Connect with us


We have not moved the needle on racism



Recently, I donned a T-shirt that I bought after the tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbrey. On it is a quote by the late Audrey Lorde that simply states “Your Silence Will Not Protect You.” Occasionally, I wear this T-shirt because it reminds me how essential it is for everyone with a pulse to speak out and fight racism and hate. Progress requires this participation.

At the local coffee shop where the entire staff knows me by my first name, the T-shirt gets mixed reactions. Some patrons give it a thumbs up, others stare at me with confusion. Mostly, everyone I come in contact with when I wear the T-shirt is indifferently silent to the message. Perhaps it’s too radical or offensive. But the T-shirt doesn’t lie: silence is not protection; it is complicity.

Since Arbrey’s murder, justice was upheld in the convictions of his killers. Justice was also upheld in the case of George Floyd’s murder, as former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin is serving 22 years in prison. Progress, yes, but these convictions are just two pieces of a complex puzzle without any defined solutions to ending systemic racism.

Chris Redwood is an advocate for equitable community revitalization in Baltimore. His interests lie at the intersection of race, equity and civic engagement.
Chris Redwood is an advocate for equitable community revitalization in Baltimore. His interests lie at the intersection of race, equity and civic engagement.

Adding further complexity to this puzzle is the rise in white-supremacist violence. White supremacists are literally gunning for people of color and have claimed lives in Charleston, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo and elsewhere. A sufficient countermeasure to white supremacists’ war on people of color has yet to be made.

We have not moved the needle on ending systemic racism. Not. One. Bit.

Meanwhile, protests for racial justice, police accountability and preserving Black and brown lives have lost significant momentum. Yet, these issues persist.

Black Lives Matter messages that draped hospital buildings and windows have receded. The “We are here for you” campaigns seen at the height of COVID-19 have vanished from television and streaming platforms, replaced by housing evictions and a moderate return to life before Floyd’s demise.

The removal of statues from cities and towns that symbolize America’s racist past have stalled. The columnist Charles Blow also noticed the lack of maintenance of Black Lives Matter street art in cities across the country.

Ally-ship critical to ending systemic racism has been put on the backburner. Perhaps a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is occurring in both the public and private sector, which may explain the shift from ally-ship to silence from organizations and corporations who initially expressed support for Black lives. Surely some organizations have heard the call to add these principles into their work culture. Much of that overt ally-ship now seems performative in hindsight.

We have so far to go and still much work to do to end systemic racism.

How do we move the needle?

We need a comprehensive master plan. Ending systemic racism requires a comprehensive plan that is far-reaching, strategic and long-term, informed primarily by those most affected by racism: people of color. From my time leading neighborhood revitalization efforts at the community level, strategies and solutions impacting any one group are best informed and steered by said group, with allies providing as much support as possible.

Influence public policy. Public policy is critical to addressing systemic racism. This won’t be an easy lift for any one group to carry out without support from allies to counter challenges from fringe groups. But as Martin Luther King once said, “Power concedes nothing without demands.” If we are serious about traveling down this road to real change, it has to include influencing legislation.

Let’s talk to each other. Conversations are key to taking honest first steps toward progress. We need to start with friends and family, mix in scholars and colleagues who work in these spaces and/or have experience strategizing and organizing along racial issues, and then collectively devise a long-term commitment to what we can do to cure systemic racism and hate, not only along racial lines but in other aspects of life.

Failure to talk to one another to create a comprehensive plan and influence public policy to end systematic racism will be an abject failure of society as well as a disservice to the efforts and sacrifices that have led to this moment.

Chris Redwood is an advocate for equitable community revitalization in Baltimore. His interests lie at the intersection of race, equity and civic engagement.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply