BAILEY: Emmett Till, George Floyd Generational Wake-Up Calls

For many Black teenagers in my generation, the Jet magazine photo of 14-year-old Emmett Till’s brutalized body after he was lynched by white supremacists was a wake-up call about the true nature of race in the United States. The August 1955 horrific photo gave us a searing memory that still lingers in our souls. Unfortunately, that memory did not lead us to create a strong Black national unity organization designed to promote and protect our human rights in this country.

Hopefully, the white supremacist cold-blooded lynching of George Floyd will encourage the current generation to do what we failed to accomplish. To create the much-needed Black national unity organization, they should study and learn from the following guidelines from committed, visionary warriors, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Brother Malcolm X.

In his book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” Dr. King wrote: “A second important step that the Negro must take is to work passionately for group identity.  This does not mean group isolation or group exclusivity. It means the kind of group consciousness that Negroes need in order to participate more meaningfully at all levels of life in this country.  Group unity necessarily involves group trust and reconciliation….This form of group unity can do infinitely more to liberate the Negro than any action of individuals. We have been oppressed as a group and we must overcome that oppression as a group.”

In a 1963 letter to eight civil rights leaders, Brother Malcolm stated: “If capitalistic Kennedy and communistic Khrushchev can find something in common on which to form a united front despite their tremendous differences, it is a disgrace for Negro leaders not to be able to submerge our ‘minor’ differences in order to seek a common solution to common problems posed by a common enemy.”

At such a meeting, he continued, “There will be no debating, arguing, criticizing or condemning.  I will moderate the meeting and guarantee order and courtesy for all speakers….It will give you a chance to present your views to the largest and explosive element in metropolitan New York.”

It’s critically important that current and future generations of Black folks do a much better job of creating the kind of Black national unity advocated by Dr. King and Brother Malcolm. It is the most effective way to honor the memories of Emmett Till, George Floyd, Dr. King, Brother Malcolm and other warriors whose lives were taken in the war against white supremacy/racism.

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