To my neighbors in Scotch Plains & Fanwood:

We desperately need your help.

Looking at the legacies of Sam Cooke, LeBron James, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Tiger Woods, Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan. We think these are all successful African Americans - right? Well, maybe. It all depends on your perspective.

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What separates these so-called successful people from each other? When it comes to standing up for racial equality, there are some people in category “A” and others that can be sent to the scrap heap of history,  with all their money,  to category Sh*t! That’s right, category Sh*t!

With all their lifetime of talent, success and blessings, Sam Cooke, LeBron James, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Mohammed Ali and many others have all worked the midnight shift advocating for racial justice. One hundred years from now, their names will still be remembered.

On the other hand, our so-called living legends, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, despite their glorified talents and wealth, have been nothing but cowards! They have forgotten the big shoulders from which they stood to get the opportunities that allowed them to be successful… and they care for nothing more than their Net Worth.

As I have observed repeatedly over several decades of their existence, and through each and every racial injustice that has occurred over the last two and a half decades of their stardom, neither one of them have ever uttered a single word of support to recognize any of the incidents impacting their own like-colored brethren in the struggle for racial justice. Why, because they don’t want to lose the big contracts with Nike…..unless of course they get caught cheating on their wives or racking up gambling debts in Las Vegas. But there are ways around that as well. Whatever!

Why did I bring up these two characters? It is because most of you are just “Like Mike” and Tiger. If the ongoing racial injustices don’t affect or impact you or your family, it doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t matter. You go to work, get your paycheck, waste time on Facebook and go to sleep. Next day, just rinse and repeat.

In a world where black people are wrongfully killed every day for merely crossing the street, many of you are “Like Mike” - staying quiet, not challenging the racist people around you. Not speaking up. Only caring for yourself and your family.  You are completely unconcerned with the situation - perfectly hiding behind your “white privilege” until it’s your turn to be the next "Central Park Karen."

Whatever race you are, I know you see racial injustices around you every day but you refuse to acknowledge, correct or speak up against racism. You are afraid your “friends” may not welcome these “strange thoughts” coming out of your mouth. You are afraid to challenge your “family” members saying crazy stuff about your next door neighbors. When your spouse cracks a racist joke at the dinner table (in front of the kids), you fail to correct and set them straight. Soon enough, those racist thoughts are carried into real life actions against real people – minorities mostly. But guess what? Sooner or later, your loved ones will become the next featured attraction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever – for some racist transgressions that was “probably just a joke” or “not meant to hurt anyone”. Then followed by a public apology on CNN/FOX. By that time, it is too late. What was “just a joke” in your tiny little humble abode is now a public relations disaster for your family and your career. Your employer gets wind of your action and your itty-bitty lifestyle goes bye-bye!

Have you ever wondered why teenage boys are painting insensitive racist graffiti on high school walls? Where did you think they got the idea? They weren’t born racist; they learned it from you – either by actively coaching them or ignoring their “innocent” little racist comments that was condoned and gone unchecked for many years. Now they practice what they know.

So, please stand up and speak up anywhere you experience anyone making inappropriate racist remarks. Correct them immediately and set them straight. Let them know those thoughts are not acceptable anywhere. It hurts people. Actions are based on thoughts and actions do have consequences – whether it was intentional or not.

Let me be straight with you. This racial problem cannot be solved without you. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Women’s Right to Vote) did not get passed by Women. The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution (prohibiting the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude") did not get passed by minorities. It took great White men of courage to stand up and pass those two amendments – in the face of fierce opposition.

We, African Americans, cannot fight this fight without you. We need your help. It is not only African American lives that are being destroyed. In this digital age of cellphones and whatnot, when you or your loved ones become the next “Karen in Central Park”, the potential damage is incalculable – on both sides.

So please, don’t be “Like Mike” or Tiger! Speak up for justice and let’s not ever have a “Scotch Plains Karen.”

Alfonse Akins
Scotch Plains, NJ