open letter newport ri

Americans blast foreign countries for their lack of human rights, civil rights, and animal rights. We thump our chest with pride when we compare our democracy to third world dictatorships. But are we that different? 

There is another voice, growing by the day. It’s a revolutionary point of view that looms like the ghost of Christmas past, conjured over four hundred years of broken promises and stall tactics, pointing a long finger at the urgent necessity for change.

Formerly enslaved Africans in America have been tricked, swindled and duped more times than anyone can remember. Yet the parade of politicians, celebrity ministers, and political priests are asking the young rebels of today to repeat the failed patterns of the past, suggesting that peaceful protest, progressive police reform and federal laws are the sustainable way to fix this problem. 

Unhindered by the editorial eyes of mainstream media, today’s young revolutionaries witness atrocities streamed in real time, virtually putting them at the scene. So, when two days later, some bureaucrat utters an official perspective filled with legalese, half-truths and pacifying platitudes, they don’t trust the official version. They trust what they saw.

For many Black people in this country over the age of forty, the fear of losing the progress we’ve gained keeps us tethered to the abuser we were forced to wed. The new generation of revolutionaries are saying if Black and Brown people have to live under constant fear of losing progress because of the way we protest for freedom and justice, we are not free. A swelling number of white people agree. The paradigm has shifted, and a rise of voting-age white people of every gender identity and faith are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods to stop law enforcement from terrorizing Black and Brown communities. 

African countries, led by Burkina Faso, requested that the United Nations Human Rights Council investigate the systemic racism, police brutality, and violence against peaceful protests in America. The world is watching, and the established civil rights community sees this as an opportunity to strengthen the reformation of the criminal justice system. 

Revolutionaries are not asking for the reformation of a bad system. They demand the reconstruction of a new one. But there are millions of Americans who don’t. They see America as the most desired destination for people on the planet. If you are raised here, it’s easy to agree.  America does so many things well, we tend to overlook the fundamental cracks in our foundation. We say this is the place where anything is possible. We created jazz, Google, and Thaddeus Stevens. But we also created napalm, the FISA Court, and Donald Trump. 

As a middle-aged Black man, I believe in the grand possibilities of this country but think it’s silly to crown ourselves as the greatest nation on earth. We’re not there yet. Especially when we can’t protect our citizens from the very people paid to protect them.

This issue rises every few decades, and we always end up in the same place. It made me smile to hear a twenty-year-old activist say, “We’re not marching and fighting for a better tomorrow. We want better today!”  

Outside of a Steven King novel, can you imagine an officer or anyone kneeling on the throat of your brother until there are no signs of life?  Who would you call for help? The police officer who has his knee on your brother’s throat? Incidents like these are not rare or isolated. They happen all the time to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters in America. 

But you can stop it. You have the individual power to stop police brutality and judicial injustice. When you see something, make it your business, and do something. Disrupt the cycle of abuse and save a life. The social tsunami confronting us today can be a powerful source of positive energy, if we choose to accept it.

Venson Jordan, Glocester, RI

Venson Jordan is an internationally known African American author who lives in Washington, D.C. and Rhode Island. His most recent book, The Rebel Marcus Madison (2017), is a thought provoking and prescient fictional story about an upstanding Black couple needlessly killed by law enforcement officers. It touches upon fear, faith and fairness for Black and Brown people in America and around the world.


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