I’m quite certain, sixty years ago today, swimming in the lake in front of our house was most important thing in my young life. A new blue ’55 Chevy was parked in the driveway, second grade would start soon and I hated having to weed the garden: life was simple!
That was not the case for 15-year old Emmett Till. He was murdered for the simple act of talking to a white woman, breaking the unspoken “law” of the times in Mississippi. His mother, in an act of courage that still rings so painfully true, dared the world to see his beaten, broken body in an open casket making it less possible than ever to ignore the fact that life, for many, was not simple.
Before Emmett Till’s murder there were countless other murders of black people in this country, many outside of the South. Malcolm X’s father was murdered just a few miles from where I grew up in central Michigan. Lynchings occurred regularly throughout the country. Horrible violence defined the daily lives of black people. And, as the headlines remind us, seemingly on a weekly basis lately, there have been many more murders and violent deaths since.
Among my many relatives, I am blessed to have five nephews and three nieces who are black. Even if I was just a clueless kid in 1955, it is not difficult today to imagine the anguish Emmett’s mother suffered and say “NO MORE!”
The lives of black people in this country are still at a much greater risk of violence than white lives. Yes, much has changed since Emmett Till was murdered and, yet, more importantly, not enough has changed. I want all my relatives—and, really, aren’t we all related?—to live full lives and be the gifts they are to me to the whole world.
Today, in honor of Emmett Till in particular, I remind myself Black Lives Matter.