GUEST COLUMN:Despite progress, race problems continue to persist
Black History week began in 1926, five years after the Tulsa Massacre, by historian, scholar, and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson chose a week during February to honor the Great Emancipator President Abraham Lincoln and Scholar and Orator Frederick Douglas's birthdays. Douglass escaped slavery and became a prominent activist, author, and public speaker. He was a leader in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end slavery practices of slavery. The purpose of Black History Week was to honor the significant contributions of African Americans in U.S. history. In 1976, during President Gerald Ford's administration, Black History Week expanded to a month-long celebration.
As we reflect on Ardmore's Black History Month and its luminaries, like, Attorney Buck Colbert Franklin, Mentha Varner, Mazola McKesson, Electa Baker, Erma Willis-Alford, J. Milton Grant, Tim Crisp, Frank Luster, Marzee Douglas, Garry Raymond, James Nash, David Lewis, Cheryl Roberts, Phillip Washington, John Moore, Thomas Benson, James Foreman, and so many others. Let us also remember Blacks continue to suffer under the vestiges of institutional and systematic racism.
Four hundred years after the first African's were captured and enslaved in American, the U.S. still has a race problem. The New York Times created a 1619 project aimed at reframing and centering enslaved Africans' contributions in building this country.
In contrast, former President Donald Trump created a commission in 2019 to refute the celebrated 1619 Project. Trump released a quickly shelved study on Jan.15, 2021, the day of Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday, solely to suggest the study of race was anti-American. He also attempted to eliminate diversity and inclusion and culturally sensitivity training efforts within government agencies. American has a race problem.
After 390,000 COVID-19 positive tests in Oklahoma and more than 3,600 deaths, Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin was heard declining to wear a mask during the terrorist act of insurrection acts on Capitol Hill, January 6. Representative Mullin was overheard when being asked to wear a mask by a Black Congresswoman's from Pennsylvania saying, "I'm not trying to get political here." The duplicity of an elected official who says he does not want to "get political."
In plain sight, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford hides under the veneer of a disingenuous smile and a divinity degree, all while signing on to the letter disenfranchising Black and Latino voters. His ambitions lead him to sign on to the letter attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Lankford should resign from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. Oklahoma has a race problem.
In the summer of 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, I participated and witnessed a multicultural, multi-ethnic coalition take to the streets and march in cities, states, and countries, in response to the public lynching of George Floyd. Floyd was choked lifeless for eight minutes and 46 seconds by four Minneapolis law enforcement officers. During the last two minutes of his public execution, George Floyd yelled for his "momma." As a Black man who has lived through the trauma of police profiling, I knew that George Floyd, calling on his momma, was a sure indication that he knew he was going to die. How could you not feel for him and the thousands who share his melanin whose lives were ended by law enforcement?
I, too, had the feelings of near-fatal experience here in Ardmore. On my mom's birthdate in April 2016, an officer pulled me over on the way to take my mom to breakfast. He stated I was speeding, but his questions focused on my foreign car and New York car tag. My mom intervened, as my attitude became elevated as I began to question the officer's motives. My mom saved the day. He retreated; I had been publicly humiliated and emasculated in the presence of my mom. Later, at breakfast, I collapsed onto the bathroom floor out of the sight of my mom in tears. I did not want to ruin her special moment. Ardmore has a race program.
This month as Ardmore celebrates Black History Month, there are still some truths we must reflect on. African Americans still suffer large gaps in life expectancy, health disparities, and earning potential. Both Black men and women's life expectancy is three to five years less than that of white men and women.
Generational, systematic, institutionalized, and environmental racisms are contributors and indicators of poor health. Black family wages are still well below the average White American Families. Research suggests, Black families have a median household income of just over $41,000, whereas white families have a median household income of more than $70,000. Why? In 2021, we continue to live in separate Americans, one for whites and one for Blacks, both separate and unequal.
King's vision of the beloved community requires us to challenge our notions and assumptions and reconcile the impact bias plays on our daily lives.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives." I’m rooting for love, humanity, and our better angels. We can all do better.
— Dr. Maurice Franklin lectures and consults on organizational sustainability and organizational development strategies. Dr. Franklin has previously served as an advisor to Dallas, Texas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Dr. Franklin’s published work focuses on Governance, Sustainability, and Strategic Thinking. Dr. Franklin attributes his activism and social justice commitment to the influences of James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, and his cousins Buck Colbert Franklin and Dr. John Hope Franklin. Dr. Franklin resides in New York City and is a native of Oklahoma. Fun Fact Dr. Franklin was the first Black Class President at Ardmore High School.