As you watch the rallies, political speeches and debates, you will hear beautifully articulated ignorance. You will experience well-produced propaganda. You will see hateful thoughts clothed in eloquent words. Be careful. It is easy to allow the ignorance that clouds the minds of others to discourage you. It is easy to allow the evil that men do to consume you with the same fear that consumes them. This fear, left unchecked, becomes anger, and then devolves into hate. Then you become what you despise the most.
These times bring powerful realities to the forefront of our minds. The senseless murder of our children, by those who have sworn to protect and serve them rattles the core. The economic inequity designed by those who want to control the means of production baffles the mind. The unjust civic system that exists to reduce an entire people to second-class citizenship deflates the spirit. The social system that uses whatever media it can manipulate to define us, tries the soul.
I ask you to consider something before you permit the injustices you experience to discourage you. We are still standing. Though we are the children of a people stolen from Western Africa and delivered in chains to the auction blocks of the southern United States, we are still standing. Though our language, our names, our culture and our God were stripped from us and replaced with just enough status to make us beasts of burden, we are still standing. Though we were entertainment for the demented as our bodies gasped their last breaths, hanging from a tree, we are still standing.
If we forget that we are not only a nation of those who survived, but thrived in the midst of tribulation, then we truly bow the knee to despair. Remember, whatever our hands have touched, they have transformed. However, the key to our ability to transform has always been to rise above the fear, the anger and the hate. We rose above fear to break the chains of slavery. We rose above anger to systematically destroy Jim Crow. We rose above hate to influence every industry in the American economy, every branch in the American government, and every component of the American social order. We have even risen to a two-term presidency to successfully lead the free world. In spite of all that has been planned, spoken and done, we are still standing.
I do not suggest that we accept oppression, disrespect or abuse in any form. I simply challenge us not to hate those who hate the potential in us. Do not let anger consume you as others have allowed anger birthed by envy to consume them. Do not fear what others may do as they fear what we will become. I challenge all of us to remain standing, but let us stand together. Let us stand in our homes and communities. Let us stand in academia and in our economy. Let us stand in our governments and in our courts. Most of all, let us continue to stand in our houses of worship. However, please, let us put our division aside and stand together.
Nelson Mandela was not alone when he traversed the path from prison to the presidency. An entire nation journeyed with him. Martin Luther King Jr. was not standing alone when he gave the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. There was an entire nation of people dreaming with him. No matter what name we call in American History: Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Frederick Douglas — none of them stood alone in their finest hour. These next few months are going to be challenging. We are going to hear the fear, the anger and the hate. Do not let it discourage or distract you. The oppressor has made this attempt before. It didn’t stop us. Look around you. We are still standing.
Mason West III has been an innovative leader in community-based program development for 15 years. He has developed and managed programs for companies, schools and governments at every level in the United States, England and Bermuda. He specializes in prevention, intervention and restoration strategies that restore lives and communities impacted by cyclical poverty, drugs, gangs and violent extremism. Mr. West earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology at Oakwood College. He later earned his Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning and Community Development from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. Currently, he is pursuing his Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Tennessee.