On Aug. 28, 1963, my mother took the bus from her Washington, D.C., apartment to join the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial. That day, some 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.
She heard the famous words, “I have a dream today,” from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mouth. A young white girl from the black-Irish ghetto, she walked with her grandmother, their neighbors and friends.
King applauded my mother’s efforts, along with all those marching, when he said, “Many of our white brothers and sisters, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
I share this piece of history to emphasize a point — racial bias has existed in the country since its founding. It is not an issue that any one race can conquer alone. Even with law, morality and justice screaming for equal treatment, some people refuse to see those from other demographics as human.
This certainly applies to judgment based on skin color, but it does not end there. Bias against certain accents, genders, or orientations is real. Some people let clothing influence how they see others, be it religious attire or professional uniforms.
I’ve been caught up in news reporting on the recent protests from Salt Lake City, which ended in destruction. I worry for the victims of violent protesters. I am sorry for the victims of hate crime. I feel horrified for the victims of police brutality. I feel devastated by the recent killing of an Ogden police officer.
I am not alone in those feelings. Moral people of every ethnicity are rightly offended by violence and cruelty, especially toward the innocent.
Victims of hate and violence are people. Humans. They long to be seen as such and valued as such.
Interestingly, I had two friends present at the Salt Lake City protests. One is a 19-year-old black man from Ogden who I will call Danny. He was a toddler when I was nanny to him and his brother. Fifteen years ago, Danny taught my baby daughter how to crawl.
Danny was and still is a ray of sunshine. He’s tall, athletic, and endlessly gentle. He typifies the Black Lives Matter movement, as innocent young men like him are often victims of unjustified police action.
When police stand with batons raised or tear gas loaded, I wish they could see Danny giggling on the carpet with my baby girl. I hope they see the loving young man that I tucked into bed at night. I hope they see his humanity.
My other friend who I will call Cody looks completely different from Danny and stands on the opposite side of the police line. He is a National Guard member originally from Cache Valley. A veteran of multiple military operations in several countries, he is brave and loyal.
He typifies the plight of peacekeepers who are honor bound to protect and defend the law against all enemies, even when those enemies feel justified in their fury.
When the protesters press on police lines, hurl insults, and wave bats, I wish they could see Cody for what he is. Human.
I wish the sides could see that the great majority of humans in our country believe the same things; that freedom is for everyone and equal treatment is essential in a just society.
Dr. King’s message of 1963 rings true today. He said, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
To me, brotherhood means stepping back from the lines that divide us. I means seeing people underneath the clothing, and the uniforms, and even underneath their skin.
Human beings cannot walk alone.
I would never condone the acts of violence that have happened in recent months. Black lives do matter. I would never condone the vandalism, looting, and violence that have spread alongside this movement. More often than not, those actions only hurt the communities in which people are already suffering. And I do not support acts of violence either by police or against police.
As Dr. King verbalized in 1963, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
As citizens of this country, we share in both the rights and responsibilities of freedom. We can and should expect the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We can and should voice our opinions when those rights are infringed upon. We should protest when we see injustice. We should also act responsibly for the safety of our communities.
We look different, and at times our goals may seem to be at odds with one another. Anger pits people against one another. It makes us forget that there are humans on both sides of the line.
But our human destinies are tied together. Our actions can either broaden the divide, or close it.
We can hope to attain brotherhood if we see each other as we are — human beings. Heirs to the same liberties. Children of the same God. If my mother could link arms with people of a different race in 1963, we can certainly do the same now. As a state and as a nation, we will succeed in our quest for equality only when we join together. As Dr. King said, we cannot walk alone.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.