On Friday, thousands marched into Washington in protest against systemic racism. At an event dubbed the "March Off the Knee", ministers, activists and relatives of those killed stood at the lectern, making fiery and sometimes tearful speeches, begging America to divorce systems that have been suppressing their blacks for 244 years Population.

If the episode sounds familiar to you, it's because it has already happened. Fifty-seven years ago, thousands marched to demand work and freedom and the abolition of white supremacy.

According to Logic, advocating this moment and the laws that go with it should have led to permanent, radical change. And through the work of black leaders like suffrage activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, America was moving in the right direction.

But it didn't go far enough.

This speaks to the illogical, stubborn nature of white supremacy and the challenges faced by those who try to eliminate it.

Protesters sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and listen to speakers on Friday.

(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

There is evidence that the leaf is turning to some extent.

Last year, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation restoring aspects of the voting law that were gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. That year the House passed laws prohibiting local law enforcement from using warrants and chokeholds. However, these much-needed reforms are unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. And even if miraculously made law, they will only reform one aspect of racism in American society.

The march on Friday was announced earlier this summer by Rev. Al Sharpton during the funeral of George Floyd, whose assassination led Black Lives Matter to reappear in the news cycle and people to scrutinize racism in American society. Although media and public attention shifted, it returned last week when law enforcement in another city, unsurprisingly, injured a black man. This time it was a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back in front of his three children.

During the march, the black lawmakers were plentiful. One of them was Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Who spoke of the “sacrifice and self-determination” of our black ancestors who “shaped history and brought us to this moment”.

“We are the manifestation of the movement. We are a symbol of social, political and cultural progress, ”she said.

Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to protesters during a rally for the National Action Committee "Get Your Knee Off Our Necks".

Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to protesters during the National Action Committee rally.

(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

We are certainly the manifestation of a movement. Advocating civil rights activists led to an expansion of the black middle class. But we are still being killed by the police and there are still differences in almost all areas of life.

So I wonder what impact the marches can actually have on our nation's capital.

I reached out to Johnetta Elzie, Campaign Zero co-founder and 31-year-old protester who is perhaps best known for her careful documentation of the 2014 Ferguson protests on Twitter. Elzie was not present on the Friday march.

"At this point, I think staying in Kenosha is far more important than bringing people to Washington to honor traditional marches," Elzie said. "A march in the capital of our nation will not take away the militarized police and armed militia that our friends are currently facing in Kenosha. We are far beyond marching. We have to organize, activate and create change."

I definitely agree with her. It seems we are way beyond organized marches and need something more revolutionary. The world doesn't seem ready for radical change.

On Thursday near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I spoke to Rev. Nathaniel Martin, 72-year-old vice president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Action Network, a Sharpton civil rights group founded in 1991.

Martin said that during the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, he and his friends thought they were going to end racism.

"But racism is much more ingrained in the structure, culture and institutions of the United States than we realize," he said.

Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to thousands during his time

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, delivered his "I Have a Dream" address in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 during the March for Work and Freedom in Washington. Actor-singer Sammy Davis Jr. is pictured below right.

(Associated Press)

Martin has been with me for 47 years. He has the Jim Crow South, the FBI-led efforts to destroy black leaders and organizations, and the murders of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. experienced. Although his humor lifted my spirits, his tired spirit made me sad at the prospect of the future of my generation.

The night after we talked, I lay awake thinking about something else he said. We talked about the inability of white Americans to see how their privilege harms people of color and discussed whether something could be done to get rid of it.

"If you enjoy all the privileges, there is nothing wrong," said Martin. "I don't see whites giving up this privilege. Are you doing?"

Honestly no. And that makes me sad.

Protesters listen to the speakers before they march to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the National Action Committee

The rally on Friday marked the 57th anniversary of the Washington march.

(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

On the one hand, I can confidently say that white people are becoming more and more personable. Photographers take them in overwhelming numbers during sporadic protests in cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and Washington. However, I'm not sure if they are aware that equality for all is felt like oppression for some whites.

What it means for whites to systematically give up privileges is, in part, to redistribute wealth and to close the great gap between white and black households. Eliminating red lining and neighborhood integration, providing quality, affordable education and housing for all.

While there is an appetite for reform on one side of the political spectrum, I fear that it will not make enough sense. And maybe in 57 years we will be on our way to Washington to advocate the radical notion that we deserve freedom and equality.

When I listened to the end of Pressley's speech on Friday, I was more hopeful.

"Another world is possible," said Pressley. "Yes, it is possible to establish justice and accountability … If it feels strange, it's because America has never done it before."

Maybe that's why I can't imagine a non-racist America. Because it never existed. But one of the things America is known for is ingenuity. Although this trait has been used in the past in the name of oppression, perhaps it can be used to make the world a better place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *