What I am about to write will be long, but perhaps it will challenge some of our notions on racism. Perhaps not. But, at least for those of you wondering why I see it the way I do I’ll share my reasoning.
I grew up in a very racist house. The “N” word was used freely. Growing up in a small rural town you can bet my house wasn’t the only place that I heard it. Interracial dating was frowned upon and one of the prettiest girls in our school took shit for dating a Black student. In my own house, I took flack because one of my best friends growing up was a Jamaican boy that lived down the street from me. When I came back from the Army, I was giving one of my brothers a ride home when he started dropping the “N” word while talking about people on the street. I pulled over and told him that if he wanted to continue to ride with me he wouldn’t say it again. I had met better men than him in the Army and I wouldn’t stand for it. Racism is a learned thing, but for some reason, the lesson never stuck with me. Honestly, I am not sure why.
I often hear people say in response to calls to address racism, “I didn’t own no slaves.” I understand their frustration because in their hearts they feel they are being attacked for a wrong they didn’t commit. It seems unfair, and in their eyes, they see us all as equal. So, they ask, “Why can’t we just move on?”
The easiest way I have found to explain it is to ask them if they had any family that served in World War II or Vietnam? Often the answer is yes.
I then ask them are you proud of them?
To which they respond with a full chest, and wide eyes, Yes!!
From there they will often, even without prompt, begin to exalt the bravery of their forefathers. They illustrate clearly that World War II or Vietnam isn’t a lesson in a history book for them, it was Grandpa Jim who valiantly fought for his country in Bastogne or La Drang.
Well during that same time Blacks were banned from sharing the same water fountain or going to the same school. Blacks fighting communism overseas were fighting for their own freedom back here at home. Lynchings were taking place in the deep south and segregation and sundown towns were laying the foundation for the inner cities and the poverty that many are living in today.
You see, the struggle of the African American isn’t a statistic to those who are here today. It’s grandma Shirly sitting at the dinner table recounting the hell she went through with her progeny. When they read their history, they see her face.
The last facet that plays a major role in this is the basic truth that we fail to understand. Humans are tribal creatures and when African- Americans see another young Black man killed with wanton disregard for his humanity, that creates a visceral reaction, and it should.
Furthermore, we should understand it.
When our country was attacked on 9-11 the lines to join the military to “go get them bastards” was out the door. We didn’t give a shit about all the civilians’ shock and awe killed. We didn’t care about collateral damage. All we cared about, was avenging our fallen.
While there is no doubt that George Floyd’s death wasn’t the loss of life equal to the 3,000 killed on 9-11, his death was but the latest in a long history of failure by our police departments, and our country, to address the wrongdoings that are still taking place today.
That is why people are angry.
That is why this powder keg is exploding.
The answer isn’t to try to justify why you aren’t wrong personally.
The answer is to personally do what you can to right the wrongs.