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Hey, they're up first, listeners. It is Sunday and we're dropping a bonus episode here for you. The people protesting racial injustice in this country once sweeping change.
This hour, we're going to look at calls to defund the police and you'll hear civil rights leaders talking about the way forward.
First, the debate over Confederate monuments. Here's Ailsa Chang.
This is a special report from NPR News, Summer of Racial Reckoning. I'm Ailsa Chang. The deaths of Jorge Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Amanda Berry, along with the ensuing protests, are forcing Americans to confront centuries of racism and oppression that continue today. The question facing all Americans is how does this country reckon with its history of racism and move forward? Part of that means confronting the symbols of racism that are such a big part of American identity, like the Confederate flag statues memorializing the Confederacy that were built decades after the Civil War during the Jim Crow era.
Some of those symbols are coming down. And in some instances, people are fighting to hang on to them.
NPR's Ari Shapiro took a closer look at one very prominent example of these statues, the enormous statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia.
Joining us now to talk about the history of these controversial symbols is Michael Paul Williams, columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper. Welcome.
Thank you for having me to start with this Robert E. Lee statue is the largest of the statues on Richmond's Monument Avenue. It was erected in 1890 after reconstruction. Can you just describe the symbolism behind the statue then and now?
Well, put yourself in the shoes of a newly emancipated black person in Richmond some 25 years after emancipation. And you see this massive monument going up. It's hard not to imagine that those individuals are not filled with terror at what they were witnessing. It sent a clear message.
And what would you say it stands for today? I think it stands for pretty much the same message it stood for in 1890, its white supremacy.
As somebody who's been writing about and pushing for this for years, does this moment that we are in now feel inevitable to you, or does it feel like something that you thought might never come?
It kind of feels like a dream. You wonder if it's really happening for so long, people to not listen for so long, people were unmoved and then something horrible happens in a in a city a half a continent away.
And everyone's moving and everyone's feeling what you felt.
Could you speak to a listener who might not have thought deeply about this and might think, why remove the history? The statue's been there for decades.
Why tear it down?
You tear it down because it should not have been there in the first place. I would challenge that person to cite any example anywhere in the globe where a nascent nation rose up in opposition to the existing one with soldiers who were sworn to be U.S. soldiers effectively committing treason, turning against their oath, killing U.S. soldiers, all in defense of enslavement of black human beings. And then 25 years after the war, when you would think the issue is settled. And by the way, against the advice of General Robert E.
Lee, who did not want monuments. They erect these statues to not so much tell history, it's not history, but to erect massive bronze and granite statues of propaganda. To effectively try to gaslight us into believing this was something other than what we all know it was, which was a war to defend, the right to enslave. The symbolism has bled into reality, and they've done wonders to help perpetuate. The white supremacy that continues to plague this nation and manifest itself in the death of George Floyd, if this nation's ever going to be whole, if it's ever going to heal, you've got to get rid of this cancer.
And these monuments are a cancer. In America's body politic, do you have a vision of what would take the place of these monuments to the Confederacy on these now empty pedestals?
They could be monuments to reconciliation. They could be monuments to the African-American struggle, which until recent years was not told in statuary. They could be visions of where we want to be. Instead of celebrations, what we never should have been, Michael Paul Williams is a columnist at The Richmond Times Dispatch. Thank you for talking with us. Thank you for having me. America's monuments to oppression are not limited to the Confederacy, they go back further and lionize the Spanish conquest and its legacy of violence, theft, erasing of indigenous culture and forcible religious conversion.
NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro explored the history and legacy of those monuments.
Statues of those conquistadors like Ponce de Leon and Juan Donat. They have been defaced or taken down in several states, including New Mexico, California and Florida. This has fueled a larger debate within the Latino community over their colonial heritage and its place in modern America. Louis Dean Valentin Garcia joins me now. He's an assistant professor of digital history at Texas State, specializing in Spain and its global relationships.
Welcome. Hi. Thank you for having me. First of all, help us understand, how did these statues get put up in the first place? Well, as the United States was changing its borders throughout the 19th century, the idea of who counted as American was changing. And so a lot of the colonial statues that we see of Christopher Columbus, of Isabel, of Ponce de Leon, all these people really comes from this idea that there were people that were not being accepted as Americans in the 19th century, and they tried to lay claim to that through these statues.
