By Professor Lyle Gibson
To all of my family and friends, I have been accused of justifying my interpretation of events based on opinion and adding fuel to the fire. That’s not my intent. Here are the facts; I was born black; live black; and will die black. My parents were 25 years old when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which means, that for the first 25 years of their lives, they were treated as 2nd class citizens in the segregated south. My maternal grandfather was threatened twice by the Klan (not opinion…Fact); all of my great grandparents were born between 1860 – 1890 and yes two of them were born into slavery (not opinion…Fact); 3 of my cousins on my maternal line were lynched in the early part of the 20th century (not opinion…Fact).
I am a son; a father; a brother; an uncle; and a veteran. I pay my taxes; I pay my own way. I have the same work ethic instilled in me from my parents and grandparents. My grandfather Reverend Johnie Gilmore used his platform to speak against the injustices of his time, it’s in my DNA.
For those that do not understand what is truly going on (or you refuse to understand), the system was not perfect in 1619; nor in 1776; nor in 1865; nor in 1965. It’s time to address what was wrong in the beginning, so we can navigate into a better future.
So, to my only “known” ancestor born enslaved around 1795…Sarah, I stand on your shoulders and I will not let you down. For my children through their maternal line…direct descendants John Gowen/Going (English name) an Angolan captive (West Africa) put on board the San Juan Bautista enroute to Mexico; commandeered by British pirates and brought to the Virginia Settlement in 1619, we remember your struggle (this is not opinion….it’s part of our DNA; our inherited experiences; Fact) Every American today is the beneficiary of decisions made in the past (good and bad). Please don’t judge or criticize me and others that look like me unless you have walked a mile in the shoes of one of my enslaved ancestors or a family member that was treated as a 2nd class citizen.
Lyle Gibson is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Kansas City (MA History) and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (BA, History). He serves as Professor of History at the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City. Additionally, he is an author and he has served as a humanities scholar on documentaries and historical preservation projects. Lyle is also a veteran of the United States Air Force.