What is the best response people of the City of Falls Church, with their predominantly non-Black collective demographic, can provide to the ongoing “Black Lives Matter” ferment that was sparked with the painfully visible public murder of George Floyd just two months ago and made more historically poignant by the passing of modern racial justice pioneer U.S. Rep. John Lewis last week?
Many people in the City, as all over this nation, have been wrestling with this question, seeking answers that are not just symbolic or non-impactful. Yes, expunging whatever remaining tributes to the criminal Confederacy is entirely appropriate, escalating a process that began some years ago. It needs to be accompanied by a thorough-going reset of the thinking that had been badly distorted and twisted by remnant elements of the pro-slavery South to characterize the Confederate rebellion as some sort of moral equivalent with the North. On the contrary, that rebellion led to the loss of over 600,000 American lives for no other reason than to defend the inhuman scourge of slavery. It is a terrible stain on our human psyche that was inflicted upon us that did not end with the surrender of the Confederacy in 1865 but persisted in relentless efforts to restore white supremacist institutions in the land in the subsequent century.
It was in opposition to that cruel ongoing prejudice and its dehumanizing consequences on Black Americans that led to the eruption of a new passion for civil rights led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis in the early 1960s, including the historic March on Washington in 1963 where both spoke and Lewis’ spearheading of the Freedom Riders initiative and the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama where he suffered a cracked skull during a police riot in March 1965. The high profiles attending those events, like the murder of George Floyd this year, sparked a new sense of outrage in an American public, including its pro-civil rights contingents, that had became complacent.
Now, the police state actions in Portland have escalated the sense of broad public outrage against the Trump administration here, especially in the context of an out-of-control pandemic and economic disaster.
What should we do? Certainly, we as a community must join any efforts to collectively condemn the gestapo actions in Portland and anywhere else they erupt. Certainly we must redouble efforts to purge the City of any remnants of pro-Confederacy or pro-slavery legacies, and provide support for those spearheading “Black Lives Matter” efforts among us.
But as a meaningful and practical matter, the best we can do, and must do, is to advance social and economic justice through a serious promotion of affordable housing initiatives in the City. A “John Lewis Memorial Affordable Housing Act” needs to be crafted, introduced and passed by our City Council that will make a difference for disadvantaged persons of color here and now.