Rev. Kevin Slayton, senior pastor of Lanham UMC. (Courtesy Photo)
By Kevin Slayton, Special to the AFRO
Two of this nations most wide known and treasured broadway plays are The Crucible, which was first performed in 1953 and of course, To Kill A Mocking Bird, which first appeared in 1960 on broadway. Interestingly enough they are also required reading for most students taught in America prior to graduation.
A common thought that looms large over both plays is this idea of manufactured injustices. Whether it was Tituba or Tom Robinson somehow people believed, because of how they looked that they would be an obvious choice for wrongdoing. That because of who they were that had to be guilty of something. Unfortunately, this twisted and bigoted way of thinking is still prevalent in our society today.
As I consider these two famous pieces in the context of our current day communal relations a few truly egregious moments came to mind. There’s the case of the Birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park and who could forget the woman on the West Coast frustrated that people of color were grilling in the park. And then most disturbing was the recent attack of a child in a New York City boutique hotel by a white woman who refused to wait for the authorities and decided to take matters into her own hands.
Now white people calling the “po po” on us ain’t nothing new. Both the Crucible and To Kill A Mocking Bird remind us of this long standing reality in our nation. But while it’s not new, neither is the unfortunate hesitation that black folk now have about calling for help, even when we are in need of help. I can’t believe I just said that, but its’ true. In many cases blacks who feel that a situation could be made safer if they called the authorities, instead choose to take their risk of being insecure, rather than having the risk of calling a police and feeling equally insecure.
The reality of this modern day line of thinking is what bothers me about the recent “witch-hunt” of our City State’s Attorney. You may recall that the Office of Inspector General was brought in to review any possible misconduct at the State’s Attorney’s request. Yep, she called them and asked them to come and help clear things up. And just as it is the case for so many in this community the authorities abused that trust to unfairly scrutinize the innocent. In each of the aforementioned stage plays I was drawn to how the symbolism of racism has the ability destroy ones innocence is always present, particularly, the innocence of black people in America.
But birds have a way of coming home to roost. Just look at the Senator in Texas who hopped on a bird to the flee the inconvenience and disaster being faced by his fellow colleagues and constituents. But in his attempt to take flight another little birdie caught a glimpse and exposed his plans. Isn’t it ironic how “birdwatching” can take on different forms of bringing about justice?
Now. consider another bird made popular in both story and myth. The canary bird is known to sing like nobody’s business, but like the Boo and Tom when confronted by righteousness they choose through their silence to stand in defense of the call to patriotism. As a result, they continue to remind us of the fragility of our democracy when prejudice and misinformation are allowed to flourish when we go silent. When we seek to tell stories that are not rooted in truth. But this land is my land just as much as it is your land. It is still my country tis of thee. It remains the sweet land of liberty that we continue to sing even in the face of Injustice. As a pastor I pray for the day when more of our citizens are like Scout and recognize that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” It’s even worse to plan a crucible for its demise.
Maybe this is the reasoning for Maya Angelous’ revelation of another birds ability to thrive even under the weight of criticism and unjust scrutiny. I choose to believe that it is this “caged bird” instinct inside of our States Attorney that allows her to still rise. Though you may write her down in history with bitter and twisted lies, while attempting to trod her name through the dirt, like the dust that would settle under Atticus’ feet, still she rises.
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