“It is probably true to say that there would be no crisis in race relations if the Negro continued to think of himself in inferior terms and patiently accepted injustice and exploitation. But it is at this very point that the change has come. For many years, the Negro tacitly accepted segregation. The system of slavery and segregation caused many Negroes to feel that perhaps they were inferior. Indeed this is the ultimate tragedy of segregation. It not only harms one physically, but it injures one spiritually. It scars the soul and distorts the personality. It inflicts the segregator with a false sense of superiority, while inflicting the segregated with a false sense of inferiority… And so there has been a revolutionary change in the Negro’s evaluation of his nature and destiny and a concomitant determination to achieve freedom and human dignity, whatever the cost may be… It is sociologically true that privileged classes rarely ever give up their privileges without strong resistance. It is also sociologically true that once oppressed people rise up against their oppression, there is no stopping point short of full freedom.”

Dr. King spoke these words on December 4, 1957. He could very easily have been talking about today in America. There are still some individuals that want Black people to see themselves as inferior. This element of society wants us to ignore our lived experiences and pretend that racism is nonexistent. They want us to believe what they call the truth, even though we know they are liars.

Lies from those who want to maintain systemic racism can’t make us suddenly forget the past. Recently I wrote an article for this column that made someone on Facebook upset enough to call me a racist. As is my policy, I don’t argue with trolls on social media. This person called me a racist because I refuse to accept the lies he believes in. He claimed that I called a Black U.S. Senator an Uncle Tom because he denies systemic racism.

What this individual showed me, is that he cannot read very well. I never used the term Uncle Tom. I simply said that Senator Tim Scott embarrassed himself by trying to tell us that racism does not exist. The troll went further by claiming that I say people are wrong simply because they don’t agree with me.

I don’t do what I do to gain approval and acceptance and agreement. I speak the truth as I see it and see no reason to be afraid to do so. Apparently this individual wants me to accept that racism is a thing of the past. Anyone who knows me can tell you that that will never happen.

There are certain core principles I live by. The first of those is to respect my ancestors by telling their truths. I don’t care that some people disagree with what I write. I will not stop being honest because it brings discomfort to some who choose to be dishonest. I will not allow myself to fall into the trap of arguing with those who see the world in the exact opposite way that I do. Those conversations are useless.

Most importantly, this White man who called me a racist, needs to get off of his high horse and understand that his words will not deter me from telling the truth. His truths, which fly in the face of copious historical and contemporary evidence, will never be my truths. I’m not trying to come to some consensus with him or anyone else who feels a need to deny my reality. These are things I will not forget.

  1. That my family was held captive by a White family in Yalobusha County, Mississippi in a system that most call slavery.
  2. That their kidnapping and captivity held my family back from living their lives in the way they chose.
  3. That from 1619 until 1865 the institution of buying and selling Black people and keeping them in shackles was perfectly legal in this country.
  4. That when slavery ended, it did not end, because the convict lease system, and other forms of forced labor continued to exist for seven decades and that in our prisons today men and women work for pennies per hour because the 13th Amendment made an exception for forced labor for those incarcerated.
  5. That in my hometown in Mississippi, my family attended poorly funded and maintained schools that were designated for Black students only.
  6. That I could not swim in the same swimming pool as White children as a child in my hometown.
  7. That the Civil Rights Movement changed laws but not every heart and mind.
  8. That these Black people have lost their lives in incidents with law enforcement or White citizens: Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, LaQuan McDonald, Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michelle Cusseaux, Akai Gurley, Tanisha Anderson, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Timmothy Russell, Malissa Williams, John Crawford III, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Samuel DuBose, Sandra Bland, Jamar Clark, Terence Crutcher, Jonathan Ferrell, Ezell Ford, Charles Roundtree Jr., Antwon Rose, Jordan Edwards, Oscar Grant, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, James Byrd Jr., Emmett Till, James Chaney, Earnest Lacy, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Medgar Evers, Rev. George Lee, Mack Charles Parker, Herbert Lee, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Virgil Lamar Ware, Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn and countless others I could mention.
  9. That thousands of Black people across the country were openly lynched by White people dressed in their Sunday’s best clothing with their children and grandchildren standing by their sides, with no fear of being held accountable.
  10. The dozens of Black communities were attacked and some completely destroyed in anti-black race riots from the end of the Civil War through the 1940s across the country.
  11. That voting rights, which many Black people gave their lives for, are being dismantled by state after state while Congress does nothing to end the practice.
  12. That 200,000 Black men, including my great-great-great-great-grandfather, fought in the Civil War to end slavery in a state that still celebrates with statues and holidays, the people who fought to keep them in chains.
  13. The descendants of those who lost the bloodiest war in the nation’s history continue to claim the war was not about slavery.
  14. That Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 Black people during his life including as many as 200 when he penned the Declaration of Independence.
  15. That in Milwaukee today over 50 percent of all Black children live in poverty caused by dozens of factories closing and leaving poorly paid service sector jobs to replace the 92,000 family supporting wage factory jobs that have gone away in the city since 1963.
  16. That from the late 1800s until the late 1960’s, racial restrictive covenants were written and enforced by White people and the government to keep Black people from legally living in all-white towns, cities and subdivisions with the support of U.S. courts including the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the Federal Housing Administration.
  17. That Black GI’s coming back from fighting in WWI were lynched in their uniforms and that most Black WWII veterans were denied access to the GI Bill’s free education, and home and business loans.
  18. That the U.S. military was segregated when my great-grandfather went to fight in an all-Black unit during WWI in Europe.
  19. That Black people in this country on average have about 10 percent of the wealth Whites have because they were denied the opportunity to build generational wealth by the federal government, realtors, bankers and insurance companies for decades.
  20. That Blacks consistently get inferior medical care as compared to their White peers.
  21. That Black people in Milwaukee were pulled over at exorbitant rates by the Milwaukee Police Department for years, even in neighborhoods where they were a minuscule portion of the population.
  22. That racist practices and policies like Jim Crow segregation were perfectly legal in this country until Black people fought to end them, not because White people woke up one day and decided to do the right thing.
  23. That those Jim Crow laws mandated discrimination against Black people, literally making it illegal to not discriminate against Blacks.
  24. That peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors across the country have been met by militarized police forces using rubber bullets, riot batons, teargas and armored vehicles purchased with tax dollars from the U.S. military, while Americans sit back and refuse to shed a tear or show any level of empathy.
  25. That there are easily hundreds of other items I could add to this list.

Unless I can somehow forget all of these things and the multitude of other evidence of racism that is freely available in the public record, I will continue to call those that refuse to believe these things deniers of the truth.

Denials will not deter me in my efforts. Calling me a racist because I point out these truths will not deter me. Attempts to end the teaching of these truths in schools across the country, including right here in Wisconsin, will not deter me. I will not be deterred because some Black people refuse to admit the truth of systemic racism. My freedom journey does not include rest stops. The battle is never-ending.

Dr. King told us this in 1957.

“I cannot close this message without saying to you that the problem of race is indeed America’s greatest moral dilemma… Now in a sense all of us must live the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things in our social system to which I’m proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation or the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to an economic system that will take necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes… The world is in desperate need of such maladjustment. And through such courageous maladjustment, we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.”

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Lee Matz