By Emmanuel Olawale
If you are offended by the expression of black pain and injustice. You need to check yourself. You don’t have to understand or agree. Just listen with the hope of getting clarity, not by defensiveness or offering empty religious platitudes or invoking Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dr. King was derided by people like you when he was alive. In fact, he was arrested and jailed multiple times and eventually killed in spite of his peaceful and non-violent protests.
What you are saying really is for us to “shut up and move on.” “Protests will not solve anything,” is the language of the privileged to silence the oppressed.
Our independence from Britain was not obtained by silence and peaceful demonstrations. The Boston tea party was not a round table affair. It was not a black-tie party of gentlemen. It was a rebellion, a protest with bomb and gun powder that eventually led to war.
The Emancipation Proclamation was instigated by the civil war. But for the American civil war, the emancipation of slaves would probably have taken many more decades or centuries. Thousands in the confederate died to preserve the institution of slavery, conversely thousands died to also keep the union together and eradicate slavery.
Speaking up against discrimination and injustice is not about you. You are not Chauvin or any of those killer cops or racist white killers. Though it makes you uncomfortable, it’s not an attack against you personally. I understand you didn’t own slaves personally or maybe your ancestors were not slave holders, but you’re a beneficiary of its legacy. You enjoy privileges, special treatments and advantages of the system it created by its legacy even if you didn’t choose to. It’s not your fault, I agree, but be open to empathize with the pain of others.
You could also lend your voice against injustice. You can’t advocate for peace without seeking justice. That is not justice, that is a suppression of the aggrieved feelings in exchange for illusory peace.
Progress and equality and equity can only be achieved with the support of people of good conscience, especially white people of good conscience who are in power. But for good men like Abraham Lincoln, Salmon Chase and others, slavery wouldn’t have ended. But for LBJ, the civil rights bill wouldn’t have been passed.
Protests have its place in advocacy for change, but we also need to have a seat at the table where our issues are being discussed. If we are not there, we need people of good conscience who will advocate for us, empathize with us and use their influence to get us the results we are seeking even if they don’t look like us.
We are asking for a renegotiation of our social contract with America. We want to have routine encounters with fellow citizens without ending up in jail or in the morgue. We want to be stopped by police only when we have erred and be treated like humans and not like wild animals that need to be restrained and shot down if we speak up or move slightly. We don’t want to be over-policed; we don’t want to be seen as super predators. We want to breathe freely. We want the society to remove its knee from our neck, to let us breathe. We want to enjoy true freedom.
(Emmanuel Olawale, Esq. is the owner of The Olawale Law Firm and the author of “The Flavor of Favor: Quest for the American Dream. A Memoir,” and “Starting & Growing a Law Practice without Breaking the Bank.” He can be reached at 614-772-4177 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)