Will 2018 be the year when racism ends and America truly has liberty and justice for all?
Why not? Crazier things have happened, even in 2017.
For civil rights, it was a whipsaw year of mighty and momentous, sickening and sad events nationwide. Last year’s headlines should inspire, embolden and spur — if not downright shock — you to stand for racial justice in 2018.
We should all make a New Year’s resolution to learn the lessons of 2017 and turn our nation into:
…an America that is still a refuge for people seeking a better life
This year the Trump administration announced it would end “temporary protected status” for about 59,000 Haitians who have been able to live and work and contribute in the United States since a 2010 earthquake devastated the impoverished island nation. President Donald Trump also ended temporary protected status for Nicaraguan immigrants. Not to mention travel bans from some predominantly Muslim countries. And Trump is still talking about building that wall.
President Trump’s divisive immigration policies have shown Americans — and especially Americans of color — an apparent desire to maintain a particular racial and ethnic balance, with the scale tipping heavily in favor of a nation dominated by people of white European descent.
The Statue of Liberty’s promise, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” didn’t hold true in 2017, but perhaps it can re-emerge in 2018.
…an America that rejects the politics of hatred and ignorance
Events in Charlottesville, Virginia, showed us the dangers of the white supremacy movement, when a rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue turned deadly. A woman who was counterprotesting died after a man drove a car into a crowd of protesters. Trump was slow to disavow the white nationalists. Indeed, his comments placing equal blame for the violence on the “alt-right” groups and the demonstrators who opposed them incited more division and fury.
A month later, the President added even more fuel to the fire when he gave a speech at an Alabama campaign rally, telling the crowd that NFL owners should fire any player who takes a knee during the National Anthem. Forget the fact that the players were courageously protesting an unfair justice system and police brutality. Trump was now making this an issue about the troops and the flag.
…an America where police treat people of all races fairly and justly
In Chicago, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was walking away from police when he was shot 16 times and killed in 2014. Last summer, three officers were finally indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct. They pleaded not guilty. One officer awaits trial on first-degree murder charges.
The chilling video was one of several ongoing cases involving police violence. In May, a jury in Oklahoma acquitted Betty Shelby, a white Tulsa police officer, of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher. In the police video, Crutcher, who is black, is unarmed when he is shot to death by Shelby. The officer claimed she feared for her life.
But no officer should fear for his or her life just because she sees a black man. Being a black man should not be a crime punishable by death.
…an America where prisons are the last resort, not the first, for people of color
Mass incarceration is not the answer and is sabotaging America’s families of color. Private prisons in overdrive exist and profit on the backs of colored men and youths. Statistics back up the shocking reality of our prison system. Black youth were more than five times more likely to be detained or committed compared with white youth, according to data from the Department of Justice collected in 2015 and released in September by The Sentencing Project.
Those numbers were up from 2001, when black youth were four times as likely as whites to be incarcerated, according to the report.
…an America that understands and respects the importance of consent
In 2018, the #MeToo movement, which gave a voice to the victims of sexual abuse and harassment, must continue and bring meaningful change. It was a societal breakthrough for women and men who spoke out against powerful men in politics, media, government and entertainment. In 2018 we need to widen the spotlight on sexual harassment to include victims at every level of society.
The movement is a worthy example of individuals speaking truth to power to effect change, using powerful tools like social media to tell our stories. Another way is to vote, and there’s a midterm election on the horizon. It’s a great opportunity to rise up to be the country we envision.
Many people would just as well forget 2017 ever happened. But that would be a mistake. We need to remember the lessons of the past year, and take action so we never have to repeat them.
It’s a new year. Let’s make it one to remember for the right reasons.