Saturday, April 11, 2015

Maybe We Need To Stop Acting White

You already know I quit blogging for months when  Ferguson blew up. And you already know why. But recently, I've begun to realize that something is happening to many of those whose views on life and power and race I most respect. I'm not sure what to call this X Factor I hear in their voices. But it resonates in my soul. And I don't know whether I'm more relieved that I'm not smoldering alone or more concerned about the greater implications of whatever is brewing inside us.

Actually, we are so bombarded by the consciousness of violence on a daily basis in this society, I sometimes worry I'm going to succumb to compassion fatigue and be found in a closet somewhere with my thumb in my mouth. Even if I'm not bleeding, I ache for those who do – all of them. And I’m hardly the only one.

So we're all on the same page here, right? We're all against violence. We abhor the shooting of a legislator, the killing of a little girl because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the heart-breaking homicides of one young Black male after another by other young Black males, military veterans returning from war only to commit tragic attacks on their own families, young people committing suicide at unprecedented rates. We hate all this, don't we? Of course, we do!

Yet, if we look back into history to the very beginning of this nation, we know it was rooted in violence. For starters, the indigenous people of this continent were raped, robbed and murdered viciously while Europeans worked to help each other establish themselves in "their" "new" land. Then, Africans were systematically kidnapped, debilitated, brainwashed, raped and beaten into submission, before being worked to death like farm animals – for hundreds of years – while "White" people reassured each other that they were superior to those against whom they daily dispensed blood-letting violence at will. Chinese were shanghaied, then thrown out to suit the needs of White-owned and operated corporation coffers. The independent kingdom of Hawaii was occupied and the queen taken captive so the islands could be turned over to Sanford B. Dole (ever seen that name on a can of pineapple?). Japanese-American citizens were forced to walk away from their homes and businesses into concentration camps as a punishment for not having the power to prevent it. Right wing Latino military types from all over the Western Hemisphere have been trained in torture and terror techniques at what used to be called the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia, so they can keep their nations’ populations in line with the U.S. military-industrial complex's economic interests. And even to the present, African-American males all over this country are murdered by police officers one way or the other – without recourse – so often that the incidents have become commonplace. And this history and these incidents were and are perpetrated by White people on People of Color.

We want Black folks to play nice. We want people critical of those who so ruthlessly wield The Power in our country to shut up and lie down. And we want all the powerless to turn the other cheek and turn the other cheek and turn the other cheek. But all that cheek-turning requires something we don't talk much about. There's no need to turn the other cheek, if you haven't already been struck. And who exactly is it that doing the striking?

Black-on-Black crime appears at first glance to let the real villains off the hook, so the political and law enforcement pundits can blame the victims to their hearts' delight. Even African-Americans despair of the attacks young Black men and women are visiting on each other. But in a country where people of visibly African heritage are still denied their rights as full citizens in the land of their birth, the frustration and rage and pain and self-hatred that is generated becomes almost palpable in poor Black communities. And their best efforts to date have not been able to change the reality that The Power in this nation is still in the same hands it's been in since the beginning. It is important that we work to protect Black youth from the infection of internalized racism that triggers their self-destruction processes, but we must hold as ultimately responsible those who have the actual power to change the institutional and structural realities under which People of Color must struggle for their survival.

White folks established this country. They set up and still maintain its social institutions to this day. If there are problems with violence, they are rooted in all the violence we have set in motion. Violence is physical, but it's also psychological and emotional. Some social mechanisms – like poverty – are violence, as well. Sending children to severely underfunded schools is violence. Making military service the only way many youth can even think about college in a country where no college degree means being stuck in a low-paid dead-end job is violence. Using trillions of dollars in tax money to fund the military is twice violent: once against the people (always People of Color) who are incessantly and insanely bombed into submission and once against the taxpayers who are forced to pay for the bombing instead of being allowed to pay for schools and health care and other desperately needed goods and services. And all of this is driven by a White male power structure, which oddly enough, is now represented by a Black man who has been given no choice but to uphold the same principles that made this country's elite the richest on earth and its society the most violent.

Maybe what we need to do is stop acting White. Drop the pretense of White Supremacy. And drop the violence as a way of life. Tell those in power we're in control, that we're tired of the violence and we're tired of paying for it. Bring the troops home. And the jobs. And quit pretending everybody wearing a uniform and a gun is above the law. All of us – Black and White together – could start acting in the best interests of ourselves and the human race and stop acting White.

Many people in the U.S. apparently believe that violence is reasonable, natural, and even necessary. Some thrive on its presentation in films and the “fun” of playing wildly violent video games. But violence is not an indicator of strength; it’s an indicator of the moral will to be brutal. True strength is developed by knowing who you are and where you came from; knowing where you live geographically, socio-economically and historically; knowing the difference between the truth and the lies wrapped in excuses we have been educated to believe are the truth.

Attacking or even attacking back is not the answer. (And I agree with Malcolm X that defending oneself is not the same as attacking.) If one is sane, one doesn't have to attack and certainly not first. In fact, there are those who believe that this country is in the mess it is in at least partly because its cultural mindset from the beginning has been insane: brutal, selfish, self-centered and even sociopathic. And that those who are in control still espouse that mindset. In that case, the solution is not to talk nicer in public, but to heal ourselves so we can heal our land. And we can't do that until we admit and face the truth – about everything.

We don't have to study, to learn, to admit and face the truth, but if we don't, the showdown won't be between Blacks and Whites or liberals and conservatives or even rich and poor. It'll be between us and the Devil. Inside ourselves.


veganelder said...

I agree with every thing you've written here and I would add that the dropping of violence as a way of behaving will necessarily mean taking into account...and refraining from doings exemplified by your phrase "...being worked to death like farm animals...".

It is problematic (and ultimately self-defeating) to consider avoidance of violence toward one another while continuing to behave violently toward beings who happen to not belong to our species.

Horrifyingly, it's all related.

Changeseeker said...

You are absolutely correct, Veganelder. It is all related.