Michael Nutter’s Powerful Response to the Police Killings of Black Americans

When, America, when? The former Philadelphia mayor challenges the nation to live up to its founding principles.

Mayor Michael Nutter. Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

When, America, when?

When, America, will you get tired of kneeling on the necks of the Black people you captured and brought here for your slave labor?

When will you tire of the daily effort to hold Black people back from “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”?

When will you relent on enforcing redlining policies and practices?

When will you grow weary of keeping so many Black people incarcerated in your prisons for the employment of mostly your husbands, sons, brothers and nephews?

When will you have seen enough Black people killed by police, or by vigilante citizens, without any fear of reprisal?

When will you feel uncomfortable about not funding Black and brown children’s education at the same level and quality as your white children’s?

When will you care enough about Black Lives Mattering that you take action to reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods, and all neighborhoods in America?

When will you think it appropriate to let Black people get a job after the initial interview and not the fourth or fifth one, if at all?

When do you think is the right time to invest capital in our neighborhoods, and not just force us out of our neighborhoods — so we can still live there?

When will you acknowledge and accept the fact that your heritage of privilege was born, developed and enhanced on the backs of and from the sweat of Black people for free, while you made money?

When will be the right time to talk about what you have done to Black people, how you made our lives hell, why you did what you did, and what you think can be done to fix what you have done?

When will you make this statement true: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”?

When will you feel it’s convenient to raise the minimum wage to a family-sustaining wage that can help lift us out of poverty, so you won’t feel like you have to take care of us? (We do actually work hard; you already know that.)

When will you stop looking at us strangely or suspiciously when we show up to shop in stores, eat at a good restaurant, hang out in fancy clubs, drive nice cars, attain high-level positions in companies, own companies or serve on your corporate boards?

When will the day come that Black people can get a bank loan or financing for their businesses or mortgages without having to produce every document they can find from when their ancestors arrived on these shores?

When will you get tired of doing all of this stuff? Aren’t you tired yet from holding your knee or foot on our collective necks for 400 years?

We’re tired of you, that’s for sure, and we’re just not going to take your crap anymore.

So, when, America, when will you stop, so that we can start living our lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave? We’re ready when you are. Or we will just walk and march and act and protest and make noise and make you uncomfortable until you not only listen, but actually start hearing us and changing your behavior and systems.

So, when?

Michael A. Nutter was the 98th Mayor of the City of Philadelphia