We have seen, read and heard numerous voices of protest since the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25th of this year.
Most of the protests have been peaceful marches. But too many individuals have hijacked the demonstrations to burn business, loot stores and unleash their anger that does an injustice to the call for police reform and an end to alleged systemic racism in American law enforcement.
This nation has a long history of discrimination against people of color beginning with the slave trade shortly after the first white settlers arrived from Europe
The Great Migration in the early 20th Century was the path taken by one million blacks to flee the socio-politico-economic oppression of the South. These blacks moved in waves to northern U.S. cities in desperate hope to improve their lives.
For some it worked. But for many others life in urban America was arduous work, cramped living conditions and too often racism perhaps less overt than in the south but palpable nevertheless.
The United States has always been the dream and destination of poor, oppressed peoples the world over. Each of us in America owes our existence here to the decision of our ancestors to leave their native lands on the chance that life would be better in this New World.
For too many African Americans today life in poor urban communities is to confront the dangers of violence, drugs, high unemployment and substandard education.
Why would you live this way? If our white predecessors risked everything to cross oceans to a nation where they did not speak the language, knew no one and had only a prayer for better jobs and economic wellbeing, why don’t black Americans and other persons of color do the same?
Why wouldn’t a young black man or woman buy a one-way bus ticket out of poverty? Why wouldn’t they travel to another smaller community where life is safer? Why wouldn’t they go to the nearest church in the new town and seek shelter and assistance?
Why would they stay in a hopeless environment where—as one American black actor once said—“For young men in my neighborhood your knew what your future was. You would either end up in prison or dead on the streets.”
Today’s protests may lead to necessary reforms of law enforcement. But they won’t end racism, increase job opportunities, rid poor neighborhoods of drugs and violence, and they won’t raise the quality of education to the level enjoyed by wealthier communities. That takes bolder action by individuals and groups truly dedicated to change. And the unfortunate truth is we won’t see necessary change soon.
Our ancestors took the courageous move to America for a better life. Why don’t more poor Americans—whether white, brown or black—do the same?
The Great Migration offered hope for millions of blacks after World War One. Perhaps now is the time for a second migration for persons of color. Buy a ticket, get on a bus or train, and drive to a new life.
This is a great nation full of people ready to lend a helping hand. It’s time for a new migration.