A New Year presents us with new challenges

Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, Special Assistant to Loretta Winters, President Gloucester County NAACP | 1/24/2017, 7:05 p.m.
Happy New Year! Perhaps not too happy for persons of color in our country.
Wil Rojas

Happy New Year! Perhaps not too happy for persons of color in our country. As we’ll have to wait and see, but so far, it doesn’t look too promising. Nearly a month and a half after Donald Trump won more than enough Electoral College votes to take the oath of office on January 20th in Washington, DC, I’ve spoken with many minority Americans who are very angry and upset with Trump’s election. I say to you in this column, like I say to them: Elections, like baseball games and law suits, ultimately come down to the question of winners and losers. If you’re like me, on the losers’ side, you have to be careful how you blow off your steam.

Looking to hear what Rev. Al Sharpton had to say about this subject, I attended, along with Al Thomas, advertising director for this wonderful newspaper, a packed service at the Parkside Methodist Church in Camden on Sunday, December 11th. Although I had to skip-out, before Rev. Sharpton delivered his sermon, to attend a memorial service at Temple University for a dear lawyer friend of mine, I subsequently read and heard from Al Thomas, that Rev. Sharpton told the gathering, “I’m not fretting Donald Trump, I made it through Nixon.” He went on to say, “The question is not what Trump will do. The question is, what are we going to do?”

I also lived through Nixon and remember our efforts in organizing and demanding a more just and inclusionary American society for all. I remember a nation painfully divided, with turbulence in our cities and Americans of all backgrounds fighting in Vietnam and our country’s strained relationship with the Soviet Union and China. Searching through my memory’s hard drive, I found that the Nixon Era gave rise to the Black Power Era that succeeded President Lyndon Johnson’s Era and the Era of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I also vividly recall President Nixon responding to the massive protests spontaneously erupting throughout our nation, by issuing Executive Order 11478 in August of 1968, which required all federal agencies to adopt “affirmative action programs for equal employment opportunities for all sectors of the American population”. The intent of these programs was meant to increase access to education and employment for historically underrepresented minorities, including African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, women, and people with disabilities.

I turned 18 years old, classified A-1 and was number 64 on the draft list. I was knocking on the door of being sent off to fight for my country in Vietnam. Nixon ended the draft and the Vietnam War, though sadly, my high school has the distinction of having the most men killed in the Vietnam War.

The dissatisfaction of so many people in America, forced President Nixon and Congress to change their way of doing politics as people protested for a less restrictive and authoritarian government. The message coming from the peoples’ protests made it very clear that being an elected representative does not mean substituting the will of the American public, but rather, the government should aspire to form new ways of exercising appropriate authority and administering the available resources of government--which belong to the American people.

To answer Rev. Al Sharpton’s comment, “The question is not what Trump will do. The question is what are we going to do?” Donald Trump has already shown us by his cabinet appointments and campaign rhetoric what he will do. What are we going to do? We are going to revert to the legacies of the struggles waged by our ancestors throughout the course of American history to respond to the challenges Donald Trump will put before us. Growing up, my parents taught me that what happens to us in our collective life as people of color, teaches us more about ourselves, even in a crisis, to be grateful when things aren't going the way we want them to. We should have sense enough to turn it around through intelligent strategies, and struggle to turn it around for the benefit of our people.