SALT LAKE CITY — A civil rights legend in our community said this week that he hasn’t seen this much civil upheaval, cries for change, and violent protest since the summer of 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
It was also the time when a young Reverend France Davis was four years away from coming to Salt Lake City.
“I’ve never seen seen anything in Salt Lake City like what we are experiencing now,” said Reverend Davis.
Davis retired as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in December after 46 years of leading the predominantly African-American congregation, but he has remained a force for positive change in the community.
He talked with local leaders regularly in recent days about the serious struggles we’re going through right now.
Reverend Davis said he’s never seen such violent expressions of anger and frustration over racism in Salt Lake.
“In ways that I think are inappropriate, but maybe that’s what it’s going to take to get the larger community's attention,” he said.
He does not condone violence, and thinks the majority of people protesting downtown Saturday were there to express themselves peacefully, just as Dr. King did when they marched together in the '60s.
At that time, he believed our country was making real progress.
“Then when Mr. Obama got elected President of the United States, I knew we had arrived. But it seems that instead of having arrived, we are going backwards more and more,” Davis said.
He said there are too many issues of racial injustice that America has not adequately addressed yet.
“We have never had the real conversation about race in this society where we’ve tried to come up with some positive solutions,” he said.
We have never had the real conversation about race in this society where we’ve tried to come up with some positive solutions.
–Rev. France Davis
He said too many people in our communities want to have a tranquil and peaceful society, rather than deal with the big problems.
“We are ignoring the fact that people of African descent have been treated differently historically in our country, and still are,” said Davis.
How do we vanquish racism, and promote tolerance?
Davis said his message to this community has not changed since he first arrived.
“If the larger community would realize that whatever problems affect us affect the larger community, then we could get some solutions I think,” he said.
What will progress look like?
We need police policies that have been developed not just by law enforcement, but also by people from the outside. When the community has developed those, we will know we are taking steps in the right direction, he said.