When we look at the images of President Barack Obama crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge with his family, along with Rep. John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson, who were both beaten on Bloody Sunday, and those thousands of others this past weekend, we think to ourselves, “Wow, we have come so far!” But have we?
Yes, we know that the children born in the year 2000 or later will never live in a society that did not have a Black president. Their reality will be possibility, but is that enough?
While the president was walking across that bridge 50 years after Bloody Sunday, three more families of unarmed Black men were dealing with loss at the hands of police officers. Friday, March 6 in Madison, Wis., 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed during an altercation with police in his apartment complex. Earlier that day, 37-year-old Naeschylus Vinzant was shot and killed by police in Aurora, Colo.; he was also unarmed. And then Monday, March 9, in Chamblee, Ga., a third Black man, 27-year-old Anthony Hill, who was an Air Force veteran, was killed by police. He was not only unarmed but also naked.
Although each of these incidents had different circumstances, the men have four things in common: 1. They were all shot by police. 2. They were all unarmed. 3. They were all Black. 4. They are all dead.
So we have to ask ourselves, why does this kind of violence still occur at the hands of the police when we are supposed to have come so far?
We fought for our civil rights 50 years ago. We fought for our right to vote 50 years ago. We fought for our right to equal pay for equal work 50 years ago. We fought for equal education for our children 50 years ago. And today we are fighting those same battles. But today, the stakes may be even higher. We take to the streets to oppose oppressive laws that make it hard for our communities to vote. We lobby Congress for protections against what they themselves are trying to impose upon us. When legislation does swing our way, we have the right trying to use a back door to lock us out again.
It seems as though we can never win. It seems as if the deck is stacked against us. It seems that we will always have to fight, not to move ahead, but just to keep what we have, including our lives. When it comes to Black Lives Matter, past is prologue, and each apparent step forward is followed by two steps back, often lethal setbacks.
Yes, so much has changed, but has it?