Ada Fisher: We can’t breathe

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The death of George Floyd was unfortunately aided by a policeman’s knee on his throat.

His pleas of “I can’t breathe” typifies a nation of unrest where too many feel like “we can’t breathe.” Some cite racism, which was obvious in how Floyd as well as many black men are treated when already restrained by handcuffs or surrounding force. Others may note being trapped by an inescapable coronavirus.

The attitude of many, including President Donald Trump leaves much to be desired; however, as young protesters confronted candidate Joe Biden about his previous support for policies which disproportionately imprisoned many young black males, they raised questions of why should he be believed as well.

Republicans continue to be tone deaf in assessing problems in communities of color, especially ignoring that protest is part of our national founding and genetics. People like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. as some badge of identification without appreciating that his greatness was contributed to by potential nemesis Malcolm X, who prompted him to action or a Rosa Parks, who initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycotts when King refused to lead.

Looting and violence as an expression of protest does not honor George Floyd — we too often harm our own communities in doing such — but neither does doing nothing. Whitney Young showed a way which will work when he stated, what good does it do to be able to sit at the lunch counter when you can’t afford the price of the food. Neglected in our rebellion has been a vision of how to obtain economic parity. James Brown used to sing, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, just open the door and I’ll get it myself.” The civil rights movement of the 1960s made an impact not by singing “we shall overcome” but by hitting segregation through boycotts targeted at the pocketbook of such places of businesses.

Republicans continue pushing an opportunity society without sufficient safeguards to ensure that all have an equal opportunity to participate. Such will not happen as long as education isn’t valued and the numbers who can’t read or effectively write or do basic math lingers particularly among children of color.

The Department of Education continues in its ignorance of reality in not forcing institutions to release their data on admissions and graduation for people of color. Such also needs to be done for the coronavirus. What is being done to demonstrate a plan to close the digital divide for all kids, including children who are poor find themselves further left out and behind.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest often talks about “disruptive technology’s” potential. I challenged my prestigious alma mater, Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, which pushes all types of “progressive agendas,” to disclose how many people of color it has graduated who can help in this fight. My medical school has approximately the same number of blacks that were there 50 years ago when I was a student.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke rendered all types of lofty words on Floyd’s death while laying off 17,000 employees and developing new technologies which price out the poor and limit their ability to compete in this distancing society.  Why not some free iPads for schools or drop the price of phones with accessories which stabilize for 10 years, not every 18 months? Where is the citizen advisory police board oversight and universal standards for police policies and conduct by which their performance is to be judged?

It is projected that approximately 50% of black small businesses will close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Obama administration closed the regional offices of the Small Business Administration, which are very much needed in these times. There needs to be incentives for businesses to thrive, but consumers must have the money to buy their essentials. Quit the focus on big business and support the small ones which had created over 50% of the jobs in this country. The stimulus was the beginning of the ballgame, but government cannot continue it and giveaways while still operating. Blanket liability exemptions for companies taking risk is wrong for such is not given to those who serve on our front lines.

After knowledge of the “Tuskegee Experiment,” many people of color still remain skeptical of white established medicine. Where are our black doctors or will we be relegated to treatment by “assistants?”

Most importantly, we must view ourselves differently and act accordingly. The continued use of the “N” word by us to us must stop. Our support for artist who constantly give us more of the same is also tragic. The allowance of white performers to further degrade us should never be tolerated. Our heroes must not only come off the entertaining fields of play. We must tell our own stories and pick heroes typical of our promise such as Percy Julian, who invented steroids, or Garrett Morgan, whose gas mask led to the protection of firefighters, as well as others in the fight for mankind.

We must embrace the United Negro College Fund slogan that “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste; therefore, we need to get educated and fight back.” We must insist more than February must convey black history, appreciating that it did not start in slavery. When these things truly begin, we can “Say it loud, we’re black and we’re proud.” The goal is not to be loved but to be included, appreciated and respected.

Salisbury’s Ada Fisher is a licensed teacher, retired physician, former school board member and current N.C. Republican national committeewoman.