‘Wake up, everybody’
6/18/2020, 6 p.m.
Most of us know the song recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes from the 1970s, with the lyrics, “Wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed. No more backward thinking, time for thinking ahead.”
Those lyrics still ring true today, and unless we wake up, we will continue to repeat a painful history.
Several years ago, I was privileged to visit the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England. A delegation from Benin, West Africa, and I were invited to a private showing of some artifacts that were not on display. Among them were ledgers that showed the meticulous nature of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, maps of plantations in Virginia from 1700 and other tools of that trade.
As we were leaving, the curator said to us, “Seven or eight of these families are still very prominent in Liverpool today.” That was in 2004. So more than 300 years after the slave trade, that power base was still in operation. At that moment, it dawned on me that we are dealing with an ideology that is designed to maintain the status quo, to support a hierarchy based on race and class.
The most encouraging thing that I am hearing from all sectors after the current protests is the need for systemic change. While changing laws and holding our political leaders accountable is important, providing additional police training and having community advisory boards also is important.
But to have real systemic change, any city or community needs to start with a five- to 10-year plan that should address the root cause of the system that we are trying to change, which is greed.
Greed drives every system that contributes to the divide we are trying to address. Greed is supported by a collection of social constructs designed to sustain the ideology. To address those constructs, we must rewrite the narrative of the history that this country was built upon. That narrative has imprisoned all of us, but has had a greater impact on red, brown and black people.
When people start thinking differently, they can see differently. And when they see differently, they will act differently. The lie we are trying to address has been told for so long that it is the truth to so many.
Every social construct has similar make ups — the media, the police, our academic institutions, the banking institutions, our political community. And when those constructs aren’t addressed, they support the ideology that keeps certain groups not only in power, but in control.
Wake up, everybody. We have an opportunity for real change. Let us not miss it nor settle for crumbs from the master’s table.
REV. SYLVESTER L. TURNER
The writer is pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church.