tied around his body. His mother, Mamie Till (Mobley) demanded the return of her only child’s body and held an open casket funeral in Chicago for the world to see. That one brave act, of a mother displaying the racial violence and viciousness inflicted upon her child, helped spark the civil rights movement.
On August 28, 1968, during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, thousands of Vietnam War protesters gathered on the streets. Then Mayor Richard J. Daley deployed a total of 27,000 police personnel to “preserve order.” Earlier that same year, when riots erupted after the April 4, 1968 assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Daley issued his infamous “shoot to kill” order against arsonists and a “shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting.” The war protestors outside the convention that August were tear-gassed and beaten, along with members of the press. The resulting riot was televised and turned the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War.
On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was murdered by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke while walking away from him. 16 shots for 17 years of life. Van Dyke was arrested, tried and became the city’s first patrolman in more than 50 years to be convicted of murder.
Experts often speak about post-traumatic stress disorder being experienced in our communities, much like war veterans, felt especially by our youth. But what we’re dealing with is trauma that is never “post,” of a war that never ends, of layer upon layer of poverty, violence, food insecurity, substandard housing, education and health care…and now a pandemic that is killing Black people in disproportionately high numbers as a direct result of these inequities. All of this is driving a hopelessness and despair, now being fueled by a racist president and his enablers who give voice and permission to white supremacists. Our trauma is ongoing, and not surprisingly has finally manifested itself in anger, rage and sometimes self- destructive actions. Will the voices be heard? Will we act collectively as Americans to demand change and hold our nation to a higher standard?
The restoration of hope and the pursuit of peace starts with an acknowledgment of and apology for the wrongdoing, whether committed decades ago or last week. It starts with a recognition of the systemic and individual racism that has formed the basis of laws and policies designed to preserve white supremacy, because they are all part of the same cloth, whether that cloth is used to make a confederate flag, a KKK hood or a red cap.
But there is another cloth, the flag that represents these United States of America, which is in need of attention. It is that flag which Black Americans have fought and died under since the Revolutionary War with an incessant hope that it would, someday, represent the same promise for Black Americans as it does for the majority. It is the flag proudly carried by our Black troops from Illinois in WWI as