Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Hello my name is Terry. Most people don’t know my story. It isn’t one that I feel safe sharing. It isn’t a pretty story. I had hoped that I would not feel compelled to share it ever again. But today as I stand here with a heavy heart for Trayvon Martin and his loved ones, I will share a story about racism in Utah.
The last shreds of childhood innocence were stolen from me when I was 15 years old. In 1980 a racist serial killer came to Salt Lake City, Utah with the hopes of starting a race war. We were unaware as he stalked us that night. He shot and murdered my African American friends, Ted Fields and David Martin and shot me for race mixing.
Life was never the same after that day. The emotional and physical toll it took on the families of these incredible young men is immeasurable. That night, every ounce of innocence was drained from our lives. It’s been almost 32 years since that horrible crime. I still remember every single detail. It’s part of my history. It is part of Utah’s history. I think of Ted, Dave and their loved ones every single day, as I will for Trayvon and his loved ones.
I’ve come to understand that racism is like cancer. You can’t put a band aid on cancer and expect it to disappear. If you ignore it and don’t address it immediately it will spread and grow until it kills.
We are in need of rational truthful dialogue to eradicate and heal it once and for all.
I believe the cure for racism’s curse are the conversations we are uncomfortable having.
American’s must FACE the past of our ancestors and the present norm in society regarding race relations. There is no other way. It won’t be a pretty picture, oppression never was. We must seek the truth and avoid the tendency to fight to be right. It is time to listen and truly hear the truth.
If we are to heal the cancer of racism, we must KNOW the stories of the oppressed to understand the effect it has on its victims and our society.
Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.
Education can cure the fear or hate passed on to our children. Knowledge is powerful. It transforms us into who we are meant to be. It makes us whole.
As Brian Jones, a brilliant teacher and activist said, “Racism is product of believing that some people are not worthy of justice and those people are overwhelmingly young and black and male. That the best place for them is prison or an invisible cage of post felony life. George Zimmerman saw what society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal. The criminal justice system seems to be afraid of these cases, of creating real justice for these men. Because to deal with them we would have to reveal the depths of racism in our system.”
Trayvon’s murder has become an invitation to join the discussion of equality, racism and justice in America.
We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our world to learn our true history. We must hear the stories of the oppressed and honor their journey and love them.
There should not be an “us and them” any more. Humanity is the color of water, not skin.
Isn’t it time for us to help humanity join the human race?
How can one person change this huge problem in our country? I can tell you what works for me.
When I lose hope and become overwhelmed with the complexities of healing from the racism in our world, I reflect on the NAACP Value statement. It is my compass.
* I believe all Americans have equal rights and equal value.
* I cherish the diverse cultures, beliefs, and values of America.
* I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.
* I repudiate all acts of racism and hate, both in words and action.
* I have faith in the promise of America – a promise built on mutual respect,
common civility, and hope for a better tomorrow.
* I commit to building that better America by participating actively and
peacefully in the democratic process.
I think Dr King said it best in 1963
“Let us all hope the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away & the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities. In some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love & brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
For me, these are the timeless truths that fosters hope in humanity and continue to heal my broken heart. I am directed to pay attention to the Light, that Light that brought us here and will escort us on the way home.