By Al Lawson – Donald Trump’s decision to host the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville on the 60th remembrance of one of the ugliest chapters in the city’s history, Axe Handle Saturday, adds to that growing list of uncontainable acts committed by this President. His disconnect, or general lack of concern, for the African-American community leaves many of us in disbelief.
That horrific day in the summer of 1960 is a mere snapshot in history for some, and shaped generations for others. On that Saturday, a day traditionally reserved for family, the best and worst of humanity were found. The best — in the hearts of school-aged children with minds set on equality; The worst — in the minds of men planning for hatred in a park.
The confrontation occurred when a group of white men attacked several Black activists as they were engaging in sit-in protests opposing racial segregation. The name, “Axe Handle Saturday,” comes from the weapon of choice by the rioters in Hemming Park on Saturday, August 27, 1960.
I’m sure that Mr. Trump believes there were “very fine people on both sides” of Axe Handle Saturday as well, and maybe that is why he sees no issue with holding the RNC on this day in Jacksonville.
While the RNC will give a boost to the local economy, we must ask, “At what cost?” Just three days following Trump’s rally in Tulsa, which was “coincidentally” scheduled on the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riots, eight Trump staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
African Americans are overrepresented in many front line jobs and are less likely to have a job they can do from home. These positions — hotel staff, restaurant servers, transportation — will potentially see a severe influx of foot traffic while thousands of visitors descend on the city. This convention is forcing our essential workers to make the choice between their health and a paycheck.
In 2016, then candidate Trump asked, “What do you have to lose?” referring to Black people voting for him in the election. Well simply put, our very lives, Mr. President.
Data shows that African Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a far higher rate than white Americans, and Duval County is no exception. Blacks have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people; compared with 20.7 for whites and other minority groups.
Our nation is at a crossroads right now, and we need leaders who will listen to experts to develop plans that will keep the most vulnerable of us safe and protected. I will not sit by while our families are constantly put in harm’s way to satisfy the distorted image of a man who has tarnished a position we hold most high in this country.
With the civil unrest our nation is facing and Americans crying out for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the black lives that we have lost unjustly, now is the time to learn from our past mistakes. As we cannot change our history, there is still time to forge a new, stronger path forward.