Most of us learned how to read via simple books of Dick, Jane, and Spot. We take it for granted that our society values education right from the start and provides us with free public school. But there was a time in our history, which a majority of Republicans now want to hide, deny, and ignore, when Black slaves were shot, whipped, raped, even lynched if they were caught trying to learn to read. A basic education we now take for granted of reading, writing, and arithmetic was forbidden for a Black slave for generations while they labored for rich slaveholders in the South, North, East, and the West of the United States (that’s right: though on a spectrum of cruelty, the entire country).
Yes, things have changed for the better, but even though Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, and gave them the same rights bestowed upon any citizen of this nation, he wondered and even doubted whether freed Black folk would ever be able to live in harmony with Whites. I’m afraid he has been proven correct, for today, despite all the gains in civil rights, a majority of Whites remain distrustful and suspicious of Blacks, which still results in discrimination in housing, employment, health care, police protection, the legal system, and many other aspects of our society that Whites needn’t worry about or consider. White privilege is the rule not the exception. When a Black man enters a 7/11 throughout this country he is regarded with suspicion, as George Floyd was in Minneapolis that fateful day he was murdered by police.
Out of this embarrassing history of ours, has grown the cancer of white supremacy. The Donald Trumps, the Steve Bannons, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Ron DeSantis’s, the Ron Johnsons, the Paul Gosarts, the McCarthys, the Bouberts, the Hawleys, the Manaforts, the Flynns, the McConnells, the Roger Stones, the Neo-Nazi Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Patriot Prayers, the QAnons and a host of others are the tumors that have grown relatively unchecked and unrestrained by a public that has largely ignored these dark entities, extended them a visa into the mainstream, and even continually votes them in and back into office time after time. Trump brought the venom to the surface and the puss has leaked into other countries where authoritarians are challenging liberal democracies. I’m afraid the average American is so beaten down and burnt out by the pandemic, yes, but also by Trumpian lies and disinformation, he, she, or they are numb and apathetic, and simply just don’t care anymore. It saddens me greatly. It angers me even more–anger to the point of distress.
My father was an optimist who was always confident his ship was about to come into port. Some of that rubbed off on me so, in spite of our largely catatonic populace, I believe there is a glimmer of hope that we as a society will see the light and right the wrongs. People can be kind and helpful. I see that almost everyday. People can be friendly. I see that almost everyday. People can be trustworthy. I see that almost everyday. And people can be loving. I see that almost everyday, personally, and in the media. The reaction almost equally by Democrats and Republicans against the war crimes of Putin in Ukraine has been mostly unified (except for Trump and a few other radicals from the alt right) and in favor of more support for the brave democratic Ukrainian president Zelensky and more harsh sanctions against the dictator Putin and his cronies. Well Putin and Trump are practically blood brothers, so the cult followers of their “dear Leader” Trump, if they ever stop to think about it, may abandon their love of their crazed leader and his racist Republican Party and vote for Democrats in the next election. How’s that for optimism? Problem is Trump’s cult followers don’t think. Cult followers rarely do. They just keep drinking the proverbial Kool Aid until their brains are fully addled.
So now what? Last night during my evening walk, I was greeted cheerfully by others in my apartment complex. What if I was Black? Would their faces have been so welcoming and friendly? No, of course not. Their first thought would have been, Oh, no, trouble! Where can I retreat to before he robs or rapes me? He must be up to no good, this Black man. Or what if they knew I was Jewish? A Jew. What’s he doing here in our complex? Is he the one who owns the place and ups our rent every year? Damn Jews! Or a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf? What is she doing in this neighborhood? There’s nothing to blow up here. I wish she would just go away. Or Hispanic? How could he afford to live here? And that broken down car? Probably his. What’s he doing here? There’s no agriculture in this area.
We live in a country of stereotypes where just the color of one’s skin, or the slant of her eyes, or the head covering, or the crook of one’s nose triggers a hate-filled response from a racist. And then white Republican politicians use that to scare other Whites even more, hoping that fear steers another vote their way. And demagogue leaders like Trump take that fear to another level, drawing out the poison that has collected under the White veneer for decades, eras, even centuries, until they intoxicate a national cult of followers to their own private Guyana.
Last night in Biden’s state of the union speech, much was made of fascist Russia’s attack on democracy, and rightly so. But nothing was said of the fascists in our country, the white supremacists, the Trump cultists and enablers in the Republican Party, and Trump himself, and their internal attack on our democracy. Biden doesn’t see it because he doesn’t want to see and acknowledge such a domestic attack. Nor does he see the necessity of stopping Trump cold before he rises again. Biden is enamored in a politics of the past, unable to fathom the changes and responses needed now to face and put down an insurrection designed to transform this country into a right wing dictatorship in the style of Trump ally Putin. It’s probably too fantastic a notion for Joe Biden, and perhaps his closest advisors, to comprehend. It’s probably too fantastic for you, my readers, to accept and comprehend. This is America, afterall, “land of the free, home of the brave.” But as conservative commentator David Brooks so astutely pointed out a few days ago in his column, democracy cannot operate without the full cooperation and effort of its people. It takes hard work, he wrote, and he questioned whether we were up to the task. I too pose that question.
If our president neglects to bring up white supremacy, systemic racism, violence against Asian American women who have experienced an alarming increase in hate crimes and harassment, Pacific Island Americans, Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, Moslem Americans, Native Americans, Any People of Color Americans, or the burning of books or the mere mentioning of Critical Race Theory in schools or the suicide incidents among children who are bullied via social media and in person in schools, and, and, and, and, ad infinitum. If he neglects to mention any of these and other denigrations in our society, then his bully pulpit will be for naught and these stains on our culture will continue and spread like the cancer they are. Republicans don’t give a damn about any of the above and are determined to drag this country, kicking and screaming, back to a time when racism and injustice were the norm, sanctioned by top leaders and courts and cops on the beat and the apathy of the general public.
Blacks, of course, take the brunt of this abuse because since we dragged them over here in chains, with guns and bullwhips, and then subjected them to one of the worse genocides in history, we continue to isolate and dehumanize them as no others, labeling them not as victims but as the perpetrators of their lot. Is lynching next if Trump Republicans retake power? Lynchings and cross burnings and swastikas on synagogues and attacks on all the minorities mentioned above? Is that where we’re headed? Back to a country where racist whites can intimidate minorities with impunity and without restraint as was the case when Trump was president and the DOJ his lackey?
Sometime when the stain is too deep, you’ve got to throw away the garment and replace it with new threads. Perhaps we need to surrender like the alcoholic at his first AA meeting. Perhaps we need to admit that we have a serious problem and can’t solve it on our own. Perhaps we need to give up our will to a higher, and wiser, power. Perhaps, like the alcoholic or drug addict, we need to take a serious and sincere inventory and make amends where amends are warranted. Perhaps we need to stop fooling ourselves and understand how others are suffering due to our ignorance and self aggrandizement.
Where do we go from here, dear readers? Where do we go from here?