In 1963 in his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prophetically spoke of a beloved community: “that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing…Free at Last!” He concluded by making the following prophetic statement in his final speech 5 years later: “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the promised land!”
Well, that dream was no better realized than on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, when Georgia, where he believed “one day… the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” birthed two U.S. Senators in a Special Election: one Black, one Jewish! Both represent the classes of individuals that were the primary victims of hatred when Dr. King spoke those words.
Amazingly, Rev. Raphael Warnock, a native of Savannah, GA, and the current Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, once pastored by Dr. King, won a U.S. Senate seat over a wealthy white female incumbent who owns a WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream. Jon Ossoff, an American Jew, won a U.S. Senate seat over a wealthy white male incumbent who is CEO of Dollar General. Both are stories that symbolize that King’s dream is slowly becoming a new reality! What is even more significant is the power of Black voters that led the way for turning Georgia Blue. 93 percent of Black voters in Georgia’s Special Election voted for them and turned out in record numbers. This was accomplished mainly by efforts of women like Stacey Abrams led the way. She turned her angst into organizing after her Georgia gubernatorial bid was denied her.
However, on the same day this historic moment was announced, we witnessed another historic moment that occurred at of all places, at the U.S. Capitol Building, while our democratically cast votes were being officially certified by Congress. The same certification process that was conducted in only 36 minutes four years ago when Trump lost the popular vote, was led by now President elect Joseph Biden. This time though, it was interrupted and had to be reconvened by determined lawmakers in a late-night session because over 2,000 Trump-inspired individuals, many acting as insurrectionists and domestic terrorists, stormed in and ravaged our nation’s Capitol, while Congress was in session! This was a planned uprising whose flames were fanned by a sitting U.S. President literally sending them to confront and resist the certification process! By Twitter he stated, “Big protest in DC on Jan. 6! Will be wild!” In person he charged them by saying, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness”!
Whose country? Does the land of the free and the home of the brave belong to mobsters who storm past U.S. Capitol Police, weaponize metal barricades, bust out windows, scale the Capitol walls, use metal pipes, chemical and automatic weapons, as well as use physical violence? Can they descend with zip ties, overtake Congressional offices and ransack them claiming their taxpayer dollars gives them rights and privileges to sanction and commit these egregious acts? These were not peaceful protestors like we’ve seen in many historic gatherings in Washington, D.C., even dating back to Dr. King’s 1963 speech 57 years ago, but those that resulted in the death of five persons including a U.S. Capitol Police officer. This rebellious breach was unlike anything seen dating back to early days of British resistance or the Civil War in 1834. Even then, we didn’t see Confederate flags allowed to be flown in the U.S. Capitol or gallows with hangmen’s nooses erected on its grounds! Notice there were no National Guard present, no human barriers in battle fatigues prepared to resist their advance like it was with the Black Lives Matter rally, and no shots rubber bullets fired against any of these aggressors because they were afraid for their lives. Black American citizens like Eric Gardner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others have been killed by police for far less than the massively aggressive actions we witnessed against the police by this mob.
On this same day, a verdict was rendered that no charges would be filed against an officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times while getting in his car, stating he was afraid Blake had a knife the officer could not see. The National Guard was called out swiftly in response to mainly peaceful protests in Wisconsin, Detroit and other cities, but mysteriously they were not called in after several hours of the violent ravaging of the U.S. Capitol, viewed in real time on TV networks and social media, and was clearly planned in advance! There was no spraying them back like was done when clearing the way for a photo-op in front of a D.C. Church recently. The President reluctantly calls for the mob’s retreat by saying, “We love you…you’re special.” Did I mention we’re still fighting a global pandemic and over 4,000 people died from it that day? More people died from COVID-19 in a 2-day span of these events than died in the Pearl Harbor attack and 9/11 combined! Did any Leader tell their families they were loved and special while this angry mob gathered unmasked and not socially distanced as virus super-spreaders?
I observed this same behavior by persons wanting to storm the TCF Center to stop the certifying of duly cast Detroit votes, to demonize Wayne County votes to canvassers for hours, and also while I was in Lansing for the state-wide certification of votes, so these aren’t isolated incidents but an intentional build-up of what finally exploded in our nation’s Capital. This was incited by false claims of a stolen election by the President, although refuted by over 57 courts from the District circuit to the Supreme Court. Outgoing President Trump was rightly permanently taken off Facebook and Twitter, private companies, for inciting violence, but should he still have access to nuclear codes? Steps to seek his removal from office whether by impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment must be sought if he refuses to resign from office. Running out the clock over the next remaining days does not make an official record of his misdeeds, but impeachment can also prevent him from running for future positions including U.S. President.
I attended an earlier peaceful rally that was held in D.C. on August 28, 2020, commemorating the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington I earlier spoke of, but it required multiple levels of security clearances, social distancing, requirements to clean up, not to mention significant police presence and without one violent act. I wonder if the same requirements to meet were given to this event, but two things were clear; there was nowhere near the police presence there and they didn’t clean up at all afterwards!
Whose Country is it? Is it one that can be claimed by all of its citizens regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age or class? Is it one where the voice of democracy can determine its leadership and legislative representation through voting? Is it one where different does not mean deficient and the Latin phrase “e pluribus Unum, out of many, one” can be believed? The truth is there is not equal protection under the law for America’s Black, Brown and white citizens. The truth is what is a vision for the promised land for the growing majority of American citizens is still a mindset of protecting power and privilege for the diminishing others! The sad reality is while there is what we want to believe is a vocal minority representing anarchist, misogynistic, and racist acts, there is still a silent majority who may view them with private and occasional vocal disgust, but still support and even vote for them because they are passive beneficiaries of their privileged mentality and behavior. We can never address what we choose not to confess!
The Internet and the President announce a “wild” event will occur, and with 32 branches of Police and Security in DC and with the Nation’s Vice President and 535 members of Congress in session, these persons make it all the way to the 3rd Floor Gallery where 30 to 40 members of Congress were in hiding and in fear! Only one shot was fired at their advances. This is what justifies the claims of many about white supremacy and privilege: when we view a system that says for some people we protect and serve and for others we exert law and order. “We are not asking that you shoot white citizens like you shoot Black and Brown citizens as much that you don’t shoot us like you don’t shoot them!”
Charles Dickens spoke in the “Tale of Two Cities” about the French Revolution, and it being the best of times and the worst of times. We saw the best in Georgia’s historic special election, but the worst in the uprising at the nation’s Capitol while over 8,000 Americans died in two days! I choose to see better days ahead for our country, but they will not be realized nor enjoyed if we don’t continue to speak up vocally, prophetically and politically through exercising our right to vote and saying enough is enough! You must use the ballot box in order to sit in a jury box to determine justice. As I stated in an MSNBC interview, when this reality was being birthed in our National Elections November 3, 2020, “We’ve Gone from Picking Cotton to Picking Presidents….and now U.S. Senators too!” So, let’s work together to transform and transpose the song from “This is My Country” to “This Is Our Country!”
Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Jr.
President, Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity
President, Michigan Progressive Baptist State Convention
Sr. Pastor, Liberty Temple Baptist Church of Detroit