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ATLANTA – Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), announced today that the civil rights organization is organizing a major summit of leaders to help America find a cure for racism.
Dr. Steele, who heads the legendary civil rights organization co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the SCLC will be calling on members of Congress, the leaders of major corporations, including those in health and science, as well as social justice leaders, religious leaders and people of wealth and influence, who have voiced support for reform in America’s law enforcement agencies and other major departments in Washington and around the nation that have been vestiges of racism.
The summit, he said, will follow the blueprint set by Dr. King, whose leadership was key to the successful civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. The date, for the summit, has not been determined, but Dr. Steele said it will take place this summer.
This call to action, Dr. Steele said, stems from the tragic and unjustified fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks Friday night in Atlanta by a policeman. Brooks, 27, was shot in the back as he walked away from officers who were called to the scene of a Wendy’s restaurant where he had fallen asleep in his car. The arrest allegedly turned into a scuffle. Minutes later, Brooks was dead. The killing, Dr. Steele said, is another vivid example of the entrenched institutional racism within law enforcement and other systems in the United States that have oppressed blacks and other people of color for four centuries. The fact this senseless shooting occurred while the nation is still healing from social unrest from the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month is mindboggling, he said, and American must address racism just like it is attacking the deadly coronavirus.
“Until we cure this disease of racism, there will be more Rayshard Brooks, George Floyds, Breanna Taylors, Laquan McDonalds, and Trayvon Martins,” Dr. Steele said. “The killings will continue to occur, because people of color, particularly African Americans, are under siege due to racism. Just like we are searching for a vaccine for Covid-19, we must find a cure for racism. This is dangerous, not only to America, but the world is looking for the United States to lead the way for freedom. You look at the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, South America and Japan, and the people are marching for their societies to respect and protect black lives. We need to find the cure to eradicate racism in society. We must convene leaders to the table to address this disease now. We will do our part to start this conversation and present solutions.”
He added, “If we don’t find a cure for racism, our world will be destroyed. Like the virus, it will spread and consume all of us, and we will experience our world coming to an end.”
America, Dr. Steele said, has failed to weed out racism, because the nation was built on racism. It started with Europeans taking over the American soil from the natives. With illegal slavery, he added, it became a part our institutions and every aspect of society.
“Individuals have this virus,” Dr. Steele said. “It has spread heavily within law enforcement. It is a part of our communities, and it comes in all forms of discrimination. The impact is not always physical like police brutality. The system is killing blacks and other people of color by denying them access to capital. If you do not have access to money, you will eventually do something wrong. You will either destroy yourself with violence by committing some criminal act, or you will starve to death. You will have a domestic violence case within your family. It comes down from the federal government and is now institutionalized within our society. It has been designed to keep people of African American descent and other ethnicities at the bottom of society.”
Dr. Steele said America should have solved this problem in the 1960s during the turbulent civil rights era led by Dr. King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“Wisdom comes from history,” Dr. Steele said. “Wisdom comes from learning from our mistakes. We made a mistake in 1960s when we did not include measures outside of integration. We did not include access to capital. We did not include reparations. We must have reparations with the understanding that African Americans have always been behind the eight ball. We are playing on a football field, and we cannot get beyond the five-yard line when white society is scoring touchdowns from the advantages they received from starting with free labor for centuries. We are on the field, but we cannot advance and catch up with the current system in terms of economic empowerment and economic development.”
With leaders in business, politics, sports, and entertainment calling for reform at all phrases of society, Dr. Steele said maybe we have a chance to get it right this time.
“I see hope with the marches, but we must move beyond marches and promises from corporate America and others,” Dr. Steele said. “Now, we have to get to the table and make concrete changes. But no changes will happen without a concrete understanding the history of how we received the freedoms we have today, which are constantly under attack with the current Supreme Court and other institutions, which have gutted civil rights laws and progress made over the past 50 years. As a society, we are better off than we were 400 years ago when blacks were shackled down in slavery, but we have a very long way to go, and we will never eradicate this disease I call racism until we rebuild the structures that continue to oppress us and keep blacks and people of color at the bottom. We must reform agencies like the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S Business Administration, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and all the policies that allows racism to spread and take the life out of our society. If we do not address this now, we will not have a strong American society.”