Community Notes: The winds of change are blowing
By Phillip Knighten, Charles City Councilman and Be The Bridge-Charles City Organizer
I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting inside my pickup truck, windows down, enjoying the evening breeze. A slight hint of the food I had just eaten a few moments before still familiar.
Relaxed and comfortable, I sat back and awaited the return of my wife to our vehicle. She was inside of the home of the residence that I was parked in front of, along the street.
The evening was still young, sun still brightly brilliant upon the horizon. These are the moments that should be treasured. Imprinted upon your memory. Or so I thought.
As I calmly sat and waited, my pleasant existence was abruptly halted. Little did I realize in small town America, parking on a public street in broad daylight was a suspicious offense that would subject one to detention and interrogation by law enforcement.
Swiftly, three squad cars arrived at my location, lights flashing. I thought little of it as I had committed no offenses. One of the officers made a u-turn and pulled up behind my vehicle.
At this point, I place my hands on the steering wheel of the vehicle, to not startle or alarm the approaching officer. He reaches my window and proceeds to ask for identification.
In my mind, I wonder why he needs this? I then ask, am I being detained? He proceeds to continue to forcefully ask for the ID, while ignoring my question. At the moment I decided to provide my license and hope things didn’t further escalate.
After waiting several minutes to have my record searched, which there was or is nothing to find, and enduring questioning on why I was in the area, etc., I was finally left alone. Needless to say, what was once an enjoyable evening of dinner and spending time with my wife, turned into a demoralizing experience.
If you don’t know or haven’t guessed by now, I am an African American male. This experience is not unique to me. I was racially profiled. It’s not the first time something like that has happened to me, but hopefully it’s the last time.
Why do I say that? Because I feel change is coming. I see it on the horizon like a beautiful sunset. I can taste it like an expertly prepared dish by a master chef. I hear it ringing in my ear like an alarm clock at seven in the morning. But most importantly, I feel it like the heart beating inside of my chest.
For far too long, injustice has had to be tolerated by people of color in this great country that was supposedly built on the ideals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We have endured slavery, where we as a people lost our freedom, culture, heritage, wealth and identity.
I have tried to develop my family tree, but the roots are untraceable. I can only go back a few generations. I have family that endured struggle in the Jim Crow South. I have family that lost all their wealth is the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
These memories are painful, but they haven’t broken my character, only strengthened it. So when injustice rears its ugly head in society time after time, I don’t run from it. I run to it.
I have the honor, memory and legacy of my ancestors to carry on. I have the hopes, dreams and luxuries of my children and their peers to institute. But most of all, I have the duty to fight to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, as I swore to do when I joined the Marine Corps in 1990.
I have the right to demand that we live up to the laws that are written in this document, that “All Men are Created Equal.”
So I am calling for all that may hear my voice or read my words, to stand up and fight for what is right. Speak up for those that are not being heard. Educate yourself to the plight of your fellow Americans.
Open your heart to those that may not look like you, sound like you, or come from the same backgrounds and cultures. Address your biases and stereotypical thoughts.
We all have biases, including myself, and must learn to recognize them in order to shun acting upon them. Conversations on racial issues are very uncomfortable. But they must be had in order to grow as individuals and as a community. There is nothing to be ashamed of, as history is just that, HISTORY!
We have so much potential as a community. Charles City is one of the most diverse cities per capita in Iowa. That is a great thing. It is nothing to be afraid of, but something to be excited about. A chance to meet new friends, build new relationships, and learn new cultures.
Enjoy the breeze Charles City, because the winds are blowing.