Resources for Leaders

Tomorrow is Too Late!

“The children of the despised and rejected are menaced from the moment they stir in the womb.” How does this resonate with your experience as a leader?”

I open my written thoughts purposefully with this quote from the great American writer and poet, James Baldwin. Why are the children of the despised and rejected so menaced?

My name is Ronald Elmore Walker. I am honored to be the Executive Director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color. I have been moved to write because of the gruesome and traumatic video that was the public lynching of George Floyd. My emotional state has been further impacted by the more recent death of another Black man, Rayshard Brooks.

I am a 73-year-old Black man who still has recurring images of the battered, mutilated, and lynched body of a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till. I can remember when I was 9 asking my mother two questions: what happened to him, and what did he do?

My mother, who was born in Wetumpka, Alabama during the era known as “Jim Crow,” cryptically explained that he was accused of doing something wrong to a White person. I know now what I didn’t then. Her explanation was designed to prepare me for a world that was likely to be hostile to me as a Black male.

After the whole world witnessed the public lynching of George Floyd, I am certain that there are thousands of Black boys and girls who asked their parents the same questions that I asked my mother, “What happened to that man, and what did he do?”

In America, the plight of Black boys and men continues to be deeply troubling and precarious. Black males are the canaries in the coal mine who experience the fumes of racism and stereotypes first. They are routinely subjected to verbal as well as physical assaults designed to demean, debilitate, and dehumanize. They are the offspring of people who have been historically despised and rejected, and the society in which they live continues to be a toxic ecosystem which regularly threatens their chances to survive and thrive. Typically, Black males are deemed to be a menace to society.

Why are Black people and Black males in particular so despised and rejected? Why are the offspring of enslaved people who toiled in the fields to make others wealthy vilified? Why are children of those who built monuments, including the White House, marginalized and unappreciated? How could America be the wealthy nation it is today without the blood, sweat, toil, and tears of a people so harshly treated and brutalized because of the color of their skin?

The cancer of structural racism is deeply rooted in the soul of America and it will take the sharpest of laser scalpels to eradicate it from the afflicted body of this nation. Even Larry Kudlow, the Economic Advisor to the President, draped in his arrogance and privilege, stated that there is no systemic racism in America. This is a vivid example of unadulterated White supremacy in action.

I believe that America is now tottering on the edge of a dangerously steep precipice, its constitutional foundation rotting away through the cancer of racism. America must inject itself with the antidote that will battle this virulent disease and the deadly toxins of bias, inequity, and stereotypes which deny the full humanity of all people. The children of the despised and their multicultural allies are demanding Justice. Before it topples over the cliff to destruction, America must redeem itself in the eyes of the despised. Now is the time! Tomorrow may be too late!