From the White House to City Hall and from the Sheriff’s Office to the Chamber of Commerce, people in seats of power, most often held by middle- to upper-class white men, have had an over-sized influence on progress — or the lack of. During the sit-in demonstrations and the aftermath of Ax Handle Saturday, this aspect of systemic racism stood out in high relief with a mayor who was blamed for, yet consistently denied any role in the violence, delayed justice. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was considered complicit by failing to protect the Black youth who were targeted, while aligning with those wielding violence.
In 2020, many of these same dynamics exist where business interests trump the needs of the people, and those culpable for disinvestment in Black and Brown communities maintain position and wealth while regular citizens experience greater inequities. The militarization of police, corruption in government, the shifting of resources from public education and basic human services, and the overall lack of accountability are drivers in the current movement for change. In today’s Jacksonville, this is taking shape through initiatives like the demand for a People’s Budget, calls for justice reform and defunding of the police, and increased public scrutiny of public utilities, and false gestures of inclusion and representation in the practice of governing.
In the voice of Rodney L. Hurst Sr., from his book, It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!