As it relates to America’s racial progress, a black elder recently said to me, "Ain't nothing changed but the weather." And then America saw the heartbreaking footage of the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man who was out for a jog in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was murdered in February of 2020. There was a police cover up, but upon the release of the footage, murder charges were subsequently filed against the three vigilantes – two months later. The charges were not filed because the “authorities” saw the footage, the charges were filed because the public saw the footage and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was forced to intervene.
A few weeks later, in May 2020, a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the police on an African American man, Christian Cooper, who was bird watching in Central Park. The man asked her to leash her dog. She became upset and called the police. Fortunately, Christian Cooper calmly filmed the encounter, which illustrated a common pattern in this country – weaponizing the police against black men and black people. Here are her words: “There’s an African American man threatening my life.” She feigned distress on the 911 call, which the footage clearly showed.
In the same week of the Central Park incident, the horrific footage of a black man, George Floyd, killed at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, sparking riots that are occurring as I write this piece. What’s most disturbing is that the police officer Derek Chauvin subdued Floyd by putting his knee on his neck, which police authorities across the country have condemned as inconsistent with police training. These patterns of injustice are provoking deep levels of sadness and anger but not surprise within the black community. Racism is not getting worse. It’s just getting filmed.
On Saturday, May 23rd, 2020, I published my 2nd book, The Bridge to Change – Mentoring Tools for Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and Counselors, a guide focused on addressing the legacy of anti-black racism and creating a consciousness to identify and eliminate it. Ironically and sadly, I had no clue that only two days later, much of what I wrote would become immediately relevant. I go to prison each week and facilitate life coaching classes for predominantly black men, many of whom are wrongly convicted and/or sentenced, but my reasons for writing this book and blog are even more personal. I have a black nephew, three black godsons, scores of young black men who I can’t always personally guide and protect. If we don’t create this consciousness, they will continue to be at risk every day of their lives.
Because America’s leadership has been remedial when it comes to racial issues, it’s on everyone to step up to fight racism’s vicious legacy. We can no longer be a people whose collective voice is silenced with a single shot. Everyone needs to lead out of consciousness and be committed to ending the legacy of racial hatred and hierarchy. Time is neutral and doesn’t bring sustainable social change. Only people with effective strategies in their minds and sustained convictions in their hearts can do that.
We cannot undo something intentionally done organically. We have to name it. The legacy of anti-black racial dehumanization and racial hierarchy affects every institution and industry - housing, education, religion, politics, prison, policing, and healthcare (which COVID-19 laid bare).
Like any book on racial healing, it's imperfect and incomplete. In this guide, I talk about personal development, emotional health, racial healing, and social justice. It's still not enough. That's what it is to be black. The solutions are never enough or final. We keep taking this class over and failing…when I was younger, I remember names like Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell...this generation has Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, and countless others. We can add Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to the list. Will the next generation have a set of names of unarmed black people killed?
No more names. Let’s not take this class over. Be the Bridge to Change.
Jonathan Frejuste is an author and the creator of TheBridge330, a mentoring program whose mission is to provide quality mentoring tools and resources to underserved, underresourced, and vulnerable communities in ways that support sustained social change, a restoration of hope, and an avenue to emotional health. You can learn more about the work at www.thebridge330.store. You can purchase a copy of his book, "The Bridge to Change – Mentoring Tools for Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and Counselors" on Amazon.