Particularly after President Obama was elected, everybody assumed — other than those in the Black community — that racism was toast. We elected a Black president, which was phenomenal, but what ended up happening was that those views that existed became magnified. And it made it easy for a candidate like Trump to galvanize all that energy, and it emerged in a lot of residual racism that just has never been resolved.
When you add the economic issues that existed in the nation then and now, now even worse — all of that contributes to what might be, I don’t like to use this term, but maybe it was a perfect storm. Because in storms, all kinds of things can happen.
There is a tendency to sanitize social movements in retrospect, to make them seem less confrontational and controversial than they were. Do you see parallels between how your father was regarded during his lifetime and how Black Lives Matter is regarded today?
There’s always going to be a group that attempts to demonize that which is being done, and for their own purposes — not because it’s right, good or just, but just because they want to foster a different position. Dad totally used the method of nonviolence, and he was consistently criticized. If you go back and look at polling data at the time he was killed, he was a marked person.
I think the difference today is, because of what we saw in the murder of George Floyd, the overwhelming majority of Americans saw this as unjust and are understanding now that Black Lives Matter isn’t saying that other lives don’t matter. When Black people are consistently killed, even children like Tamir Rice — I mean, a kid — what is the world coming to? This is what happens over and over and over to Black people.
I don’t know if we as a nation have had on blinders and all of a sudden the veil was lifted, or if the incidents were not always fully captured on video and there were always some questions.
The thing with this incident is that he was not able to move, so there was no need to use excessive force, and people see that. There’s no question about this man. He was asking for help over and over and over again. He called for his mom. Everyone can empathize with what happened and see the wrongness in what happened, and now maybe realize that this is a problem that has been going on for a while.
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