Well, there's also been pushback, right, in the Hispanic and Latino community against taking these statues down.
Recently, Cuban writer Fabiola Santiago in the Miami Herald wrote an op ed titled We Don't Need to Erase Florida's Spanish Heritage to Fight Modern Day Racism. Can you explain a little bit about that argument?
Yeah, I think that it's trying to think about what it is in our history that we want to celebrate. And I think one part of this is actually a representation of the lack of integration of Latino Hispanic history in elementary and high school curriculums. So Latinos and Hispanic identifying people are descendants of indigenous and European people. They are of colonizers and of the colonized. And this is also true for many black Americans.
But some of this really does go back to the larger tensions within the Latino community.
You know, white Hispanics who come from Spain or have lineage to Spain might see these statues differently.
And it's an opportunity for the Hispanic and Latino identifying people in the United States to have these hard discussions about race that have been subsumed for centuries. We need to talk about white supremacy as we need to talk about colorism. We need to talk about all of this within our communities and be aware of where it's coming from. So I don't think that this is a moment where we should hold steady to our statues. It's a moment that we can actually reflect a little bit more.
A good metaphor would be you might see a lot of statues in a Catholic church, but imagine if you were to see a statue to Satan and a statue to Judas Iscariot. No doubt those two figures are important figures in the history of Christianity. But the figures that we put on the pedestals are supposed to tell us something about our values. And I think anybody who would walk into a Christian church and see a statue of Judas Iscariot and of Satan would probably rightfully question the sort of ethics of that Louis Dean.
Valentin Garcia is assistant professor of digital history at Texas State University.
Thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate it. That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.
The Confederate flag is one of the most ubiquitous and prominent symbols of white oppression of American blacks. And it has appeared on the Mississippi state flag for generations, but it won't for much longer. White lawmakers in Mississippi had long resisted calls to change it. But finally, late in June, the state legislature voted to make a change. NPR's Steve Inskeep spoke to a state senator the morning after the vote.
Senate Minority Leader Derek Simmons is among the lawmakers who voted for the change. He's on the line. Senator, good morning.
Good morning, Steve. Thank you for having me. I just want to know what I'm doing. The math here is this is a flag from 1894, I guess, more than a generation after the Civil War. But it is a kind of combination of the two main Confederate flags from that war. Was there ever any doubt in your mind about what that flag stood for?
It was never any doubt in my mind. It was a very hateful, oppressive and divisive symbol. And after a hundred and twenty six years of flying, that that flag and the. Mississippi, Mississippi will soon have a new flag, I don't mean to recount the arguments you must have had all your life about this flag, but what did you say when people would push back and say, oh, no, this is just a symbol of our heritage?
I said it was a symbol of hate and not love, and it was a symbol of division and not unity. And I made it clear to people that it certainly was a flag that that represented some Mississippians and not all. And so I had my own personal experiences regarding discrimination and had my father and grandfather that shared many of their experiences and how the flag was just a constant reminder that communities of color or black Americans in Mississippi was just still not part of of Mississippi.
What do you mean by a constant reminder? Would you be driving somewhere and see that flag and what would go through your mind?
Yes, I actually the flag was in the schools that I was educated and the flag was flying. And the businesses that I will frequent, the flag was was actually flying in public spaces. For the entire eight years of my legislative career, I've had to walk into the Capitol and not only see the flag outside of the Capitol, but every morning we would do invocation and we would do a prayer. And behind us we have the American flag and unfortunately, that Confederate flag.
Why do you think that this has changed now? There is a combination of issues, Stevo. Certainly what is going on nationally is the impetus. You have people wanting to address the inevitable, the racial inequality in America. These systems have basically been the underlying conditions of a lot of the problems that we are seeing in Mississippi. Of course, that while the flag was just a symbol, the symbol is still like a symptom of the overall racial inequality that exists specifically in Mississippi.
And so, I mean, I hope that this momentum continues in the state of Mississippi. And this is just the start of a new chapter in Mississippi so that we can have a more bright, progressive and inclusive Mississippi. So let's take this flag down. But this also address all the other issues that we face in Mississippi. State Senator Derek Simmons of Mississippi. Thank you very much, sir. Thank you, Steve. Over the past several weeks, more and more Americans have begun to examine the relationship between police and the black community.
