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Alisha L. Gordon, M.Ed.

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An Open Letter to the State of Georgia

Posted: 09/21/11 02:50 PM ET

Dear Georgia,

Today, many of your sons and daughters mourn for you.

Since the inception of your statehood in 1732, you've always seemed to lag behind.

You were the last to establish yourself as the original 13 Colonies. You were also the last state to restore yourself back to the union in 1870.

You've spent many years sweeping your darkest hours under rugs. The Atlanta Race Riots of 1906 are hardly in your history books.

Your capital city of Atlanta has brought some redeeming qualities to you. She was a central point for civil and social movements throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s and in her younger years, was considered the "golden city" of the South.

W.E.B. DuBois spoke of her greatness in his book The Souls of Black Folk. In chapter five of the book, "Of the Wings of Atalanta," he personified you as the "Queen of Cotton," "Gateway to the Land of Sun," and a city crowned with a "hundred hills" with its high chimneys and progressive ways. It reigned regally among its sister cities as a place of promise.

What was most prolific about DuBois' exploration of you, my dear city, was his comparison to the Greek goddess Atalanta. She was the fairest of all the women during her time, quick on her feet, highly sought after, much like you are. Countless men lost their lives in the pursuit of her; no one could catch up to her crafty ways and lightning fast feet. She swore to marry the man who could beat her in a foot race; the Greek youth Hippomenes outsmarted her by laying three golden apples along her path causing her to stop to pick up the golden treasures versus staying focused on the race set before her.

...and in all our Nation's striving is not the Gospel of Work befouled by the Gospel of Pay? So common is this that one-half think it normal; so unquestioned, that we almost fear to question if the end of racing is not gold, if the aim of man is not rightly to be rich. And if this is the fault of America, how dire a danger lies before a new land and a new city, lest Atlanta, stooping for mere gold, shall find that gold accursed!


It was no maiden's idle whim that started this hard racing; a fearful wilderness lay about the feet of that city after the War,--feudalism, poverty, the rise of the Third Estate, serfdom, the re-birth of Law and Order, and above and between all, the Veil of Race. How heavy a journey for weary feet! What wings must Atalanta have to flit over all this hollow and hill, through sour wood and sullen water, and by the red waste of sun-baked clay! How fleet must Atalanta be if she will not be tempted by gold to profane the Sanctuary! -- The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois

DuBois points out that it was Atalanta's greed that distracted her from maintaining her elite place among the women of her time, and in many ways, Atlanta, you have succumbed to the same travesty. I think you desperately want to regain your speed, ignore the solemn golden "apples" that are strewn amongst your path, but their temptation too great. The thwarted position of power you may lose is deemed too precious to sacrifice.

Today, Georgia, you had the opportunity to restore and redeem yourself. For the 531 lynchings that occurred on your soil over the course of 86 years (from 1886-1968). For the two braves souls who integrated our beloved University of Georgia. For Genarlow Wilson. For the disproportionate ways you gave home loans to your citizens without a second thought to their well-being. Because of it, we are number one for home foreclosures. For the number of students who enter four-year colleges and universities with deficiencies because politics and the "good ol' boy" educational system of Georgia leave our kids grasping at straws in college lectures all across the country. For Raquel Nelson who faced a longer sentence for jay walking (three years) than the man who killed her son in a DUI accident as they crossed the street (He was sentenced to six months). And for your son, Troy Davis.

All of America was watching us, Georgia. Seeing what we would do with our brother Troy Davis. They waited to see if our light would shine bright enough in the midst of the racially charged comments, both private and public, and let Lady Justice balance her scales in favor of Mr. Davis. Those in support of him (and even those not in support of him, but of equality and common judicial sense) never wanted him to go "free." The conviction of guilty was made and there was a price to pay. Nevertheless, tomorrow, we will play God.

We will use our sovereignty as a city and state to go through with a decision made 20 years ago, to take the life of a man whose decisions changed the course of not only his life, but also the life of slain officer MacPhail.

God, in all his sovereignty, has shown mercy to us all despite our flaws, imperfections, our social and civil injustices towards each other. He's watched us run each other over with pickup trucks, delay in providing care to the sick and homeless, turn our noses up at those who look or believe differently than us. He's watched us steal from the poor, give to the rich, and not give a second thought. He's watched our children suffer at our own hands and still, He's shown us mercy.

He's blessed our country in ways unimaginable, giving us opportunity after opportunity to get it right. To love as He loves. To see our sons and daughters as He sees us. His grace and mercy, despite our self-inflicted wounds, covers us year after year, decade after decade in hopes that we'll eventually follow suit and show that same grace and mercy to others.

We had another chance. We didn't take it.

As a native of Georgia, Decatur to be specific, I mourn for us. We've taken some steps back in our progression; there's a silent, suffocating fear that is hovering over our state. Much like the Georgia of the 1900's, we want to progress. We want to be more, shine brighter, do greater works for our citizens, but we are afraid. We're afraid that if we don't stop for our "golden apples" of self-preservation, we'll lose the race. If we dare change the course of the social expectations of race relations and the judicial system, we'll be ostracized as the "red-headed step child" of the South. On bumper stickers and laser light shows across our state, we hear the silent, yet resounding call "the South shall rise again!" whispered in the crevices of our homes and sheltered pockets of our social circles.

Sadly, we only lift up the repetitive, cyclical, disintegrated ideologies and tattered "victories" of our past defeats.

When will we become brave enough to do what's right, even if history has proven that doing what is right means standing alone?

Sincerely your homegrown daughter,

Alisha L. Gordon

 

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