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What Happens When You Step Out of Line

Jamala Rogers: This thing, this is the notion that when Black people enter a particular white institution, they should suffer the slings and arrows silently because they knew the nature of the beast, the beast being systematic racism.
When You Step Out of Line

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exposed what a bunch of us already suspected. The biracial Megan wasn’t getting the royal treatment. Further, that sistah-girl was not likely to put up with it for long. There were some who believed that Megan should’ve known what she was getting herself into - a white, hierarchy wrapped in monarchal traditions. The princess had made her bed, now she must lie in it.

A recent “60 Minutes” segment 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 she would face?

This thing, this is the notion that when Black people enter a particular white institution, they should suffer the slings and arrows silently because they knew the nature of the beast, the beast being systematic racism.

I think about other Black folks who accepted certain responsibilities and knew it would be no crystal stair. They had to endure personal and professional attacks that their white counterpart never dreamed of. Blacks challenging white institutions with their bodies often pay a high price. The history of violence against Black people who dared to buck the white status quo is well documented.

When Black women push open the doors of organized religion to serve the same way as male priests, ministers, and pastors, these sistahs’ expectations to be ordained and accepted by a denomination are met with resistance and ridicule.

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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. Between 1947 and 1974, there was not much racial progress on the baseball fields. As Aaron approached the home run record of white icon Babe Ruth, he received hate mail and death threats. Should he have expected this reception?

We can only imagine the issues of safety that President Obama and First Lady Michelle have to confront on a regular basis.

This thing, this is the notion that when Black people enter a particular white institution, they should suffer the slings and arrows silently because they knew the nature of the beast, the beast being systematic racism. These courageous folks made - and continue to make - a conscious choice to cross the unspoken line.

We cannot ask the drum majors of the world to lead us if we don’t support them and 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 Meghan 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, Berry Gordy, Tiger Woods and many others who were the first in arenas deemed for whites only.

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We should not leave them hanging. Instead, we can stand beside those who are working to shatter the foundations of oppressive systems that limit the boundaries of human potential.

Jamala Rogers
Black Commentator