“Good travels at a snail's pace. Those who want to do good are not selfish, they are not in a hurry, they know that to impregnate people with good requires a long time.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
I moved to Fort Wayne on Jan. 1, 1998 and knew immediately that there were turbulent racial and social waters to navigate.
It was a different place that seemed unwilling to quicken its pace, and quite frankly appeared to have no intention of acknowledging that the majority community had ever engaged in activities that warranted disgrace. For a while I thought it was just simple denial or a case of being socially senile, but then I came to understand that there really was a concerted effort to keep people of color out of the political turnstile.
I seemed to be stepping back in time to an era when people who looked like me were not deemed capable of holding positions that were prime. For the first time in my life, I was living in a city where my opinion didn't seem to matter, and where promising professionals thought it best to take their talents and leave before their dreams began to shatter.
The city gained a reputation for stifling African American aspirations and limiting the number of those who could receive significant designations. While the city would soon become a place where Six Sigma management techniques were embraced, only menial steps were being taken to ensure the remaining vestiges of overt discrimination were erased.
Again, for a city of its size, it seemed oblivious to the need for any new constituent groups to share in its success or rise. The status quo seemed to be a responsible flow, and few in power saw the danger of dealing a whole group such an exclusionary blow.
As a person who lived through the Cleveland riots of 1966, I know how dangerous it is for people to feel like their anger and frustration will never receive a fix. I remain convinced that a portion of the violence we see in our streets is directly connected to the sense of hopelessness, despair and inevitable defeats.
Someone has said well that “it is hard to be what you cannot see.”
That is what makes this past election such a necessary part of our community's course correction. In a singular and monumental event, we sent a signal that no longer will a portion of our citizens be viewed as having backs that are bent.
In January the City Council will have three African Americans at the table, sending the message that political empowerment is no longer a fable, and showing generations to come that their political ambitions are attainable. John Nuckols must certainly be proud as he looks down upon us from the celestial cloud, with admiration for these courageous three who ran away from the crowd.
Yes, one may have been a safe seat, but snatching the other two was an undeniably heroic feat. It shows that we can win when people look beyond skin and listen to the commitment the candidate holds within. People make the right decision at the polls when they are convinced the person they are voting for shares their goals. People make the right decision at the polls when the people they vote for speak in ways that move their souls. And people make the right decision at the polls when they are convinced the people they vote for will be responsible in operating the community controls.
If indeed elections are not only about selections but rejections, then Fort Wayne is uniquely positioned to begin living up to its highest communal projections.
If we really believe all lives matter, then we must do whatever it takes to ensure that the remaining vestiges of inequality begin to scatter.
Thankfully, I am finally a resident of a city on the move, but we have many more miles to travel before we all enjoy the same successful groove. We will only be able to lift our hands and shout that we have experienced a substantial turnabout when we demonstrate a sustained commitment to sharing democracy's route and ensure that we are all drinking from opportunity's spout. Amen
The Rev. Bill McGill is senior pastor of Imani Baptist Temple.