I’m watching the movie “Cry Freedom” about South Africa in 1977, and I see America today, or a month ago, I can’t tell which. Steven Biko died after being beaten, in a police truck, just like Freddy Gray died in Baltimore a few years ago. We were about 40 years behind South Africa when Gray died. Let that sink in.
It’s 5 years later, George Floyd is dead. The Senate can’t pass an anti-lynching law, let alone a full-fledged police brutality bill. Who doesn’t see lynching as crime? How is that possible? Who doesn’t see beaten Americans as a crime…unless you don’t think of Black people as Americans. In that case, it makes perfect sense.
Just as it suddenly made sense when Japanese-Americans were put in concentration camps during World War II. Suddenly, they weren’t Americans. Suddenly, American law didn’t apply to them. They hadn’t changed. The law did. Muslim-Americans were targeted, and the law was changed after 9/11. They also hadn’t changed. Once again, the law (the “Patriot Act”) changed. People have sought asylum in this country since there was a country. Three years ago, asylum seekers became “criminals”. Again, they were the same people that they always were. Now, because the law changed, they are dying — as “criminals”.
Anyone can be a non-American… except White people, and liberals. Since the days of Ronald Reagan, liberal White people have been told to be ashamed. For years in this country, “liberal” was an epithet. After that, FOX News held us back. Bill Clinton was called “slick Willie” for most of his presidency, because he was sneaking around being a “liberal” non-threat. When Obama was elected, the country might just as well have elected Afrikaans to the Senate. Mitch McConnell is not just “another guy with another opinion about the way things should be”. He’s a White Supremacist trying to enforce apartheid on all of the America, just as much as Pik Botha did. The majority of people want it one way. White Supremacy wants it to stay “the old way”. It is so entrenched in who we are, that it seems reasonable to 30% of the population. How do I know this? Trump has never lost his base — 30% of people, and as he continues to increasingly more insane, they go with him. From the other side, every non-Trump supporter understands that it will take the House, the Senate, and the Presidency being Democrat to change things. We have to hold all of the cards to have a chance of changing laws that see some of us criminals.
Now, here’s the weird part: except for 2 or 3 years in the early 70’s, it has always been illegal to be Black. Maybe it was then, too. But for a few brief, shining moments, Black was beautiful. The radio played “Say it loud, I’m Black and proud”. That’s when I grew up — when the possibility of a fully American America was possible. Then, liberal White causes “cut in line” : Women, gays, and so on. Why? Because White people believe that European heritage is what made this country. Being White, for them, is normal. It is the thing we are all measured against here. Remember “Buppies” — Black yuppies? They believed that if they could measure up to Whiteness, by straightening their hair, being lighter skinned and having wealth, they could be Americans. There are no more buppies. Why? Because you can never be White enough for conservative Whites, even if you’re White and liberal. Still, they don’t kill us. Blacks can never be White enough, simply because of the color of their skin. The fact that Black folks can die because they can’t be White enough is the definition of White Privilege. We White folk didn’t notice it, because we were safe, relatively.
That cultural revolution — where Black Lives Matter because Black is Beautiful — stopped for years after the 70’s. Since the 1980’s, time in America has actually gone backwards. 40 years after the 1980’s we’re starting the 1950’s, when America was “pure” and Whiteness was “normal”.
Here’s the thing, though: Black people haven’t changed since the 1970’s. The law has changed. Sound familiar? Starting way back with the Bakke decision, that Whites were being discriminated against by affirmative action. Hell, back then, even I believed that. My love of my own kind blinded me to the racism I wasn’t taught and didn’t see. But I knew the revolution wasn’t finished. Even back then, in upstate New York, and in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I knew the revolution wasn’t finished. I didn’t know how unfinished it was, but I liked Black too much of Black culture and new far too many decent, intelligent, kind, and deeply spiritual Black people to ever give up on that hope, yes, that “dream” of an America where we’re all Americans. Yes, Black really is beautiful. It always has been. It’s time to forge our laws into something that sees that. It’s time to know about, and care about, laws that give voice to hatred, by making Black folks “un-American” criminals.
We do a weird thing in America today that Steven Biko was trying to explain to South Africa all those years ago: Black is beautiful doesn’t mean White isn’t. It just means what it says. Black Lives Matter is the same thing. It doesn’t say that White lives, or blue lives, don’t matter. It just says that Black lives do. If we’re feeling threatened by someone else’s goodness, that is, as one of my children would say, “a you problem”, not their problem. Our lens of “White = America” needs to come off, simply because it’s only partially true. Yes, White is beautiful, except when it’s not. Violent laws don’t make America beautiful. Let’s finish the American revolution, by having all America be part of it, and let us see that Black is beautiful once again. As long as we can see beauty in all lives, even Black ones will matter.
Resisting with Peace,