Maybe we could start telling the stories right?

It’s almost been a year since Linda Brown’s death and so I’ve been thinking a lot about segregation. It still exists, of course, in very real ways, but it’s just not on the books in the same form anymore. Unfortunately, so much of this is because, as a population we’re still mentally segregated. This can be seen in not only our individual, specific positions on race, but in everything from our views on history to how we frame contemporary social issues.

As a child, I was taught that slavery began with Africans selling each other to white slavers. This story has been retold to me countless times throughout my life. It was taught to my father and mother and their parents and probably to you and yours as well. This story has implications that are in the very DNA of this country. From this story we are to infer that Black people inherently do not care for one another and therefore we are incapable of understanding core tenets of American society, like “Honor” and “Family.” From this story we are also to infer that whatever happened to us as a people was at the same time inevitable and exclusively our own fault.

You can see these beliefs of our moral inferiority and innate undeservedness make their way from slavery all the way through Brown v Board of Education and continuing to right now.

While whiteness continues to change and eventually include every other racial group, it will never include Native Americans or us. This is because every other racial group is allowed an origin story of self-reliance. All of their stories involve leaving a homeland that persecuted them in one way or another. Their stories, and therefore their identities support the identity of this country as a safe harbor for the tired, poor, huddled masses, etc. Native Americans, on the other hand, are thought of as noble savages who were too naïve to know that their time had come, leaches that take advantage of a system designed with only the most benevolent intentions for everyone, all of the above or somewhere in between.   

We ignore the fact that many Native Americans actually do have the same origin story as the rest of those groups. Unfortunately, most of them were also murdered en masse because, while having the same story, that story is at odds with this country’s identity.

The same, believe it or not, is true for Black people. While America tells itself the stories of Black people being responsible for our own enslavement, it avoids the true stories at all costs. America never tells the stories of the African leaders who fought against and in some cases defeated attempted enslavers. It never tells the stories of the Africans who fought against being enslaved in every possible way. It never tells the stories of the countless rebellions by the people it enslaved.

America never tells these stories because it cannot simultaneously be its own hero and its own villain. And since it cannot admit to its own villainy, it continues. But please don’t think of villainy, in this case as a reflection of an individual’s intentions. I am speaking specifically of the stories we tell ourselves as Americans about our fellow Americans that limit and destroy us as a country, and perhaps as a globe.

Currently, as a country we are struggling with addiction. The opioid epidemic has forced us to rethink our relationship to drugs entirely. We have begun decriminalizing addiction and treating it as a medical issue. Rightfully so. This change in attitude comes because it fits with our national identity of self-reliance. For white people.

Looking back at the crack epidemic, which affected mostly Black people, you can see the old, familiar story resulting in mass incarceration. White people, being self-reliant and superior find their victims of addiction in hospitals. Black people, as dishonorable things that would sell their own family members deservedly end up in cages or dead.

The same story is told about gun violence. A white person goes on a shooting spree and they are mentally ill and in need of treatment. The reaction to Black gun violence is, again, that Black people are inherently violent and nothing can be done.

Again, it’s not only in the acts of the individual where this can be seen. Currently, the most important issue the country faces is climate change. For white people. Not for people of color, though. Racism is still the most important issue for us because we’ve already been living with the effects of climate change for years and racism is why.

Humanity faces a lot of problems, but addiction and the temperature of the earth don’t care what color you are. They don’t care about your gender, for that matter, either. But if women and people of color were allowed the opportunities of a white man, there would be more doctors. There would be more scientists. Without even getting into the value of different perspectives, there would simply  be more people attacking the issues that affect our species.

That’s the story this country and the world need to start telling.


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How can you trust the system when the system put him there?

I love Elijah Cummings. His “Come on!” at the end of the Michael Cohen hearing is my new ringtone. I agree with him a lot, but we differ is when he says, “We’re better than this!”

If he’s talking about the country, I don’t think we are.

I look at all those republican reps during the hearing and their constant cry of, “This is a waste of time! We should be doing our jobs or anything else!” while they themselves are there, defending the president instead of meeting with constituents or drafting legislation or, you know, doing their jobs or anything else.

Then I look at the president.

I think it went like this…

This fool wanted to boost his brand, so he started a campaign. The best way to do that is to attack the establishment. But that’s a hard thing to do when, as a wealthy, white, male inheritor he’s the living embodiment of the establishment, but who cares? He wasn’t really trying to win anyway. He knew he couldn’t rally the majority of voters to side with him. Part of his identity is believing this. He’s a conspiracy theorist and part of being a conspiracy theorist is the belief that only a few know the real truth. He’s also a eugenicist, which lends itself to the belief that he is one of the very few who can even understand the truth.

Eugenics also tell him that he’s better that the Black guy who’s about to leave office and better than the woman he’s running against. But, again, he’s not even trying to get the majority of American voters behind him. And he doesn’t. It turns out the majority of American voters aren’t fooled by him at all. But the racist-ass electoral college appoints him anyway.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of racists to go around. Sure as shit, a whole lot of white “religious” people who spend their spare time railing against the lifestyle of someone like the new president sure love his stance on anything related to race. Same with a whole lot of white Americans who hate those East Coast elites, but, you know, just not as much as they hate darker skin tones.

