The fact that I’ve written messages like this more times than I can count is, itself, an indicator of the great sorrow I feel. AND as painful as it is, VISIONS does not retreat from these difficult conversations nor the pursuit of racial equity. There is no way our organization or any one of us can shy away from confronting the realities of racism, and in particular anti-Black racism, as it continues to exist in our country today.
Just days ago, in Jacksonville, Florida, a white man armed with a handgun and an AR-15 style gun covered with swastikas left his home in one neighborhood and drove out of his way to terrorize people he did not know, yet had decided he hated–ultimately fatally shooting three Black individuals at a local convenience store.
At the same time, we still hear the incongruent talking points of the United States as a “post-racial” society or the desire to be “color-blind” (an ableist and dismissive sentiment in and of itself).
Instead of accepting this rhetoric, I choose to look at the truth and the context surrounding this event.
The gunman marked his weapon with swastikas and first attempted to attack Edward Waters University, a local HBCU. And yet, it was reported that authorities conducted investigations to determine whether this was racially motivated.
This attack happened on the same day events around the country were commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, which was meant to work toward equal opportunity for all Americans. And yet, the gunman was young, having grown up in the midst of our “post-racial” (and now post-Affirmative Action) society.
This was not simply one individual who had extreme racist views. The culture in our country has tolerated this type of anti-Black racism for centuries. This is the result of a nation steeped in gun culture and anti-Blackness resulting in a string of senseless deaths that dot our nation from east to west, including the senseless acts in Buffalo and Charleston.
There is no justification for these hate-filled crimes. We don’t have to live in a world, let alone a country, where the visibility of one’s race, and in particular being Black, is cause for targeting and murder. There must be safety from and accountability for such hate. Silence is deemed to be acquiescence and complicity, and we cannot remain silent.
It is also worth noting that marches and protests that include so many Americans all around the country are occurring in order to continue bending the arc toward justice, and yet the news is not telling these stories. The media so often seems to focus on stories that do not include ongoing movements, resistance, and hope.
We are living at a time when the conversation includes how dangerous it is to be both invisible and to be hypervisible. This reality is sadly common for historically excluded groups.
VISIONS condemns these racist acts, and to the Black community within VISIONS and throughout the country – we hear you, and we see you. Your lives, your well-being, and your humanity are valuable and valued.
As can be imagined, these killings have brought anxiety, grief, and trauma back to the surface for many in Black communities already enduring anti-Black legislation, rhetoric, and extreme violence across the nation. It’s especially poignant in Florida where the lead legislator continues to unapologetically uphold white supremacist and racist ideals by working to erase history and diminish contributions of Black lives and culture. Knowing the Governor’s office supports the hateful language and actions we see is why we must be just as loud and unapologetic when declaring Black Lives Matter.
And this isn’t just Florida’s problem. As a nation, we cannot keep releasing statement after statement in the immediate wake of tragedy and just hope for better—we need to unite against racism. We must be anti-racist in action, thought, feelings, and policy. We need to do our own work at the personal level and acknowledge the ways that we, as a society, are contributing to the culture and institutions that continue to uphold racism and violence.
There is a path forward, and it is waiting for us to take it – every moment we don’t choose the path of justice makes space for these atrocities to continue.