“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” Jeremiah 9:1
Dear Chicago of 100 years from now, I write to you from the year 2020, at a tempestuous time — a time when Black Lives still don’t matter.
A time of a world pandemic — amid its claim, so far, of nearly 210,000 American lives and more than 7.3 million infections. Amid the mounting threat of nationwide social chaos, and the swell of hateful racial chatter that seems to be pushing this country to the brink of explosive disaster.
I write with a heart broken by the centuries-old travail of my people, still regarded as inhuman beasts. As if we, of the Negroid race, are not created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights.
All our lives we’ve had to fight.
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I write to you, dear future Chicago, as a native son, born in the hometown of Emmett Louis Till. Reared in this broad-shouldered city of segregation that is segregated still. Where life for Black folk in DuSable’s town is a bittersweet pill and no crystal stair.
Where the public education system is still separate, unequal and patently unfair.
And 401 years after African slaves stepped shackled upon America’s shores, we are, as free men, no less abhorred. And the daily peril of living while Black in America, of walking while Black, of driving while Black, of talking and breathing and sleeping while Black is our daily crucible. Racism institutional. And the weight of this historic burden upon the backs of Black folks’ so damn irrefutable.
I write to you, future Chicago, in hopes that in your study someday of the systemic institution called American Racial Hate, you may perhaps stumble upon the record of one writer, reflecting from both sides of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Veil.” Upon this living tale of two cities that is closer to heaven for white folk, and for Black folks a living hell.
Where the “problem” of the 20th century — as Du Bois identified it 117 years before my dispatch — is still, in the 21st century, the “color line.” For justice in America still is not colorblind.
For the world stage, she drapes herself in the shimmering gown of freedom, equality and democracy but seeks to hide with white gloves her bloodstained hands soiled in murderous hypocrisy.
Our prophets and our sons and daughters, America has slaughtered. From Dr. King to Breonna Taylor, our Black Bodies she has ruptured. We say their names: Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Eric Garner... Innocent blood cries from premature graves.
But America answers again and again: “No justice today.”
No justice. It just is.
Today I see a Chicago that rises to protect property and the shimmering Magnificent Mile more fervently and expeditiously than it does Black lives. An America that inflicts upon us violence then expects us to sit nonviolently silent.
A news media that is appalled by “violence” against ATMs. That perpetuates stereotypes with jaded views that fill print pages and nightly news that daily miss our story. We are mere shadows in their allegory.
And this has become crystal clear, though it is of no surprise: This city cares more about a damn horse than it does Black lives.
Inasmuch as I am an optimist, it is hard during this current state of affairs to keep my sight, to still see the light. For the Black body is assaulted all day and all night.
Except, even as racism seems to hasten its pace toward our demise, like Maya Angelou, I sing, less hope should die: “You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
We sing: “Still we rise…”
Even with tears in our eyes. O Lord, hear my cry.
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