Published in the St. Louis American March 28, 2021
Stepping Across the Line
The Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Megan Markle was a bombshell for many. The way biracial Megan was being treated by The Royals was no surprise to most of us. And some of us knew that sistah-girl was not likely to put up with it for long. A few thought out loud that Megan should’ve known what she was getting herself into—a white hierarchy wrapped in a monarchical tradition.
“60 Minutes” exposed the hurdles being placed in front of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner as she attempts to carry out the reform agenda mandated by the voters who have elected her twice. For her commitment to duty, Gardner faces a deluge of daily death threats. When she was sworn in as the first African American prosecutor, should Gardner have been aware of all the racist ugliness that awaited her?
I think about other Black folks who accepted certain responsibilities and knew it would be no crystal staircase. They had to endure personal and professional attacks that their white counterparts would never have. Blacks challenging white institutions with their bodies pay a high price. This is not okay.
Black women push open the doors of organized religion to serve in the same way as male priests, ministers and pastors. These sistahs’ expectation to be ordained and accepted by their denominations have consistently been met with resistance and ridicule.
Black cop Heather Taylor caught hell as the outspoken president of the Ethical Society of Police. ESOP represents non-white St. Louis police officers. Cop chats captured the promise of white officers to stand down if they were ever called as Taylor’s back up in her time of need.
Baseball great Hank Aaron played the sport because he loved it just like Jackie Robinson. Robinson paved the way for Blacks into professional baseball and caught hell for doing so. As Aaron approached the home run record of white icon Babe Ruth, he received hate mail and death threats. Between 1947 when Robinson crossed the color line and 1974 when Aaron crossed the home run record, there was not much racial progress on the baseball fields. Should Hank Aaron have expected this less than enthusiastic reception?
Black folks initially expressed hesitation to support Barack Obama simply because we feared for his life. We knew all too well the history of violence against Black people, especially men, who dared to stand up, who dared to buck the white status quo. We can only imagine the issue of personal safety that President Obama and First Lady Michelle had to confront on a regular basis.
This thing, this notion that when Black people enter a particular white institution, they should suffer the slings and arrows silently because they know the nature of the beast, the beast being systematic racism. These courageous folks make a conscious choice to cross the line to take a stand. For this, they are required to take the bitter with the sweet knowing that their white predecessors did not.
We cannot ask the Dr. Kings of the world to lead us if we don’t fight with them for our collective dignity and power. We cannot elect people to office and leave them to fight for us without us.
As for Megan Markle, I’m sure she understood that there would be some tough times as did Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, General Benjamin Davis, Sr., Jack Johnson, Annie Malone, Josephine Baker, Crystal Bird Fauset, Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, Wesley Bell and many others who were the first in their fields. We should never leave them hanging.
If you don’t know some of the people named above, do some history homework. Then engage in your human and civic duty to stand up whenever others are working to shatter the foundations of oppressive systems that limit the boundaries of human potential.