Can only black people lead a march in support of African-American interests?
It seems like a bizarre, if not offensive, question.
But consider: A proposed “Unity March” march Saturday in Chatham in support of George Floyd has been cancelled at the urging of the Morristown chapter of Black Lives Matter. Here is the group’s relevant Facebook post:
“Please know that Black Lives Matter Morristown recognizes that our allies are coming from a compassionate place, however, in the absence of black leadership, this may produce more harm than good. We want to ensure that no further trauma is created from an event that is not led by black people, as the message that needs to be conveyed is not misinterpreted or lost.”
This is the type of statement that may cause some to scratch their heads. All the marches and protests across the state and nation are designed to denounce racism and bias and to foster unity among all
people. So, as long as all attendees support that message, why is their race, or for that matter, ethnic background, any concern at all?
Let’s recall that in the 1960s blacks were not alone in marching for civil rights. Many whites joined the crusade as well, some of whom paid with their lives.
Sources say the Chatham event was being independently planned by a borough woman without the input of Black Lives Matter.
The Facebook post says that the “Chatham community has an ugly history of racism and remains a segregated community.”
I have more than a passing knowledge of “the Chathams,” having covered the borough and township years ago when I was with the Morristown Daily Record. I can not speak to overt acts of racism, but like many suburbs, the Chathams traditionally have been very white.
So, if someone wants to bring a march/protest highlighting black concerns into a predominately white community, isn’t that a good thing?
Not all agree.
Within the Facebook post is a suggestion for a “teach-in.” This apparently is a program that would stress “education, truth and reconciliation.”
The post adds that, “Then and only then, can Chatham move toward reform, and after that, unity.”
And perhaps even a march.
Interestingly, this notion that only African-Americans should lead protests condemning racial bias has surfaced before in Morris County.
As participants were lining up to begin a march in Parsippany on Tuesday night, an organizer suggested that only black people lead the march. The logic was that blacks were “relatives” of Floyd, the man
for whom the march was being held.
This really didn’t go over well. There was some spirited back and forth, and in the end most simply ignored the call to separate.
But no one will get a chance to ignore anythng in Chatham.