This is not the time for business-as-usual politics. The major issues of our time — the confluence of COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd — demand more.
The world has arisen and spoken: “Down with institutional racism. Down with police oppression.” My run for the Fifth Congressional District seat follows a lifetime of work against oppression. And a new mantra has emerged in my campaign: “If black lives matter — black history matters.”
Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers reflects poignantly how systemic racism can render a people as unimportant; can frame them as a people that doesn’t matter. Why else would an adult police officer persist in pressing his knee on a handcuffed man’s neck in front of a crowd begging him to stop?
The root of the problem lies in what the system has taught the Derek Chauvins of the world about black lives. That “blacks were captured in Africa. Brought to America. Served as slaves. Lived under Jim Crow. And gained civil rights in the 1960s.” That’s the gist of the narrative.
Young people, meanwhile, have imbibed a larger story. Over the last decade or more, I’ve spoken in schools, churches and social organizations on the full narrative of black history. How might Derek Chauvin have responded, in the course of a day, if the black people he encountered were rendered respectfully in historical literature?
Here’s the true history:
Before Greece, there were the Minoans, headquartered on the island of Crete, who built columned buildings and flush toilets, and had paved roads over a millennia before the Greeks. Don’t trust the fraudulent modern depictions. True representations come from the walls of their temples and a painting on the walls of the tomb of Rekhmire, a governor of Egypt.
Everyone should know of the Etruscans, a black culture, in what is now the modern-day Tuscany region of Italy. The Romans were a colony of Etruria. Again, disregard the modern depictions. The representations on the tomb walls and archaeological artifacts tell the true story.
After Ilhan Omar won election to Congress in 2018, I sent her my research findings. On a MacArthur Fellowship to the University of Minnesota, I had set out to get to the bottom of the palpable racism that plagues too many in this country. And what I revealed should have at least been eye-opening for her. But instead, she just sat on it. So, black children, Somali children, all of our youths, are less informed because she doesn’t feel the issue is important enough to fix.
I showed her how the King Tut exhibit had visited the Twin Cities in 2011, and I showed where I had sent an open letter, as communication chair of the local NAACP, where we had admonished the media to show the true depiction of King Tut and not the fraudulent one that contributed to the cover up of black classical Egypt, and its contemporaries. The Arab community didn’t arrive in Egypt until 640 A.D. when commander Amr ibn al-As took charge with a military defeat of the Egyptians.
So, the anodyne commercials of one of the candidates, funded by special interest groups, and the irascible retorts of Ilhan Omar, are symbols of anti-racism in the Twin Cities frozen in its tracks.
The tsunami we’re experiencing with COVID-19 accompanied with the tinder box of institutional racism, demands a leader with a fix-it attitude, not a passive accomplice or reactionary curmudgeon.
Les Lester is a DFL candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District.