Last weekend, I had the privilege of providing counseling support for a tour honoring a Black man who was lynched almost 100 years ago. We drove to different sites related to the story of Mr. Fred Rouse, and stopped to reflect on the atrocity of this racist violence. It was intense to say the least.
As a Black biracial woman, I felt so much. I served in the role of counselor, but I also served as a participant by default. The site of the lynching, the former hall of the Klan in Fort Worth, and the hospital at which Mr. Rouse was trying to heal and was kidnapped by members of the Klan before he was hanged were all so real and brought disgust to the forefront. Processing these events in time are not simply done in a day. I left the tour each day feeling different. As I drove down the streets of Fort Worth, I felt a darkness looming. I knew after attending that this is not the only story that has been hidden over the centuries of our nation’s existence. We have come so far and have so much more to do. Our Black women are dying in birth, our Black folk are being profiled and killed, and our Black children are born with a target on their back. Both the past and the present feel SO heavy. It feels bleak and hopeless.
Many will say that looking at the past is pointless. It’s over and there’s nothing we can do to change it. While we can’t change it, we can learn from it. These stories never get easier to hear, the stories are about people who were erased for so long. At the very least, we can make their names known. And maybe it will whitewash the truth a little less.
If we don’t remember, we are more likely to repeat it again. We can see the evolution of our progress and our lack thereof. The erasure of slavery led to the Jim Crow era. Watering down segregation with “separate but equal” led to a rebranding of oppression. But The boycotts and the Civil Rights movement of 60s were not just actions to gain rights, but they were disruptions in the system BECAUSE leaders chose to remember the oppression. From the anger of knowing that things are changing but not changing enough, revolutions begin.
In the last 20 years, we have begun to remember more. Leaders and movements have not given up or stopped at some change. We should want it all to change. Taking a knee isn’t about a having performative statement on NFL stadium fields or the mascot of a team. We need to change the systems that oppress Black folk from birth. We are making change, but we need to know where we came from to have a clear vision of where we are going.
Even 99 years after the death of Mr. Fred Rouse, we are still lynching Black people such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We cannot push this aside, so we don’t have to keep burying Black folk that should still be here. We are not done. We might never be done. But our memories throughout time should heal us, anger us, and challenge us to create a new narrative. We can bring stories to the forefront to unearth the true history. And the hope is that we can become history makers, disrupters, and revolutionaries because we never forgot.
To learn more about Mr. Rouse’s story or the Fort Worth Lynching Tour, please visit http://dnaworks.org