for my White brothers and sisters.
I fully recognize the fragility of our community around race issues, that delicate sensibility that mutes us when it's time to speak up. Today however, is the day to speak up.
My White brothers and sisters: it is time to wake up and in the inimitable words of our Congresswoman Barbara Lee, it's time to "Stay Woke." It is time to make Martin Luther King's dream a living walking reality instead of a once a year holiday we take off from work. While many participate in our community cleaning shorelines and beautifying schools, I wish this day weren't so much a day of "service" (it reminds me of the term servitude) and instead this were a day of justice action.
Fifty five years ago Rev. King stood on the hallowed grounds of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed the "urgency of now" saying it would be fatal to overlook this urgency. "There is no more time for "cooling off" or the tranquility of the drug called "gradualism". That was 55 years ago and we're still fighting the same fight.
Dr. King reminded us of our history and the promissory note contained in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That note guarantees ALL human beings the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All he ever asked was that this nation holds true to its word.
You and I White brothers and sisters, we who in some form or other justified or rationalized our "goodness" our "non-prejudice" with "I have a Black friend," or convinced ourselves we were the beacon of hope to the world in the matter of human rights - it's time to recognize our Nation has defaulted on its note. The result has been chaos from the top down. The President of our nation unleashes and "normalizes" with impunity the most inhumane, unconscionable rhetoric on our communities of color - around the world with fallout felt locally.
You and I are complicit in this bankruptcy. Our White silence must end.
- If you have caught yourself asking, "when will they ever be satisfied?" or have the need to reply, "ALL lives matter when told Black Lives Matter," - you don't get it.
- If you are convinced we live in a safe community because our Police Department is wonderful and Alamedans' aren't afraid to call for help - you don't get it.
- If you see a Black man walking the East side, or down Grand, do you pause a moment and wonder "why is he here?" - you don't get it.
- If you've thought that in the face of Police violence on the Black community, "they should just obey, they'd be ok," - you don't get it.
- When you've heard "housing is a human right" do you consider Blacks not human? You really don't get it.
If we don't "get it" WE are the problem. Institutionalized racism and the prejudice that comes with is impossible to spot but spot it we must. Like fish swimming in the ocean there is absolutely no awareness of being surrounded by water; unaware of what defines them, gave them birth, gives them life and sustenance and everything needed to navigate and life relatively effortlessly. In the case of institutionalized racism, there are others - people of color and the poorer among us - swimming in the sea of institutionalized racism who are gasping for air and life itself.
It's time to get honest. It's painful and awkward. Who wants to admit they're prejudice? It's like having the plague so we pretend "we're cool, no problem here." Then there are those who don't care that they dislike people of color. If you meet such person, I ask you consider ending your White silence, step out courageously and say "no" to bigotry, xenophobia, racism and hate. It starts with just one person saying, "no."
It's time to take action to heal our city, our state, nation and as far as that goes, our planet. The times demand it. If you have ever wondered what you would have done during slavery, the holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement - you're doing it now.