O Say Can You See

O say can you see, by the dawns early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming

What WE hail’d proudly as a people, throughout our American journey, has been the power of our voices.  

Whenever the topic of race comes to the table, one of the most popular current-day right-wing talking points is that Black people are playing the victim card and promoting white guilt. This is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss a vital topic of conversation by misrepresenting your perceived opponents’ position and then attacking that misrepresentation. It’s what is called a “strawman tactic” and is often implored in desperation when an argument or defense fails to stand on its own merit. 

In all actuality, the greatest testimony of African Americans has been our ability to succeed despite the barriers placed in our way for failure. Although we have been victimized, we have never lived as victims.

We have never allowed our voices to be silenced either verbally or in our non-verbal actions. We survived nearly 250 years of the dehumanizing uniqueness of chattel slavery, while our voices were raised by the likes of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman. 

We survived white supremacist terrorists on American soil, including the KKK, founded on Christmas eve 1865, following the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on Jan. 1, 1863. However, it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 that slaves in Texas were given the news. 

During the 12 years following slavery, known as the Reconstruction era, African Americans held 2,000 seats in political office. We began to farm land and build our own communities. In addition to terrorists, the pushback came in the form of Jim Crow laws and Black Codes, and the demonization and stereotyping of Black imagery via minstrel shows, art, and media.

Our voices rang out in protest by the likes of Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, and organizations like the NAACP. 

Many of our communities, such as Rosewood, FL, and Tulsa (Greenwood AKA Black Wall Street) were so successful that they were the envy of their “white” counterparts, who would invent reasons to destroy these communities and kill their inhabitants, and displace the surviving residents without recompense. 

Known as the Red Summer (1919), following the end of WW I, our nation saw a spike in race-based massacres which became particularly prevalent across the country that year and continued for decades to follow.   

But like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, our voices sored to the sun through the vocal cords of heroes like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Huey Newton, and the Black Panthers. Our voices were raised on the Olympic platform in 1968 by the raised black-gloved fists of John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

 We refuse to be silent, and our voices will continue to ring out for as long as it takes to reach the goal line of true equality of opportunity promised by the Declaration of Independence which this nation celebrates year after year.  O say can you see by the dawns early light that our voices will not be silenced?

Until that check is cashed, which Martin described during the March on Washington, as having been marked insufficient funds, we must continue to raise our voices, and silence is not an option. It never has been, and it never will be.    

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