ATLANTA – I frantically shouted at the phone to my teenager: “Lance, ANYWHERE ?!”
Social media posts swirled that protests were being planned in Atlanta in response to the death of George Floyd, a black Minnesotan, while a police officer knelt at his neck.
Although as mayor, the chief of police reported to me, at that moment, I knew what every parent knew of a black child in America: I could not protect my son. For anyone who saw it, he was just who he was, a black boy in the promised land that we all know as Americans.
I know that as mayor of one of the largest cities in our country, now I must offer a solution. But the only comforting word I have to offer so far is what I know best: that we are better than this; that we as a country are better than savage acts that we are forced to keep watching playing on our screens like strange horror films that are trapped over and over. We are better than the hatred and anger that consumes so many of us. We are better than this disease called racism which is still rampant.
With each passing moment separating me from the peace of mind of a mother feeling that she has secured the safety of her children, I cannot waste minutes articulating all of that to my child. All I can say is, “Honey, go home – now! It’s not safe for black boys to come out today.”
I thought of the adoption process, when my husband and I were told that there was no waiting for black boys.
Then I wondered if this country’s fear – and too often hatred – of black men began, even unconsciously, at their birth. The harsh reality is that if we examine the historical conditions of black life in America, we will realize that there has never been a day where it was really safe for black boys to come out, be free, be fair.
America has a long and irreconcilable history of tearing black boys and men out of their homes, their families and their communities – and throwing them into unrelenting clutches of death, more often than might be recognized by many Americans. From being captured and attacked on the African coast, to being handcuffed and asphyxiated on the streets of America, black men for centuries have had an inverse relationship with life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.
Reflecting on the current situation, my mother said to me, “It doesn’t feel like we go back to 1965; this feels like before 1965 in America. “
Hearing him say that is heartbreaking. Thinking that his generation made so many sacrifices and that in spite of it all, the current climate returned to the feeling that preceded the reforms they fought hard for was frightening and serious. But acknowledging the truth in it is also necessary.
During the Civil Rights Movement we saw people from all races and all walks of life gather to say: This is not true and we will defend the good of America. That same spirit must rise and win today. Such a pursuit is impartial. That is American. I cannot guarantee that I will give my children freedom, but I can and will continue to fight for it and teach them how to fight for it every day. One of the best ways we can strive for is to strive to ensure that our governing body is led by people who value the freedom, equality and humanity of all humanity. Now, more than ever, elections are important; leadership problem. That is why November 2020 is important.
So as the mayor of Atlanta, I want to offer one important solution to the cruelty we face today. Let each of us commit to exercising our right to vote this November. Let us choose to oppose state-supported violence, sharp discourse and violations of human rights. To commemorate George Floyd and all the other innocent black lives that have been taken in the past and far, let us commit to registering black people, especially black men, to vote.
Think about what might have happened if each of us allied for justice spent more than nine minutes getting people registered in preparation to make changes at the federal, state and local level this fall. That would be the most effective response, the deepest return, for every minute that passed when the Minneapolis police pressed Mr. The innocent Floyd.
Join me in getting ready for the election. Together, our American generation can state – without a doubt – that freedom will not face extinction and that progress will not be paralyzed.
Keisha Lance Bottoms is the mayor of Atlanta.
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