Then comes the collective, country-wide crisis of white conscience. Suddenly a whole lot of white people have to start dealing with the fact that their families have way more bigots than they realized. Some are inspired by their crisis of conscience and decide to fight for a better country. And, yes, some are more interested in calling for a return to “normal” in hopes to reclaiming a time when they just didn’t have to see how ugly it can be for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the new president gets into office and proceeds to behave exactly as expected, like someone who didn’t want to win. He doesn’t read reports, doesn’t get out of bed until pretty late. Then there’s his “executive time.” Have you seen his golf count? He’s obviously not mentally or physically capable of doing very much at all, let alone the hardest job in the world and he clearly doesn’t want to be there.

But he is there. And despite what we think of ourselves as a country, he will probably continue to be there. He will continue to be there because the democrats’ goal seems to be getting more votes than republicans even though they reached that very goal last time only to snatch defeat from the mouth of victory.

He will continue to be there because we are still unwilling to admit that racism is what put him there.

He will continue to be there because the system has no internal defense from a leader who will engage with it.

We must ask ourselves: What do we do when our systems disregard the will of the people and appoint a leader who is incapable of even reading a single report and who publicly sides with the enemies of his country over his own intelligence agencies and who openly disdains most of the people he is supposed to represent, care for and lead?

If our answer is to trust in those very systems again, but just keep our fingers crossed this time, well, then I’m never going to agree with Rep. Cummings. I don’t think we are better than this. There’s a pretty good chance we’re even worse.

We can be better, but we’re going to have to accept what we are first.


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All the news that should have been…other than Jussie

Jussie. Yikes.

As of this writing Jussie Smollett has been charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. It doesn’t look good for him, but just for a moment I invite you to take into account what else has been happening.

Back in the 1990s there was this dude named Roger Davis. He was the sheriff of Marengo County, Alabama, and he was crooked as hell. This fool was into theft, drugs, blackmail—all kinds of bad shit. In the end, he and his deputies got taken down by The Democrat Reporter, a little newspaper in the rural town of Linden, 2,500 people strong.

The editor of The Democrat Reporter was a man named Goodloe Sutton and his wife, Jean, was the lead reporter. Their efforts made national news, led to a federal investigation of Davis and earned them awards nationally as well as internationally.

Jean died in 2003, but Goodloe is still around. In fact, last Monday it came out that he wrote an article calling for the KKK to lynch people in Washington, D.C. It made national news, but not as much as it could or should have. Imagine all of the think pieces that could’ve been written about the fall of a former hero. Or how our national blind spot allowed us to regard this man as a hero when he was likely a terrible bigot this whole time. Maybe something about the multitude of biased ways in which the media chooses or chooses not to cover matters involving race.

I would’ve liked to have seen that kind of thing saturate the news. Instead, the majority of what I hear is about how the Chicago police say a gay, Black man lied.

On May, 1, 2017, the Baltimore Oriels beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 at Fenway Park. Boston fans didn’t take it well. Boston has earned itself a certain reputation over the years and that night was a prime example of how.

A bag of peanuts was thrown at Oriels center fielder Adam Jones and he was repeatedly called the N-word. There is an acceptance of racism in sports that permits us to blow something like this off. We think Well, what do you expect?

As this article from last Wednesday points out, “But more than 18 months later, community leaders are looking back at the episode as a watershed moment that brought Boston’s pro sports teams together to tackle racism head on.” The article is talking about a program called Take the Lead, which aims at bringing inclusivity into all Boston sports. It’s not the singular answer to anything, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I would’ve liked to have seen this kind of positive story saturate the news, but, you know, the Chicago police said a gay, Black man lied.

It was reported on Wednesday that U.S Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-identified white nationalist, was planning a domestic terrorist attack unlike anything the country has ever seen. A particularly revealing detail that will probably not get enough attention is that Hasson performed an internet search for the phrase, “civil war if Trump impeached.” Certainly, any part of that should overshadow the Chicago police saying a gay, Black man lied.

Last week, The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report. The report shows that hate groups are growing, rising seven percent just last year and continuing a four-year trend amounting to thirty percent so far. So much of the rise can be attributed to the president, which is surely something more important to us than the Chicago police saying a gay, Black man lied.

On Thursday North Carolina, a state so racist it has been known to write laws that “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” decided it needed to have a whole new election. It turns out that the Republicans were so stupid in their racist ballot fraud that the authorities ordered a do-over for the only midterm election in the country still undecided.

You’d think that that would garner more attention than the Chicago police saying a gay, Black man lied. In the end, not even the sum total of these stories can eclipse Jussie’s alleged transgressions.

Maybe someday we’ll be able to have a national conversation about the anticipation with which America waits for a Black person to fall or the comparison of costs between Black and white lies in America or who is allowed to be lied about in America.

I know it’s not likely to happen any time soon, but maybe someday. For now, seriously, I’d be satisfied if Virginia could get its shit together for just a few weeks.


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