Speak On It

By Dr.Garland Thomas-McDavid, President of North Lawndale College Prep

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Poem by Martin Niemöller 

I always remember this poem while learning and teaching about the Holocaust. I felt it was a humble appeal to responsibility/accountability, as humans and global citizens, for the embarrassing evil that was permitted to happen to Jewish people for too long without intervention.

Yesterday, I learned about more crimes happening toward the Black community in front of the whole world. It is not a new thing and the crimes that have come before these are no less terrible and embarrassing. Our community hasn’t even even been given a chance to finish grieving the loss of Ahmaud Arbery. I imagine speaking for so many others who feel bombarded by the onslaught of unnecessary violence and aggression toward Black men.

Men who are already subdued, communicating an inability to breathe, calling for their mothers, and pleading for their lives. I heard my spirit asking, “Isn’t the pandemic enough for right now? Why does this keep happening? How long are we going to allow this as human-beings?” I don’t want to hear another sermon or scripture encouraging the victims to hold on for change, justice, and peace. I didn’t speak on it yesterday, and I didn’t make a status about it on social media. I couldn’t summons the audacity to tell Black people put their head down and do their best to move forward stealthily through this proverbial underground railroad to survive.

I woke up realizing that this is not about blaming the victims or expecting the targets to fix/survive something that we all KNOW is happening and KNOW is wrong. This is not about turning to God in disappointment because God is not the cause. The cause is our lack of unity in demanding this end immediately, loudly and openly as human beings. I will not allow anger to make me negate my well meaning non-Black sisters and brothers who are equally outraged. I know that these acts don’t reflect the hearts of all White people.

But We ALL need to speak on it.

We don’t need sympathy. We need to hear and see action. We need the people, who I believe outnumber the hateful, to take a visible and audible stand—out loud and upfront with us. Black people in positions of power and influence need to speak up collectively. We can’t leave it to our “representatives” to shoulder this advocacy alone. I’m tired, and I can’t be crazy (doing the same things over and over expecting a different outcome).

White people, it is not enough to make a Facebook status or call your black friends on the phone to apologize. We need you to speak on it and confront it personally and professionally. Black people need to speak on it too. Too often we moan and groan to one another privately, within social circles. We make eye contact, and we vent about the racism and the evil we experience—big and small, day in and day out. We have to let go of being politically correct and trying to find reasons to make this make sense. This is happening to all of us. It’s happening to children, to hardworking men, to women in their homes, and the list goes on and on.

Those who say they love me, love black people and/or black children, need to say something beyond social media—loud and clear. I beg you to push your political dispositions aside and acknowledge to your neighbors, colleagues, employees, political leaders, and congregations that this is not okay. I want so bad to know that I won’t look up one day and find my Black sons laying in a pool of innocent blood.