George Floyd was not the first black person to die in police custody. There have been many more, including Michael Brown.
We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again.
Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014 after Brown's death. President Obama established a task force to look at police reform. The group's recommendations were adopted by many police departments across the country. But the number of Americans killed by police each year is still at about 1000 annually. That's according to data compiled by The Washington Post. George Floyd and Michael Brown are names on a very, very long list. And that list is part of a centuries old history of black Americans dying at the hands of police.
Randa Abdel-Fattah and Rhum team Arab Louis of NPR's history podcast Throughline, set out to learn the origins of policing in America. And they started in the South. In this country, for the years that cover the six hundred to the mid 19th century, the most dominant presence of law enforcement was what we call today slave patrols. That's what made up policing. This is Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a historian at the Harvard Kennedy School. And perhaps the most revealing aspect of the way slave patrols functioned is that they were explicit in their design to empower the entire white population with the duty to police movements of black people.
So the tying together early on, the surveillance, the deputization essentially of all white men to be police officers or in this case slave patrollers and then to dispense corporal punishment on the scene are all baked in.
From the very beginning, these southern slave patrols were eventually disbanded after the Confederacy lost the Civil War. But the violent control of newly freed black citizens continued.
A number of Confederate states began to pass these mega bills, these crime bills that we call today, black codes, and they try to cover just about everything they would need to maintain absolute control over black folks as, quote unquote, freedmen and freed women. But the 13th Amendment abolished slavery except as punishment for crime. So in some ways, the genius of the former Confederate states was to say, oh, well, if all we need to do is make them criminals and they can be put back in slavery, well, then that's what we'll do.
And that's exactly what the Black Code set out to do. The South was slow to formalize policing, so in the decades following the Civil War, these codes were enforced by vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
This is partly what sparked the Great Migration when millions of southern blacks went north in search of better and safer lives. But what very few of these migrants could have known was that northern cities had been developing their own professional police forces.
And part of the context for early modern policing was that the immigrant population of Europeans, particularly the Irish, were generating a similar kind of social anxiety, xenophobic, nativist, racist reaction. The early emphasis on people whose status was just a tiny notch better than the folks who they were focused on policing. And so the Anglo Saxon are policing the Irish, the Irish are policing the Poles. And so this dynamic that's playing out is that police officers are a critical feature of establishing a racial hierarchy, even among white people.
This is the system southern black migrants were met with when they arrived in northern cities where they quickly learned they were no safer up north than they were down south.
When a white person throws a Molotov cocktail into a new black homeowner on a street that had previously been all Irish or all Polish or all German, the police come and they arrest the black family and defend the white mob.
This happens over and over again. They are policing the racial norms of white supremacy from the very beginning in the north. And so what are these black folks do who are observing all of this, they begin to write about it. Web Dubois is writing for the NAACP magazine. He has essentially a police blotter which systematically details all the examples of police brutality directed against African-Americans everywhere. The National Urban League begins to do a systematic survey research, and they overwhelmingly see that police officers are doing essentially stop and frisk policing.
In the 1920s, other researchers looked at this all over the country and began to come to the same conclusion that these big cities had a systemic, massive policing problem. The thing about police there's just is so blatant is that they are the most visible representation of the state in most people's lives, especially for black people. So, for example, in nineteen thirty five, one of the leading black sociologists publishes a really poignant statement about what police officers represent to the black community.
He says too often the policeman's club is the only instrument of the law with which the Negro comes into contact. Disingenuous in him, a distrust and resentful attitude toward all public authorities and law officers. He's saying, look, police officers are directly responsible for telling black people how much their lives don't matter in this society. The irony about police professionalization that is occurring by the 1930s and will carry us into the 21st century is that part of police science begins to draw on crime statistics and sociological research about the innate or cultural tendencies of black people to criminality, which then legitimate racist notions of black people as a race of criminals.
Part of this professionalization is to say those are the only real criminals we have to worry about.
