As leaders in the black community, we are taking accountability for the actions of our youth – teaching them to put down the guns, to stop selling drugs and to stop using crime as a means of creating income and to create business from the ground up at the street level. We turn to the leaders of the other races, to other nationalities and to the leaders of religious communities to do the same - to take accountability for the action of people as well. Hate crimes are increasing and racism is once again showing it’s ugly face. But what is most common in our communities in America is our parents talking about other races, people of color in negative ways which are passed on to our children. White Americans and the black Americans blaming the Latin Americans for job loss, saying the Mexicans are taking all of our jobs. The Occupy Atlanta movement saying 99 percent are suffering because of the rich one percent.
What? Now is it a sin to be rich living in America? I thought that was the “American Dream.” Is this not what we were all trying to do? We are all trying to build a better life for our children. Why not identify the individuals, the corporations and investment groups that created this economic breakdown and bring them up on charges for endangering the American economy? Identify those that received bailouts from the government, and boycott the banks, Wall Street investors, auto industries and other corporations the American people thought would give money (in the form of loans) and jobs back to America. As we bailed them out, they would bail the America people out.
As a difficult economy is forcing many to seek out blame for these hard times, a new form of racism and classism has developed. Many say the Mexican population is creating economic problems for America. What are you saying? That Mexicans work better than other Americans, making them more hireable as employees? Or are you saying that Mexicans work for cheap, taking jobs that we, as Americans, do not want to do? This is the reason why they are taking American jobs. Making statements like this and saying a thing like this in front of your children is creating this atmosphere of mistrust and hate among the citizens of Atlanta. The targeting of black youths by law enforcement daily, as crime rates show that more than 58 percent of the jail population in Cobb County, for example, is black at the city and county levels. Why? Are the black citizens of America committing more crimes than other races living in America or is this the results of racial profiling, which the police at every level claim, they are not doing? Yet, we all know the truth about that.
If you see a group of white youths walking down the street or riding their bikes, or a group of all white teenage males riding four deep in a car, it's just kids out having fun. But if you see a group of black kids in the streets, it's a gang and they must be stopped, ID checked and in most cases they are arrested. For that reason most of our black youth run when they see the police. When we see a group of Latino mothers with their children walking in the streets or in the local store, they are automatically called illegal aliens and should be deported. Many say "they are taking our jobs."
The truth of the matter is Christopher Columbus, who is credited as discovering America, came from Spain. The Spanish are the ancestors of the people we call Mexicans today. How can we call them illegal? That’s like saying the American Indian can have American citizenship. What? It is their country. We all know that story in history, how the American Indians fought for more than a hundred years for this land which we call America. The truth of the matter is that Georgia was formed as the 13th colony by Great Britain as a military buffer zone for the defense of the Carolina colonies by James Oglethorpe. Georgia is the first living proof that Prison reform works, as Great Britain emptied out its jail giving freedom to those who settle in Georgia and help to start this new colony. Thus was Georgia born? So if you say you are 5th generation Georgian, then what you are saying is that chances are your family came from the prison system of England. And this is not a bad thing, as most came from the debtors' prison for hard economic times, such as the times we are living in today.
Most of the Mexicans that we all talk about are fleeing their country just as the early Georgians did generations ago. They came here looking for a new life and new opportunities to build a new life. If you are black living in Georgia chances are you are the descendants of slaves, who were brought here for their economic value of farming the land and building this great country which is now America. My point is that our history may vary from person to person; the facts remain, that we are all American and we all must come together as one nation of people, if we are to overcome these hard economic times. The only way we can do that is together. Hate crimes are increasing, violent crimes are increasing, if we want America to be the nation we all dream it could be, then we must stop hating one another and start loving one another, no matter the color of your skin.
The Rev. Lionel Gantt,
Cobb SCLC Stop the Violence and Incarceration Movement 2011