Civil Rights Leader Reflects on Activism Sparked by Death of George Floyd

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Dr. Terrence Roberts, one of nine Black teenagers who risked their lives to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957, reflected recently about the national protests against racism sparked by last months' killing of George Floyd.

Roberts, who left Arkansas decades ago and is now an LA-area psychologist has been monitoring the activism fueled by Floyd's killing and wonders what took so long.

"I would have expected all of that passion shortly after that massacre in Charleston when Dylan Roof went in and killed nine people in church," he said. "I would have thought that would have gotten them out in the streets."

He sees echoes of the past as the public watched California's National Guard called up by the Governor when looting erupted.

"Once again we have the state employed forces to maintain order," he said. "The cry is always, 'Peace! Peace! We could have peace if we got rid of the underlying problems. It's not the peace that's being disturbed. What's being disturbed is the comfort zone."

He says he's always been behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I've always felt like Black Lives Matter to Black people," he said. "But they haven't mattered to too many other people. So it is timely a lot of people are taking greater interest in it."


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To Roberts, the diversity of protesters isn't noteworthy. It's overdue.

"What we're fighting for is rights and privileges for Black people who also happen to be Americans," he said. "Other Americans should realize that. And join us, not as allies but as fellow soldiers."

Robert's is a published author, busy on the speaking circuit and keeping scholars grounded about racism through The Little Rock Foundation.

"It's important for you to put that in perspective," he said. "This is not the last time you're gonna see something like that happen. There will be another George Floyd in your future."

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