How Long Must We Wait?

Black folk and other marginalized groups all over have asked for centuries, without a clear answer

Donald Earl Collins

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Collage of two cropped photos: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading a group of civil rights workers and Black Selma protesters in prayer, February 1, 1965. (BH — AP Photo); Washington Mystics’ kneel down in protest before their postponed game against the Atlanta Dream, August 26, 2020. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE/Getty Images).

It is maddeningly obvious that “the beat goes on…it’s still moving strong, on and on” in Black lives not mattering at all in the US, from Daunte Wright to Ma’Khia Bryant and Andrew Brown, Jr, and now more about the late Ronald Greene. Even with Derek Chauvin likely incarcerated for the rest of his life for murdering George Floyd. Even with prosecutors charging Daunte Wright’s killer with second-degree manslaughter. Police lethality and extralegal actions against Americans of color are everyday state-sanctioned violence, and have been so since the founding of the US.

The best legislation Congress has proffered to protect Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian lives includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and now the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Bill. The Civil Rights-era bills have gone under-enforced since the Reagan Years, and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Right Act’s enforcement clause in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. The Till Antilynching bill stalled in the US Senate in 2020. The Floyd Act is one that reduces qualified immunity for police officers sued in civil court and gives the US Department of Justice more opportunities to step in and charge police officers with felonies, while the COVID-19 bill recognizes anti-Asian attacks in the US as hate crimes for the first time. But they are all ultimately impotent laws, ones that barely sand down law enforcement’s and White vigilantes’ most violently racist edges. It begs the question, is this the most any American concerned with police lethality and virulent racism ought to expect?

The work of mainline activists and athletes-as-activists has been inadequate. It really isn’t any single activist’s fault. It is a wonderful thing to mobilize millions of ordinary people across the country in demanding #DefundThePolice and #PoliceFreeSchools. It is awe-inspiring to see Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Mariame Kaba, Johnetta Elzie, Ieshia Evans, Bree Newsome, Elizabeth Williams, Maya Moore, Natasha Cloud, and Megan Rapinoe take knees, join protests, give money and time, wear “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts…

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Donald Earl Collins

Freelancer via @washingtonpost | @TheAtlantic |@AJEnglish | @Guardian; American Univ. & UMUC history prof. Invite me to write/speak: donaldearlcollins@gmail.com