May 31, 2020 may not be a day that will live in infamy. It can't compare to three days in August of 1908, when a white mob burned African American homes and forever stained Springfield as a city steeped in racism, regardless of Abraham Lincoln. Nor can that day in May erase decades of baked-in racial divide in municipal affairs that ended only when African Americans sued nearly 40 years ago to throw out a commissioner form of government that virtually guaranteed whites would run the city. But May 31, 2020, mattered nonetheless. George Floyd had just been slain in graphic detail, and the nation was both horrified and on edge.
In Springfield, no one expected what came to pass, many hundreds, if not thousands, of cars arriving for a parade around the courthouse promoted catch-as-catch-can via social media. Police had to intervene, given the flood of cars, with officers directing traffic side-by-side with activists, and everyone working together. There was no pepper spray. No rubber bullets. No graffiti or fireworks or nut jobs dressed in camouflage and bearing assault rifles. There were, however, plenty of smiles, with every one of them signaling hope.
We were a city that came together, and we did a lot better than other cities did, at least for a few hours. We should hold onto that and remember, because May can sometimes seem like a long time ago.