By Albus Brooks, Movement Maker Tribe Editorial Team
Life after the public lynching of George Floyd.
A question I’ve been increasingly asked over the last two weeks is, “How are you processing this moment, as a black man?”
It’s a question that paradoxically doesn’t get asked enough.
The question leads me back to the moment my late father, Perry Brooks, Sr., sat me down and gave me The Talk. No, it wasn’t about “the birds and the bees,” marking the gradual passage from childhood into adolescence. It was the talk that white parents never have to give; dissipating the shroud of innocence from black childhoods and propelling them into adulthood.
The day was March 10th, 1995, and I was getting my driver’s license. My father worked in law enforcement and understood racism and white supremacy firsthand. His voice seemed to echo an ancient yet familiar past -an ancestral chorus of pain and wisdom- as he said to me with weight in his voice, “Son, we need to talk.” He told me that I would be pulled over simply because I was black, and that there was a certain way I needed to act so I, “wouldn’t end up like Rodney King.” I was told that my life would depend on remaining passive in the face of aggression, and meeting disrespect with calm respect.
I was in middle school when the officers that mercilessly beat Rodney King on camera were acquitted. The people rioted, the city burned. The ever-present embers of racial pain and trauma ignited in justified anger. Centuries of brutal oppression were never caught on camera, yet we bore the scars in our hearts and on our backs. This felt like a bitter betrayal, one that would become a familiar pattern: modern day lynchings captured on video, often live-streamed to the world, and ending in disheartening disappointment.
So, how am I processing this moment as a BLACK MAN?
I’m not entirely sure why, but these recent protests feel different. Perhaps it is because we are in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens to reorder the rhythms of normal life.
But I think it is because there is a great awakening to the true virus that has been plaguing our nation since before its founding: brutal institutional racism that’s expressed in brutal violence against black bodies.
As a recovering ordained minister, I can’t help but approach this moment from a spiritual perspective. Although conversations will drift to debates over policy, our starting point must be internal first. Below I share four points that will begin the transformation for us to become a truly just society.
The biblical notion of repenting is about literally turning away from wrongdoing, but I think this is impossible without thinking differently. The time for white America to think differently has come. The sickening atrocities of over 400 years have been well-documented. A friend recently told me, “Life is like an open note test, and white America is failing.”
Reparations is simply equity in action. Reconciliation is impossible without repairing what was broken, and making sure it won’t break in the same way again. Without a meaningful system of reparations that fix the brokenness in every sector of life (from housing and education, to justice and health care), we are doomed to perpetuated cycles of oppression and brutality.
The accountability, authority and funding of every single safety department must be re-examined immediately. I keep hearing people talk about there being “some bad apples,” but we forget that the saying is: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” As long as the thin blue line is protected more than our scarred black skin, no progress will be made.
The time has come to rebuild the American city, and to do so with the guiding principles of equity and inclusion. This is the greatest challenge of our time, because it is a physical, outward manifestation of everything that is internal in the hearts, minds, and charters of our society.
About the Author: Albus Brooks is the former President of Denver City who served from 2011-2019. He is a national speaker on urban issues and the current Vice President of Milender White a Development/Construction company operating in Colorado and Southern California. He currently lives in Downtown Denver with Wife Debi, Son Makai and daughters Kenya and Kaya.