When I was a child, Sunday school was a fun place to hear Bible stories and discover biblical truths. One of my favorite stories was Joshua and the walls of Jericho. I imagined marching armies and hearing trumpets made of rams’ horns blowing so loud it collapsed a wall. Often, my parents would add to the story; and, in this case, they told me that if hate and bigotry were inside the walls, good people would make those walls come down.
These last few days, many good people have tried to bring down the wall of racism and end the disparity in America. In our country, the life spans of African Americans will be less than those of whites. The employment opportunities, promotion and salaries of African Americans will usually be less than their white peers. Promotional opportunities will remain elusive as always. Housing opportunities, particularly homeownership, will be significantly less. The educational opportunities will be unlike those of white children, whether the schools are public or private. The likelihood of incarceration of Black men will be significantly higher and the sentencing longer.
When hope is elusive, only anger and despair remain. The pent-up anger in the Black community is no longer restrained, particularly when hopelessness prevails. What we are witnessing in these times is the product of profound distrust. The political, business and health-care systems of our great country need to stop being indifferent to Black lives.
All my life, I dreamed of racial equality. Once I stood on a rooftop to have my photo taken with then Gov. Gary Locke and Seattle Mayor Norm Rice. I was the King County Executive. Here we were, people of color, heading for the first time in the history of this country the three largest governments of any state. Then Barack Obama was sworn as president of the United States. I was even more hopeful when he was elected to his second term. I thought my grandchildren’s dream and those of others like me would be unhindered by race, judged only by skills and talents, unleashed and unrestrained.
Seven decades ago, the poet Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over — like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”