January 19, 2021
Our esteemed ancestor, author and Civil Rights Activist, Maya Angelou, wrote: “The truth brings the past into the present and prepares us for the future. That’s what truth does.”
Racial and sociopolitical injustice have been woven into the fabric of our country since before its founding. To address the events of January 6, 2021, we must demand accurate, honest descriptions and analysis of what happened. Of course, this is problematic because we’re living in a time when we don’t share a common set of facts. Those who engage in revisionist history have already described the white supremacist insurrectionists as “thugs,” “a mob” and “rioters.” Some in the media have said that the crowd was “largely White,” even though it’s clear that one can see only a few people of color in the crowd. The fact that the white supremacist movement in this country has been downplayed, dismissed and/or ignored has allowed it to spread all the way to the White House.
The many videos and photographs should open some people’s eyes and minds about differential treatment by the police. The videos comparing how peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were brutalized by police and unmarked “security” forces while White supremacist insurrectionists were allowed to go back to their hotels and peacefully return home are stark reminders of the differential treatment meted out by law enforcement based on race. The insurrection we witnessed at the Capitol is deeply rooted in the history of our country.
On January 6th in the U.S. Capitol, there was a battle cry from one Republican House Representative, “This is 1776!” The outcry was in the midst of the attempted coup d’état and intended to incite another Revolutionary War. Some have never gotten over the facts that the Confederacy lost the Civil War, that many enslaved Afrikans had joined the Union Army defeating the Confederacy, and that slavery was abolished. Some white citizens interviewed by the media in regard to the attempted coup d’état exclaimed, “This has never happened before!” Wrong. This has happened before!
The only successful coup d’état occurring in the United States happened in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, in what is known as the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. Then, upwards of 40 black male entrepreneurs plus many black community members were slaughtered point-blank. By the 1890s, Wilmington had become the largest city in N.C. and enjoyed cooperation amongst the “races” of people who worked and governed the city together. There were black politicians, doctors, lawyers, and the owner of a successful African American newspaper, The Record. Its editor escaped his own murder before the newspaper’s building was burned down by white supremacists who proudly took pictures with their guns in front of the burning building. This was similar to what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Rosewood, Florida, and in other places where black people became too prestigious for hateful white people around them. But what made the events in Wilmington considered the only successful coup d’état is the fact that black and sympathetic white government officials were removed from all of their offices and replaced by white supremacists of the insurrection. The federal government knew but did nothing to change this. Only recently have acknowledgments been made and a plaque for our ancestors who were massacred there been erected. In addition, a few places and a park that had been named after some of the terrorists, have had their names removed.
These are but a few of the historical considerations that should be considered as we plan to address these issues.
By bringing forward knowledge of the past and awareness of the present, we will move forward, as individuals, and as a community. Co-founding member of The Association of Black Psychologists, Inc., Dr. Wade Nobles, encourages us to remember who and whose we are. Indeed, in moving forward, we must remember our ancestors and the creativity, strength, wisdom, and that which allowed them to move into the future, and draw on the blessings they’ve passed on to us. We must remember their enslavement, their oppression, and their incredible contribution in building America. To move forward, we must be firmly grounded in knowledge of where we come from, who we are, what our strengths are, and what our challenges are.
Moving forward means claiming our citizenship, freedom, and right to happiness. It means voting, developing legislation, and holding those who harm us accountable to build an equitable society that works for US. We must use our wisdom and spirit of Kujichagulia/self-determination to establish a shared vision of what we are demanding and strategize how to bring this vision to reality. We must be aware of our sociopolitical climate, and be watchful during the upcoming Presidential inauguration, and hold our country’s new leadership accountable to us.
The Association of Black Psychologists takes seriously its mission and destiny of the liberation of the African Mind, empowerment of the African Character, and enlivenment and illumination of the African Spirit. To that end, we are committed to collective liberation, knowledge sharing, and creating opportunities for ourselves, and healing the individual and collective trauma that is the result of generations of racism and sociopolitical disenfranchisement. Healing is imperative for those in pain, as well as those who perpetrate the pain. We are committed to taking an active role in helping to move our community forward in the spirit of healing, empowerment, and hope.
This statement was co-authored by the following on behalf of the Association.
Dana Collins, Ph.D.
Denise Hinds-Zaami, Ed.D.
Lisa Whitten, Ph.D.
Tony Camp, Ph.D.
The Association of Black Psychologists sees its mission and destiny as the liberation of the African Mind, empowerment of the African Character, and enlivenment and illumination of the African Spirit.