editors note: this speech was given on October 21, 2016 by a graduate student at the UNL. These words remind us to become one humane community in the face of a polarizing fascist regime.
Let me begin with a quote by the brilliant novelist Toni Morrison-
The past is already in debt to the mismanaged present. And besides, contrary to what you may have heard or learned, the past is not done and it is not over, it’s still in process, which is another way of saying that when it’s critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself. The past is already changing as it is being reexamined, as it is being listened to for deeper resonances. Actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets
Demands for social justice in the United States can be traced back to the nineteenth century movements which advocated abolishing the institution of slavery, extending the ballot, providing equality before the law, and other unfinished battles…This rally, this moment is the tangible embodiment of an unfinished battle for African American’s equal right to live as free and dignified human beings who shape their own life and destiny.
Not one who can at any moment become the victim of extrajudicial murder.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been …Trailblazers of egalitarianism such as William Lloyd Garrison, Seth Concklin, Chief Standing Bear, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Ida B. Wells, George Washington Carver, Franz Boas, Pauli Murray, Fannie Lou Hamer, Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Gloria Steinem, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, Mother Theresa, The Dalai Lama, and many, many others. Responses to the push for social justice brought about during the Civil Rights movement provided historically vulnerable communities with the basic fundamental protection of citizenship in terms of federal policy that had been lacking for hundreds of years.
But we must ask ourselves if these protections are truly upheld in light of the continued extrajudicial killings.?
Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided community? For all of the future’s uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. We cannot reject our society. We must address a better future together. It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of humane community, that we share a common life bond. It can be done.
There is no mandate that can require the American people to form a more humane community. This we must do as individuals, and if we do it as individuals, there is no entity that can stop us.