Langston Hughes wrote, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet. Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?” These words that Hughes wrote in 1951 are as relevant today as they were at their conception. The dream of justice and equality for all Americans has once again been deferred.
This time by the senseless murder of another unarmed Black man by a hate-filled white police officer in an American city. The brutal and heartless killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, which was caught on film by several bystanders, is murder, plain and simple. This horrendous act of violence exploded in the streets of Minneapolis this week as protestors burned buildings, including a Police precinct and looted stores. All of the police officers who participated in the perpetration of this crime should be tried, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
This morning at 5:09 a.m., while reporting live on air, Omar Jimenez, an African American CNN news reporter, was arrested by Minnesota State Police while doing his job. The incident happened after he and his crew filmed the arrest of a protestor. Simultaneously, white CNN reporters covering the same uprising were treated with respect and privilege and accorded their first amendment rights. Jimenez's CNN superiors and colleagues were outraged by this injustice. But, no outrage, however well-intentioned, can erase the memory of the anger, embarrassment, pain, and humiliation, in the heart of Omar Jimenez -- another innocent Black man wrongly arrested. Today, he experienced a painful reminder that neither his education, his position, nor his socioeconomic status can shelter him from the brunt of the racism, bigotry, and white supremacy, that festers at the heart of this nation. I know this all too well as a black man living in America for 63 years. I have been the victim of police brutality and abuse of power in most cities where I have lived and served in ministry. George Floyd’s pain is my pain. Omar Jimenez’s pain is my pain, but I refuse to live silently with this pain.
Each of us, whether our skin is black or brown, or if we are conscious, right-thinking allies of black and brown people, must determine to stand for justice. We must not remain silent in the face of such heinous crimes being perpetrated against innocent people, on camera, before the world. How can we look in the eyes of our children, as they watch these crimes on their cell phones, perpetrated over and over, and do nothing? We must stand up and speak truth to power. It is not difficult. You can begin by writing your Mayor and your Governor to demand appropriate training, background checks, and psychological evaluation for all police, both those in training and those already serving. There is a sickness seething at the center of our law enforcement agencies that must be eradicated. Write your congressperson and demand that they recommend enacting a congressional response to President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Policy, which was reversed by the Trump administration.
Finally, we must vote to remove any elected official from the White House, the Statehouse, and City Hall, who does not make radical law enforcement reform a primary priority. We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to give them a better world than what we inherited. We must begin today! We must start now! Their and our very lives depend upon it!
In the Struggle for Justice and Peace,
Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler, Sr, Senior Pastor
Mt. Zion Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
10723 Magnolia Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106