By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

For over 30 years satellite radio political commentator and author Dr. Wilmer Leon has witnessed protests surrounding racism– from the Rodney King verdict, to the uproar over the acquittal of George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin and now the most recent uprising following the death of George Floyd.  While there were massive national demonstrations that illuminated the plight of Black men in the aftermath of those lapses in justice, Dr. Leon remains cautiously optimistic that the worldwide upheavel following Floyd’s apparent murder by Minneapolis police will result in meaningful change.

“It’s hard to judge the moment when you’re in the midst of the moment,” Dr. Leon told the AFRO in an exclusive interview. “We went through this following the death of Emmett Till in 1964 and Rodney King in 1992. I feel a difference in this one. The question is sustainability. It’s politically advantageous for the Democrats to take the lead on this, but how far are they able to push it? There’s a much more serious mood here than in previous events.”

Author and radio political commentator, Dr. Wilmer Leon, told the AFRO why he felt this point in the fight to end systemic racism might be different. (Courtesy Photo)

Accustomed to examining challenges within the  Black community, Dr. Leon is heard Saturdays from 11am-2pm EST on Sirius XM’s (Channel126) Urban View on the program “Inside The Issues.” Leon said he finds it interesting to see the “ethnic dynamics” of White people walking down the street with Black Americans in mostly peaceful non-violent civil disobedience. According to Leon, that symbolism has given the Black Lives Matter Movement more credibility internationally than being a mere civil rights hashtag. 

“For some it’s a fashion statement; they put on their (Black Lives Matter) t-shirts and masks and hold up the signs so when they turn 60 they can say I was cool and down with the cause,” Dr. Leon added. “But I have some who get it because they saw on television.”

The radio host noted the diversity of those who aren’t of color participating has seemed to legitimize a movement whose time has come, not only in the United States, but around the world. 

However, the paradigm has shifted over the last 21 years since the beating of Rodney King, Leon said. The advent of social media and a public lack of trust in journalism has changed the way people consume their information. While the King incident was captured solely by Los Angeles Police Department video, the Floyd tragedy was chronicled by citizen reports that changed the social narrative that crossed demographic and socio-economic lines, leading to a passionate call to action for law enforcement and justice reforms internationally           .

“They had seen pictures like the Rodney King video although many didn’t want to believe their lying eyes back then,” Dr. Leon said. “Now there’s been a shift because people of all races have seen so many of these videos. Mr. Floyd’s untimely lynching is proving to be the one seminal moment and you can’t debate it. We are gonna have to see moving forward how committed people really are.”