And so the question that has to be asked in the wake of George Floyd and I think this question is being asked and answered by more white people than I've seen in my lifetime, is do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights and dignity and lives of black and in too many cases, brown, indigenous and Asian populations in this country? That was Khalil Gibran Muhammad speaking with the hosts of NPR's Throughline podcast, Rund Abdelfattah and Ramtane Arab Loui.
One rallying cry following George Floyds death was to defund the police. And there have been calls from some to abolish the police altogether. That's put pressure on political leaders around the country to rethink what public safety could look like in their cities. One of them is Jillian Johnson, the mayor pro tem of Durham, North Carolina, who spoke to NPR's Michel Martin.
Mayor Pro Tem Johnson, welcome. Thank you so much for talking to us. Thank you for having me. We're seeing this this this conversation being had in city councils in New York and in Los Angeles. So we're starting to hear this a lot and not just with sort of street activist, but also people who have elected positions.
So how did you first start thinking about this issue in this way? What kind of got you on this path?
Sure. So my I'm an organizer by training and background and have worked a lot with the issues around policing, around incarceration. And so coming into office, I was really interested in thinking about ways that we could transform policing in our community, focus on community safety, and figure out ways that we can build for a safer community and a healthier community without always relying on policing.
So when you talk about defund, are you talking about just scrapping the police department entirely or what do you have in mind when you say that?
Yeah, I think that there are certainly some people who want to completely get rid of police departments and start from scratch with something new. It's difficult to go immediately from what we have now to nothing, because we've told our residents for years and years that whenever anything goes wrong, the answer is to call the police. So I really think about it as building up alternative systems for providing community safety and transferring the resources that we have invested into policing into those systems so that our communities are always being taken care of.
I do understand from reading about you and your work that the department in Durham has embraced certain reforms in recent years, implementing body cams, for example, requiring a written consent for search parties.
And I raise that is that there are those who would argue what we really need here is reform, not a radical restructuring, that if more departments actually did the kinds of things that Durham has done, then you wouldn't need to rethink the whole thing.
What would you say about that?
I think that the reforms that we've made in Durham have been really substantial and very important in our police department has been very receptive to them. Our new police chief has been an advocate of reform. I think, though, ultimately this is a system that was not created or designed to serve communities, especially black communities. Our best chance for building a safety solution that puts people first, that puts communities first, that takes care of people rather than criminalizes incarcerates and punishes them, is by shifting resources that we use for policing into other systems, alternative systems, alternative institutions, rather than the institutions that we know are also causing us harm.
I know that when we were speaking before, you talked about the fact that do armed police really need to respond to a mental health crisis, for example? Give us a sense of what a different, less police forward response to public safety could look like.
Sure, absolutely. Armed police do not need to respond to the majority of mental health crises. And in most cities in Durham, this is certainly true. A significant number of our calls for police are actually these sort of crisis calls, you know, mental health calls or calls that really just need someone to de-escalate a situation. And so sending an armed police officer into that situation can actually escalate the conflict. Moving resources into that sort of crisis response team is definitely a goal that I have for my community.
There's lots of work that police officers do that, in my opinion, does not require someone to be armed and authorized to use deadly force. I think that there are a lot of jobs, a lot of social work that we have assigned to police departments just for lack of alternative systems. And I think it's past time that we start building up those systems so that we have institutions in place that don't expose people to the risk of violence, that don't expose people to the risk of incarceration.
Just in the years that I've been covering this, I've just observed that when when you talk about these issues, sometimes it just evokes this furious reaction, even if. Raising the idea of directing resources elsewhere or having a response to public safety that isn't so police centric, has that been your experience and why do you think that is?
That has definitely been my experience. It's just one of those hot button political issues that gets people really caught up. Intense emotions. I think like the reason it evokes such a strong reaction is that it really forces people to deal with some of the the roots of our country that we don't like to look at the fact that police were established as a white supremacist institution, that they were created to police black people and protect white property there. There's a lot of history there that I think people don't know, don't want to know, don't want to look at, don't want to accept.
You know, a lot of folks just aren't ready to deal with how damaging this institution is, how dangerous it is for people of color. White folks are taught to to trust the police, that the police are their friend, that the police are there to help them. And black folks largely are not taught that. And it's a very significant disconnect. I think, you know, people kind of exist in two different worlds with regards to how they think about policing those ideas.
