“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King
When protests commenced on May 25 in Minneapolis following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, it was evident that our collective reaction to this particular act of police misconduct was going to be different.
The chilling video displayed Mr. Floyd, a Black man, as he made every human effort possible to escape the unbearable pressure of the police officer’s knee that was solidly placed on his neck. We watched him lie on the street under the total physical control of a white police officer and we heard the raw emotion of his cry for help, including calling out for his deceased mother.
That single visual, coupled with our country’s long history of Black men, women, boys and girls being senselessly and violently killed by police officers, with Black people being consistently discriminated against in the workplace, within our communities and in society in general, created an image in my mind that the fierce urgency of now has finally arrived.
Now We are Fierce
We are now witnessing protests that have emerged in cities and towns in America and throughout the world. We see people of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences march in the name of justice and equity, making demands to end police brutality and calling for the elimination of racism and discrimination.
Having been born in the early 1960s, during the civil rights movement, and working hard, with the support of my family to secure a bachelor’s degree in business and a juris doctorate degree by the age of 25, I was determined to use my education and experiences to help change the communities in which I lived.
While my dreams have not been totally deferred, there have certainly been attempts to destroy the dreams I hold dear for myself, my family and many others.
During my life, I have functioned as a professional in various governmental environments in Oklahoma and Michigan - from the county prosecutor’s office to the Attorney General’s office to the Governor’s office. I have also represented and advised private clients ranging from Flint Water Crisis victims to union workers and various governmental, education, non-profit, and business organizations who need help resolving legal, policy and programmatic issues.
I’m grateful for every experience and have been blessed to help a great number of people along the way, despite functioning in an era when the fierce urgency of now had not yet taken root.
Through this journey, I have faced racism, discrimination, and acts of microaggression. I have also responded to countless numbers of questions that people, with and without the taint of implicit bias, have raised to challenge my statements and acts to address racism, discrimination and to demand equity. These confrontations could have easily encouraged me to turn around and find a safe place to function as a member of society.
While this is my story, it’s also the story of the lives of many Black Americans. Despite the intense challenges, set-backs and denials, we have found ways to keep moving forward by removing barriers, navigating each situation while standing our ground and being supported only by the black community and a few of our white friends, employers and clients.
As a Black woman with a Black husband, children and countless Black family members, sorority sisters, friends and coworkers who have inherited the pressures of racism from earlier generations, I have seen and heard about the pain and long-suffering that people have endured.
Now We are Urgent
In this “now” moment, it is refreshing to hear white political and business leaders and citizens of this country acknowledge that racism exists. Some of them have pledged to do their part to right this wrong.
While we are aware that we will never secure the support of the demographic that will choose to hold on to their racists views and acts, we do know that now that people are starting to validate and listen to our cries for equity and help, it is time to accept the fact the fierce urgency of now has arrived.
The time has come for us to focus on finding bipartisan, collaborative ways to build up power for the powerless and encourage people to engage in community-based collective conversations.
The time has come for us to listen to the voices of people who have functioned under the social pressure of racism, pressing our necks in an effort to hold us back or cause us to give up or to suffocate.
The time has come for us to work with our allies and turn our ears and our efforts away from naysayers.
The time has come for us to ensure equity in business decisions and push for equitable partisan policy changes and long-term practices that are fair and to eliminate policies and practices that tend to punish us for being Black.
Let us not talk through this critical “now” moment and delay action that will lead to positive change.
We must work together, in transparency and courage, to address the painful and life-altering scourge of racism that has brought about over 400 years of oppression of Black people and people of color.
This is the time for vigorous and positive action.
Teresa Bingman is a Sr. Advisor for Vanguard Public Affairs. She also operates her law firm, Law Offices of Teresa A. Bingman, in Lansing, Mich. Bingman is the former Deputy Legal Counsel and Cabinet Secretary for Governor Jennifer M. Granholm.