Has That Check Cleared Yet?

It was 59 years ago that Dr. ML King, Jr. declared from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, that we had come to cash a check marked insufficient funds. But we refused to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt, refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” thundered King. “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

King goes on to warn, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

It’s now 59 years later and we are still seeking the full payment of that defaulted promissory note. How long must we wait for compensation, for denied reparations for which we are due? How long does the urgency of NOW last? How long is a moment?

Apparently, it’s longer than 59 years. Has America been rudely awakened yet when “woke” is the new 4 letter word which has been demonized while those who seek the promotion and continued perpetuation of the fallacy of racial identities and “white” privilege and an institutionalized system of white supremacy? 

Pushing forward toward securing that payment promised in the Declaration of Independence seems to run us directly into some turbulent headwinds.

In the recently released documentary “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America,” Jeffery Robinson references America at the tipping point, and asks the poignant question, “What are we going to do about it?” 

Robinson makes the point that much like the movie “Groundhog Day” we seem to keep repeating the same cycle over and over again. We move up the hill toward justice and equality for all, only to be pushed back down the hill before we can cross over the threshold.   

Racism/white supremacy has had over 400 years to evolve and metastasize in the body of America. It is a cancer that never goes into full remission and can come back with a vengeance at any given time.

There are glimmers of hope spread throughout our history such as the 13th Amendment granting freedom to those who were victimized by chattel slavery. The promise of 40 acres and a mule was never made good which would have helped our ancestors to make a new start with new hope and opportunities.

Black Codes and the prison industrial system became the legalized caveat allowing for a return to the plantation and free labor.

The Reconstruction era looked like we could finally realize the American dream that had been previously denied us based upon the color of our skin not the content of our character. We built our own communities and sat our folks into over 2000 positions of political office, and established thriving businesses, only to have them destroyed by our jealous counterparts who were short in melanin content.  

Land was repossessed without recompense and the ability to appeal to the law.

Twelve years following the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow was ushered in to keep “Negros” in their place via acts of domestic terrorism which included over 4,000 lynchings.   

The Civil Rights Act in 1964 provided hope that the check was in the mail, but redlining, police brutality, and the war on drugs just topped the list of a plethora of various evil manifestations put into place to counter the momentum.

Much like our women of color who fought for the right to vote in 1920, standing side by side with their “white” sisters, they would end up being left out in the cold as only “white” women were ushered in the door and received voting rights. Those women of color had to wait for the next generation in 1965 to receive the same privilege.

We thought that perhaps our “Christian” evangelical brothers and sisters with lighter skin tones might be serious in helping us finally get that ball over the hill with such movements as “the Promise Keepers,” but once again we were sold a bill of goods when those promises went unkept and replaced by the cult of Trumpism and political discord justifying and rationalizing why we must continue to wait.  

As we stand again at the summit of change following the public execution of George Floyd over 2 years ago, I just can’t help but ask the question, “Has that check cleared yet?” 

By Tobias Houpe

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