My Black/American History Q1–2021 Reflections
I survived Them, read Caste & have started reading The Vanishing Half. I started watching Exterminate All the Brutes-I’ll finish. Saw almost all of Soul of a Nation & Amend. Caught The Banker & lowlights of the Chauvin Trial. Flip on the news (6 & 11 & cable) to see the protests about the latest murder. New hashtags: #DuanteWright & #AdamToledo. So many hashtags. Too many near hashtags, sometimes caught on tape, like with Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario. Sorry, Lt. Nazario. Like when Black soldiers returned home from past wars, sooner or later, they/you learned/learn, that America had/has much work to do. Nope, military service doesn’t exempt you from domestic disservice. Your outfit or uniform doesn’t matter in the eyes of the biased, if Black/Brown skin appears above the neckline. You can have your pants up as high as your hands and can still be judged & indicted in the communities/courts/corporate offices/Congress.
I’ve seen & read so much telling & retelling of Black/American stories — before, during & after Black History Month. I’ve been angered at learning about the cruel, intimate (not-so) secret pains (and trauma) behind the music of Mahalia and Tina and ReRe & those other artists I’ve felt close to. I feel for those who bare their souls on Unsung. They have seen successes that many folk crave, yet they are still pained. The pain caused by those systems that are supposed to protect you (family; church; schools; courts; city hall; cops; Congress) hurts the most.
So much loss. So much victory. We win, some. Lose some more.
The non-fiction melds into fiction. Life imitates art & TV shows make millions in commercials by replicating life; ripping it from the headlines as if we needed to be reminded of how horrible humanity can be. And, good ratings equal more pain — in heavy rotation. So, the shows/news/social media replays the same stories, different casts — incessantly.
Then, I saw Dr. David R. Williams (again) warn the world about how hazardous racism is to Black bodies. Imagine that, like a magician, folk don’t have to lay a hand on you to hurt you. Psychological warfare. A traumatic stress disorder — not pre-, nor post-, it just is TSD. There should be a Surgeon General’s warning on countries where the racism pandemic has a firm grip on its systems and too many of its people.
And, Still, We Rise.
Then, I look back over my Black/American history and am amazed. I thank God I/we have survived at all. The volume of abuse, neglect, assault might lead to the extinction of some living beings. But like BeBe’s kids, we are here. Militant. Rowdy. Regal. Radical. Respected.
This is bigger than resilience. It is Black DEFIANCE. We stand. We are resolute. Powered by our ancestors singing through our bones: I Shall Not Be Moved. We are weary, but know that joy will come. We walk by our faiths, not by our sight. We stand still and know that God is God. We are determined to make it, because deep down in our souls, we know that NO weapons formed to traumatize or maim or mentally/physically kill us shall ever prosper.
One court win doesn’t fully change the system — but, it’s a necessity. We know the WHOLE damn system is guilty as hell — that’s why we were cautiously optimistic about the outcome in the CLEARLY murderous act in Minneapolis. And, those who built these systems are angry and shocked that they haven’t broken us. It’s not that their systems are weak — we are just that much stronger. We haven’t given up — and growing numbers of other persuasions are standing with us.
Our defiance is deafening. Our persistence is personal. Our unity is frightening — to those who want us to fail. The oppressors know they won’t thrive without us — and it angers them. We know that no one verdict is an absolute victory or absolute loss. So we hold on, till change comes. Slowly, sometimes, but surely, change comes. We make change come. We’ve BEEN making change come.
In a book I’m reading (no spoiler alert), a parent tries to explain “assassination” to a child. Basically, “It is what happens when important people are killed — unimportant people are just victims”. Almost daily, we are seeing people, who, themselves, didn’t feel as “important” as the Kennedy’s or King. Then, they suddenly (or, in 9 minutes) became a victim. Then, the world came to know them. And, their lives became important to people they would never know. Then, suddenly, their deaths become an assassination.
Funny. We have spent a year, isolated from people who we barely looked up from our devices to acknowledge — if we looked up at all. Covid has opened some roads. We may want those folks we, once, honked at to get out of our way, to linger. Say hi. We disregarded folk on the sidewalk or pushed past them on the subway for that last seat. And people we might have honked at or complained about were murdered/assassinated and we have hit the streets and looted and cried and marched in defiance. In outrage. In fear for our own lives.
Now, we (those of us who are following the CDC rules for survival) are yearning for contact with others. An elbow bump. A fist bump — followed by hand sanitizer. A simple gaze over masks — I see you & hope you see me.
The honking and rudeness is returning with every vaccine-laden needle in an arm. Masks will come down & hugs are returning. Yet, the masks of racism & bias have also come down. Apparently, the world only can fix one pandemic at a time. But, anti-racism vaccines are gaining effectiveness. If soft drink companies & MLB are complaining, folk might actually seek an anti-racism injection of morality & respect for humanity.
It seems that many of those who are following the CDC rules for survival seem to have more compassion for life than those who still think Covid & the last presidential election were hoaxes. The seditionists & proud boys and girls may need two vaccines — One for Covid & one for their unfounded biases. If a mental deprogramming Narcan were available — to waken them from the deadly stupor of cult45 — they could use a dose of that, too.
While living in the Covid19 pandemic, we must believe the racism pandemic is being tackled, too. It existed before the Spanish Flu, so the vaccine must be stronger.
We MUST believe our future WILL be brighter, because our past was so, so very dim & heavy and looked so, so very insurmountable. It wasn’t insurmountable though. Today is brighter than yesterday. We are still here. We will remain here — on this same planet. And we will prosper. And change will come. It must — it has no other choice.
And, the work continues.