And those feelings are just really deep rooted. And when they're challenged, it causes a lot of anger, a lot of emotional angst for people.
Jillian Johnson is mayor pro tem in Durham, North Carolina. Madam Mayor, Pro Tem, thank you so much for speaking with us. I hope we'll talk again. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. The pressure to change policing in America reached Capitol Hill in June. House Democrats passed a police reform bill while Senate Republicans turned to their only black member, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, to draft their bill. Congressional efforts stalled, but before that happened, I spoke with Senator Scott.
And what struck me most was what he had to say about his own experiences with police.
Well, you typically never forgive them because they're demeaning and by nature and they are the kind of scar your soul a little bit at a time. And so I would just say that seven times I was stopped as an elected official before before I became a senator I was in one year was just a tough year because you want to be supportive of law enforcement, but when you feel targeted, it makes it harder to be supportive. I said thankfully, enough good experiences as well as the tough ones that I can actually be supportive of law enforcement.
I would say that this year I was pulled over by an officer who said that I used my turn signal late in my lane change.
Now, I'm not sure that's the thing or not, but I was pulled over for that. And talking to some of the police chiefs that I know after that incident, they tell me that that's one of the tactics that have often been used to take a look at the car, take a whiff in the air. And it's just it's just tough to think of yourself as a target for just driving while black. And it's one of the reasons why when I was on county council, I brought attention to it.
When I was in Congress, I thought about it. Now, as a senator, I've done several speeches on the importance of restoring trust in our institutions, which starts with the institution that has the power and the authority to execute harsh, harsh treatment.
If I may ask, was there something about that particular interaction you just mentioned when you got stopped for, I guess, using your turn signal too early? Was there something specific about what unfolded that made you feel you were indeed singled out because of your race?
Well, the the officers parked on the side of the road, so I saw them. So it's nearly impossible for me to not know that you're following. Every specific protocol is important. And I've done it before. And frankly, I've been stopped enough to make that judgment call, frankly. And I have other times when I was following a member of my team, we were going the same speed. The police pulled me over in my vehicle, let him go, and said that they thought maybe my vehicle was stolen.
They did say that they pulled me over because I was black.
They just stopped me for a reason that was crazy because all you have to do is look up the license plate on this car. It is. So if you if you find yourself on the wrong side of those stops, often enough, you come to the conclusion that there must be something unique about yourself. That was Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina speaking about his encounters with police.
So where do we go from here? Coming up, we're going to hear from descendants of the freed slave, Frederick Douglass, and civil rights icons on what they see for the future. Stay with us. Hey, I'm Sam Sanders, host of It's Been a Minute on my show, we catch you up on all the things in news and culture, the space force. I totally missed this. What is the space for stop in space? I don't know about space for you know what?
I've been in my apartment for four months. Oh, man. Crushing it to make you feel feeling good news without the despair.
Listen now to the it's been a minute podcast from NPR. This is a special report from NPR News, Summer of Racial Reckoning. I'm Ailsa Chang. George Floyds death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. And the protests that ensued throughout the country came after years and years of police brutality against black people. This is far from the first time people have taken to the streets demanding change. And yet black people have continued to be killed by white police officers as a system of racial injustice perpetuates.
We started the series with a conversation with NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates from our podcast on race Code Switch. She spoke with my co-host for this series, Rachel Martin.
Protests are still happening, right? There are still people on the streets in cities across the country. Yes, but it's much quieter than it was in those early days after George Floyds death. Congress has attempted to pass a federal police reform bill. It has failed in that effort.
Does it still feel like we are at an inflection point yet still feels like everything's very unsettled, like things can still be negotiated? I think everything's just very up in the air. And the fact that this happened about 100 days before our next presidential election is, I think, making things harder, because I think people who might have been inclined to bend a little bit at either end maybe aren't, because they're worried about how their constituents are going to receive that.
And so it makes it harder to get anything done.
So, Kiran, I think it's our our natural tendency, human desire to always look for the hope. Right. Look for the good. I want to play some tape of how a couple other people answered that same question. This is Karen Attia of The Washington Post and Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker.
