The Urgency of Now!

Upon the dismantling of slavery, the economic system that build this country financially and literately by the hands of those enslaved, Reconstruction began.  With Reconstruction came some long hard-fought wins regarding African Americans earning seats in the state legislatures with 16 even winning seats in the U.S. Legislature. With the removal of federal troops from the south, Jim Crow laws became codified and implemented strictly to ensure no progress was made by recently freed slaves and their descendants.  These laws stayed in effect for one hundred years. Along with Jim Crow laws Confederate monuments were erected as symbolic terrorism and to ensure that “Negros knew their place in American society.” Beginning in the mid-1950s what was to come was a long hard fight for Civil Rights, which was led in part by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Many times, conversations regarding race relations are downplayed as people want to believe that we have reached racial equity.  It is imperative for people to understand that when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, formerly enslaved people ideally should have obtained the same rights as others but that has yet to happen. We are still not there yet. Equality is assuming we are starting at the same place.  Imagine a starting block of a race where we are all going around the track. Due to the systemic racism in America, there are hurdles that are placed in the way of African Americas that others don’t have to jump over to be successful.  We must overcome institutional polices that negatively impact us, such as the school to prison pipeline, profiling by police, assumptions that we are not qualified for leadership positions, etc.  We must overcome negative biases that is associated with our beautiful hues.  Oversimplified stereotypes that have roots in slavery and Jim Crow ideologies about inferiority are still rampant, even if on an unconscious level. Reality is that we are not at a point of equity, which recognizes qualities of justness and fairness, which is different than equality, but we often hear the terms used interchangeably. 

We have been told to wait for equity, progress takes time.  The time to do what is right is now.  There is urgency in the need for America to live up to it’s claims of equity, the promises of democracy, and that all people are created equal with inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” [1] Critical Race Theory (CRT) came at a time when Black academics recognized the slow incremental changes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was having in America.  Progress was not taking place fast enough and we were/are still experiencing institutional racism as well as discrimination. Kimberle’ Crenshaw, who coined the term, understood that this inequality is rooted in laws that continue to support and uphold the status quo of White Supremacy.  The educational gap is growing, Black Americans are over 4 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts[2], the wealth gap is getting larger, these are all signs that equity is not something that Blacks have achieved in America.

The time for change is now.  Our call to action is urgent.  We must address the continued inequalities of Black people in a country we helped build and was financed by our ancestors’ free labor.  There is no such thing as a color-blind society or color-blind laws.  We must address the elephant in the room and removed the continued structural barriers.  Globally people recognize and acknowledge the lack of equity between Black Americans and others but internally we still have people claiming that all is well within, which is one of the biggest lies told.  We are amid a movement and we much grab hold and make the changes that will bring about real substantial change.  We can’t continue to operate as if everything is equitable.  We must change laws, hearts, and minds if we truly want to operate in a society that resembles any form of equity.  Now is the time for us to live up to the promises of equity, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Dr Tammy Hodo


[1] https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/equal-and-inalienable-rights

[2] Rezal, A. (10/13/2021) “The Racial Makeup of America’s Prisons.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2021-10-13/report-highlights-staggering-racial-disparities-in-us-incarceration-rates

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