Reflections on Race: African American Challenges — Voices from the local Black community contemplate the primary challenges facing African Americans and how best to address them.
The lens through which we see the world is always clouded by our own opinions and life experiences. The issue of racism, when seen through the lens of our individuality, creates a unique set of circumstances. These circumstances exist in a way that invites chaos in situations where we do not approach this issue as our best and most open self.
This Black History Month we are faced with some of the most racially trying times we have ever seen. In and around this country, there has been a new awakening toward racial injustice. A continuation of the work of King, Hamer, Malcom X, John Lewis and so many others has revealed that the dream is still not a reality. We have work to do, and it requires us to look at the ugly reality of our past and the toxic truth of our present. We are faced with a crisis of veracity that seeks to upend the continued march toward justice.
My lens is tuned to the truth of my circumstances. The truth is that the reality of Lafayette’s issues of race is ugly. The city is faced with a Category 5 hurricane of racial upheaval. Time and time again the city has failed to meet the occasion as it relates to issues of race. This has become intentional and openly racist.
We are faced with leadership that fans the flames of division and stokes the coals of difference. This ugly division is a result of people’s personal political ambitions. The torrential downpour of racial animosity is ripe for a study on how a city so quickly becomes a hotbed of racism. The Mouton statue, the murder of Trayford Pellerin, the library board’s voting rights issue, policing, the lack of resources on one side of town, and so many more issues have cropped up in this city. Why has Lafayette become one of the most racially divided cities in the South?
The truth is a small contingent of loud, obnoxious and virulent racists have hijacked the city. This has led to a breakdown in honest and open dialogue meant to build bridges instead of tearing them down. The truth is this small contingent of people is only granted the power it has because of the silence of the majority.
People in this city want what is right; however, their silence is complicity. We must move to mobilize their voices for the sake of this city. We must hear the silent voices of hurt, shame and embarrassment of what our city has become.
About Reflections on Race
Black history is unfortunately not always recognized as American history — even today as it was in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, hailed as the Father of Black History, and others brought his “brainchild” to life.
If you ever wondered how Black History Month originated, you need go no further than the founding group’s website asalh.org. It stands for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
In its own history, focusing on Dr. Carter, the association notes: “During the dawning decades of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that black people had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Today, it is clear that blacks have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world.”
The association chose as this year’s Black History Month theme: The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.
Our guest columns for Reflections of Race will help to secure the foundation of the Black family by identifying challenges and issues facing the African American race. We asked our guest columnists to comment from a local or national viewpoint, and offer solutions along the way. And they did just that.
— Ruth Foote, collection editor
The solution to our problem is easy. We must stand against racism, hate and bigotry. It is in this standing that we will give subconscious permission for others to stand with us. We must call out racism for what it is. We must also begin an open and honest dialogue on race and healing. The legislative branch of Lafayette’s government should immediately move to establish a commission on race and equity. This will be an opportunity to truly engage the issues of this city in a way that brings thoughtful solutions.
The circumstances in Lafayette are a microcosm of the larger issue across this country. The truth is we have the requisite components to address it. We have the opportunity to be an example to other cities on how to fix this problem the right way. Will we take the mantle of leadership? Will we stand together against racism?