People often tell me about “the only thing that will end racism.”
“The only thing that will end racism is conversation.”
“The only thing that will end racism is love.”
“The only thing that will end racism is Jesus.”
“The only thing that will end racism is empathy.”
All of these answers are wrong.
The only thing that will end racism is struggle. Conversations have their place—so does love and unity, empathy and Jesus, and all the other things people think are non-confrontational and easy. But if there will be any anti-racist progress in the world, it will be the result of people who were willing to fight for it.
Every person we revere as a paragon of justice advocacy has known what I’m saying to be true. Frederick Douglass wrote of the necessity of struggle saying:
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.”
Just after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished his congregation to keep struggling, saying:
“Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil. The bus protest is just the beginning.”
Alicia Garza of Black Futures Lab writes:
“Every successful social movement in this country's history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change. Whether it was the Boston Tea Party to the sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the South, no change has been won without disruptive action.”
History will verify all who echo the ideas above. Slavery in the U.S. ended through struggle: The Civil War. Jim Crow ended in the U.S. through struggle: The Civil Rights Movement. What reasons do we have to think that racism will end through any other means?
I’m tired of people offering empty sentiments, religious platitudes, and superficial gestures of unity to a problem that is taking lives everyday. Racial progress has never been given freely to any generation before us. It has always been hard won. Don’t spit on the graves of those who gave their lives for freedom by suggesting that racial progress is as easy as a few conversations and hugs.
The struggle will have to be multi-layered. It will have to be fought on many fronts. It can be fought non-violently. It will have to be strategic and sustained. But it is non-negotiable. It is the only way.
There is a time to come to the table and there is a time to flip over tables. God, grant us the wisdom to know what time it is.