Let's listen. I hesitate to answer that question. When people ask about hope or optimism, we sometimes think in the American sense that things will invariably get better. And there's a kind of fairy tale optimism, that kind of cheap optimism. You know, it is entirely possible that this situation will remain as it is, is entirely possible that the situation will get worse. You know, I hold to the possibility that things can get better, but by no means should we kind of rest on our laurels and assume that it automatically will.
You know, when I hear, you know, people looking to me like we're going to be OK, right. We're going to be fine, I ask who the we is. And I like, you know, James Baldwin's answers from way back in the day. You know, many of us in the black community feel like we are waiting for white America to make its progress. And now so much of it is being caught on camera as being seen as being visible.
Sure. So how do we turn that visibility into a more just and more fair and more democratic society? That is what requires constant work. And as long as people are willing to do that work, there is hope.
That was Karen of The Washington Post and Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker. So, Karen, I mean, when you hear that, what do you make of what Karen Attiya said? Are people willing to do that work?
I feel like but it's just a sense I don't know anything for sure that this is different and that it feels as if people are going to be willing to hang in there for a longer period of time and that their expectations are that they will be change and that it doesn't happen overnight and that it won't happen without everybody working on it. So take a chunk of this and move and do it.
So in all of that, I still sense some kind of hope in your voice.
Yeah, I don't know. I'm a natural born cynic, and that's that's my default, my default mode.
So it would be hard for me to give you an unqualified. Yes, but I will tell you that college friends of mine have often said over the years that we spent time in the streets. You know, we demonstrated for this we were pushing for divestment in South Africa. We blah, blah, blah. And what are these kids doing? You know, they're making little videos and putting them online. And so I thought was these children.
But we were wrong because these kids are actually taking up the mantle and doing things they're doing. What John Lewis urged us all to do in his last op ed. You know, they're. Getting in good trouble, necessary trouble, and I hope that continues, because if we don't question the way things are, why is there any interest in having them change from the institutions that need to change? It won't be it won't be easy. It won't be fun.
It'll be contentious along the way, I think. But what I hope is that people on all sides feel as if they have a stake in this.
That is Benjamin Franklin said about signing the Declaration of Independence, or we hear he said this. You know, we all have to.
Hang together or we'll hang separately if this thing doesn't work. I think if this thing doesn't work, this country is going to be in a lot of trouble. I would like for us to hang together. I would love for us to reach that point of beloved community that Dr. King and Congressman Lewis talked about and, you know, yearned for and work toward. I don't frankly know that it's going to happen in my lifetime, but I would like to see us on the way to that.
So that's as helpful as I can get for you, Rachel.
Karen Grigsby Bates, senior correspondent for NPR's Code Switch podcast. Karen, thanks for talking with me. You're welcome. Veterans of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s do feel hopeful about this moment. Two of them, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Josie Johnson, say the protests this summer are reminiscent of the protests that happened in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Jackson worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was with him when he was assassinated despite being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Jackson remains dedicated to the civil rights movement he's been part of for more than half a century. Johnson participated in the March on Washington in 1963 and was a representative from Minnesota then where she has lived for most of her 89 years. They shared their thoughts with NPR's Steve Inskeep.
What do you think when people see an incident like the death of George Floyd and they say nothing has changed in America? I have been involved in this struggle almost all of my life since I was a teenager, 14, so to be here at this moment and observe a police officer whose attitude seemed so careless and unconcerned, and if that young woman had not videotaped that experience, we would have heard the police once again indicate that George Foy was trying to escape, thank God.
Now, what I'm concerned about is we've been engaged in police work ever since. I can remember. We now have a police chief in Minneapolis who has declared his commitment to justice and equality. And obviously that has not been heard.
If you're white and black, America rise up and fight back the supermarket in the front, the progress that is progress.
And we've lived long enough to try to be hopeful again.
The march is a hope of the Muslims are full of hope. They believe something could happen. That's right. Well, the mood, we're not going backwards.
And just see, not only are we not going backwards, we must hold on to what we've learned and encourage support, protect our children.
We have got to help them make a difference so that the next generation I think about my great grandchildren, I've got three that I worry about. Are they going to grow up in an environment which they have to continue to struggle, as you just see, have struggled.
