Sunday, January 10, 2021

Till Victory Is Won

BLACK LIVES MATTER is the unequivocal declaration that I will continue to make until my dying day. That isn't a slogan or the name of a bunch of young idealists who go around marauding after another Black man/woman/child is killed or maimed by a vigilante/rogue police officer. Black Lives Matter is a fact that some people either choose to ignore or intentionally denigrate...until we started affirming it louder and unapologetically with self-assured defiance.

Black Lives Mattered when you brought those 19 African indentured servants to help settle Jamestown. Black Lives Mattered when it became profitable to kidnap more Africans, pack them into the cargo holds of ships, and sail across the Atlantic Ocean to a New World where you sold their bodies for profit. Black Lives Mattered when your lust drove you to commit rape and incest, and greed compelled you to enslave your own mulatto and quadroon offspring. Black Lives Mattered when men who had escaped bondage donned blue uniforms and fought to preserve this Union and defend its ideals, even though the rights and privileges of citizenship were denied them. Black Lives Mattered because rich Southern planters needed under-compensated labor to turn profits, Northern industrialists needed workers to cross Unionized picket lines, and everyone in between needed racism to feel superior.

Black Lives have always mattered, even though it makes you squirm with discomfort when we say it aloud. You recoil and respond with All Lives Matter because you claim that we are elevating our lives above your own. No, we're just emphatic that our children, our parents, and our communities deserve better than the scraps and crumbs left on the table. Our whole lives have the same value as yours, and we are more than just bodies to exploit for our labor and loins at your pleasure. So if that offends you, that we see the beauty in our hair, our skin, our sorrow, our hearts of compassion, and especially our intellect, then that is your problem.

In the past whenever Black people came to realize the fullness of our power and beauty, it triggered the same retaliatory violence that occurred this past week. It came in various forms and was effective in burying our spirit. But only for a time, because our ancestors sowed prolific perennial seeds of self-awareness and strength. You may have killed David Walker and Nat Turner, but we grew back stronger to help save this Union multiple times. You may have disenfranchised Black men through Redemption and Jim Crow, but we grew back strong in enough numbers to send Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate. You may have exhorted the Black women who marched in the 1913 Suffrage Parade to go back to their kitchens, but now you must refer to one of us as Madam Vice President.

If you were horrified by what you saw this week, you should be. It was disgraceful, as was the Trail of Tears (1830-1850); Red Summer (1919); race riots in Tulsa OK (1921) and Rosewood FL (1923); the Zoot Suit Riots in California (1943); the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (1963); the Oklahoma City bombing (1995); the shooting rampage at Mother Emanuel (2015); the clash at Charlottesville (2017); and the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue (2018). All of those incidents are examples of the anger and rage that come in response to our self-determination. You will kill anyone to maintain your supremacy, including innocent children. You claim to be believers in God, but have desecrated houses of worship. You demand respect for the flag, but also revere the banner of insurrection. This time, your tantrums led you to march on Statehouses, to burglarize and ransack the U.S. Capitol. 

That you would destroy your own house...all because our votes matter just as much as our lives. Just as much as yours.

This is your moment of reckoning. This is who you are. This is the America where you reside. These people are your racist Uncles that you tolerate because you say they're harmless. These are the cousins that you used to play with until they moved too far away to the exurbs when that one Black family moved in next door. These are the guys that were once the local town heroes, the ones who thought they deserved a career in the NFL but didn't make it because they had to compete with the Black guys who did. If you insist that you don't know those people, then here is a mirror:


Don't look away, especially not now. And don't argue that our protests for racial justice this summer were the same as your sour grapes over an election loss. One set of protests was against systematic injustice--the kind that deems our young people guilty without any due process. We took to the streets in desperation after decades of suppressing our anger over disparate treatment. Until we started to steal microwaves and flat screens from Walmart, no one cared to comfort the families whose loved ones had their necks crushed in the streets. In spite of the lie that all are equal in the eyes of the law, which is supposed to be blind, Lady Justice is an expert sharpshooter when Black people are in her crosshairs. 

What excuses will you offer to explain the mayhem inside the U.S. Capitol? How do you account for the behavior of the guy who thought he was within his rights to prop his dirty boots up on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk? Or the fool who walked off with her podium (a listing for which was posted on eBay) or the other electronic equipment that was stolen from other offices? What about the excrement that was smeared on the walls? All of this is justifiable anger because 81 million of us decided that our country couldn't survive another four years of Donald Trump???

I allowed myself to get drawn into a Twitter exchange with one of his supporters, and the delusion that Trump had made America greater during his tenure is real. I guess the Muslim ban, the children in cages, the piss poor response to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, the disrespect to Sen. John McCain and Gold Star families, and the 360,000+ people who were killed by COVID shouldn't have influenced my vote. He even suggested that I could learn the truth if I listened to Rush Limbaugh...

He also made a point to highlight the various ills that would come from Democratic Party rule: rising health care costs, abortion on demand, infringement of 2nd Amendment rights, disrespect for law enforcement, jobs going overseas, higher taxes, and more racism. And for a moment, I could see how with the right lighting, a little orange makeup, and the right pitch on that dog whistle, it could seem as if his points were valid. Perhaps voting for the reality TV show grifter has put us on the road to Oz.

But yeah, the Great and Powerful Wizard was a fake. There are five people whose names have been added to his death toll and he's run out of fingers to point.

What provoked that melee wasn't frustration over any of the issues claimed--it was the same shit that always riles up good ole American lynch mobs. It was the ascendance of Black people, women, immigrants, and other marginalized people to places that were built by them, but not for them. The rioters were deliberate in disrespecting Pelosi's office because they are offended by her presence in that position of power. They got riled up over the idea of a stolen election because it will install a Black woman within a heartbeat of the Presidency. When that rioter was seen patrolling the abandoned hallways with a Confederate flag like a sentinel on watch, it should have become crystal clear that this was a symbolic siege in the name of Redemption, the Lost Cause resurrected for the 21st Century. The MAGA slogan is the rebel yell, those red caps are throwbacks to the Redshirts, and Trump thinks he is the avenging General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Instead, he is the inept General Gideon Pillow.

Y'all are mad that Black votes matter enough to push the needle of progress a few inches forward. Y'all are mad because mediocrity doesn't measure up to excellence. Y'all are mad because getting out-strategized and out-organized by Black women who had time and resources to change the state of play is humiliating as fuck when the system was engineered to guarantee a different outcome. Y'all are mad because change won't stop with Georgia or the White House...

Black Lives Matter. We've said it for years, we've known it in our souls, but now you know it too. We won't win every battle, but we won't back down. We know how to survive as underdogs and how to persevere, so we can live with the setbacks and the pendulum swings that are inevitable. We will endure, and in so doing we will continue to perfect this wholly imperfect Union. Let us march on till victory is won!