And I have struggled with dream without the right to vote. Now we bring with power. We must put in perspective. That's a balance. Must must be challenged because policies of the diversion. From the rediscuss and burning cars, as opposed to discussing police behavior, it is also apply the right wing. We use violence to manipulate America's emotions. Dr. King was the first few days of the riot. People understood it, but Nixon was able to turn the riots into a sheer white people and elect himself on law and on the basis we must not allow any element to invade our ranks.
We believe in no direct action. I believe in voting. We're not going to give up, we're not going to stop, you know, I'd like to ask because you brought up 1968. A lot of people in recent days have compared the crisis the United States faces now to 1968. How do you compare 20/20 to 1968? Well, in fact, the reason why the police have been killing blacks in mass is that we have a different quality politician.
If we had right wing, well, they would be trained police to secure people and there were no killings, because I think you're telling me that there would have been a lot of dead people in these protests if the police tactics or the political leaders had been the tactics and leaders of 1968, as I said, I mean, in 1967, Dr. King did a rally in Houston, Texas.
Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte hosted it. Another case up on the stage to give Aretha Franklin flowers they put together and the fans in the back of the auditorium, yeah, progress has been made, the attempt to turn the clock back. We're not going back.
It's not possible, given the history of oppression in America, for us to say if we change the police, that's going to make it. It's it's systemic. It's everywhere. And so we need to educate and train and be encouraged that some of this may work with our police officers. But we also have to encourage, train, educate, teachers, governors, mayors, council people. It's through out the system. That's the pity of it. And we just need to keep on keeping on as a people and not let our generation of young people now feel that it's not going to work.
We've got a vote. We've got to get our people out there. They make a difference and they know it. And we have got to hold on to the spirit and support of our young people. Who are the you, Jesse, of 1960s?
They can't let this happen again.
Well, Josie Johnson and Reverend Jesse Jackson, thanks to both of you. Thank you. George Floyds death and the protests his death inspired are a moment now in a long story that generations of black Americans have become part of.
We're going to close this hour by hearing from some of the members of a younger generation of black Americans, descendants of Frederick Douglass, the great great great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass is my great, great, great, great counting on my fingers.
I was like, I am the great, great, great, great grandchild of Frederick Douglass.
NPR asked some of them to read Douglass speech about the Fourth of July.
This is the Fourth of July is the birthday of your national independence and of your political freedom.
Fellow citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects.
Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men and if they did not go mad, they became restive.
Under this treatment with brave men, there's always a remedy for oppression. They succeeded, and today you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours, and you therefore may properly celebrate this anniversary.
Fellow citizens. Pardon me. Allow me to ask why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to us.
I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.
Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common.
The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.
The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice.
I must mourn fellow citizens above your national tumultuous joy. I hear the mournful wail of millions at a time like this.
Scorching irony, not a convincing argument is needed.
Oh, had I the ability and could reach the nation's ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting, ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm and stern rebuke.
For it is not light that is needed, but fire. It is not the gentle shower, but thunder.
We need the storm, the whirlwind and the earthquake.
The feeling of the nation must be quickened. The conscience of the nation must be roused.
The propriety of the nation must be startled. The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer a day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham.
Your boasted liberty and unholy license, your national greatness, swelling vanity, your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless, your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted mutants, your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery, your prayers and hymns, your sermons and Thanksgivings with all your religious parade and solemnity are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception in piety and hypocrisy.
There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. Allow me to say in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture, I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.
The Fourth of July still doesn't mean that much, we're still second class citizens.
I don't think it's hopeless. Somebody once said that pessimism is a tool of white oppression, and I think that's true, I think in many ways we are still slaves to the notion that it will never get better. But I think that there is hope, and I think it's important that we celebrate black joy and black life and we remember that change is possible. Change is probable. And that there's hope. That was Izidor Douglas Skinner. You also heard from Alexa and Watson, Hayley Rose Watson, Zoe Douglas Skinner and Douglas Washington marks the second, all of them descendants of Frederick Douglass reading his speech.
What to a Slave is the Fourth of July? Hey, thanks for listening to this Sunday edition of Up First. That completes this series on racial justice, but there is much more to here on NPR, Dawg and on your NPR station. You can find us here tomorrow for all the latest news.