In my lifetime I have killed hundreds of roaches. It never bothered me. Those critters are beneath me so I never saw a problem with killing them or felt that I should face consequences when I did so. This is precisely what is happening with the Walter Scott case today. Walter Scott was killed by a policeman who fired eight shots at him as he was running away from the officer. It was all caught on camera. Still, the jury will not convict the murderer–who is White–because it bothers the hell out of some people to think that the life of a Black man is on par with a White man. To the White supremacist, killing a roach and killing a “nigger” are not too far different. That is what this trial is about.
I am a graduate of The Ohio State University and I watched in horror when our campus was attacked Monday morning. I walked those grounds for years; sometimes going to class, at others to a lady’s dorm room hoping for a kiss. This was personal. I just knew the attacker would be a white male and yet it was a Somali immigrant, a Muslim. That discovery made this piece harder to write. The Trump crowd will welcome this as a validation for their xenophobia and anti-Muslim crusade; that makes me uncomfortable. The reality is Islamic terrorists do pose some threat to us. It is also true that America has done quite a bit to create terror by its actions and at times, inaction. The OSU attacker expressed some of those grievances and the question we face in this age of Trump is whether we can be empathetic to a Muslim and hear him out.
Kanye West is so gifted that he is insane. He has said that he wants to run for president and he just might be a black Donald Trump in the making: narcissistic, occasionally clever, obviously gifted but ultimately self destructive. Kanye said he did not vote in the last election but had he done so, Trump would have been his candidate. At a concert this past Saturday he compared himself to Trump and went on to give post-election analysis on why Hillary Clinton lost. His analysis validated the hurt feelings of the “white working-class,” who were privileged enough to endorse a blatant racist for president.
We can stop examining the exit polls and crunching the numbers. Sure, the white working-class had anxieties about the economy but so did poor people of color, who did not vote for Trump. This was about racism. Donald Trump embraced white supremacy and created a home for racial violence throughout his campaign. Millions of Americans (read white people) saw that, understood none of it impacted them personally and chose to vote for Trump. The harm that may come to Latinos, transgender persons or others threatened by a Trump administration will be a direct result of the indifference shown by 60 million Trump voters. The impending suffering of others did not concern millions of Americans enough to stop it. That is precisely what racism looks like in the real world.
Donald Trump brought old school back. Explicit bigotry and racial violence are now back on the table, thanks to the Donald. Solange is demanding a seat at that same table, however. Her new album, “A Seat at the Table,” matches the open hostility of Trump’s movement with an equally unapologetic affirmation of blackness and self-determination. Solange is trying to tell us something. She gave us the freedom to feel pain and articulate that but more importantly, lessons to overcome it from an unlikely role model: Master P. This is the light we will follow in the age of “President Donald Trump.”
If I sold guns, my livelihood would depend on whether a candidate preferred war or peace. I can see why defense contractors are so invested in elections. Only about 53% of Americans voted in the 2012 presidential election; clearly half of the country didn’t feel that their livelihood depended on that election. Coincidentally, roughly half of the country earns less than $50,000 annually, according to American Community Survey data. Ask any of those under $50,000 earners how their most pressing day-to-day issue is being directly confronted in this election and they couldn’t tell you. But they aren’t stupid. Research by Dr. Thomas Hayes shows the voting record of Senators–of both parties–consistently align with the opinions of their wealthy constituents while the opinions of lower-class constituents never appear to influence their voting behavior.
My ancestors died for voting rights. My vote was purchased in blood and thus it is valuable. But it won’t really count next Tuesday. My vote only matters if I have identified the issues important to my community, pressed candidates to take a stance on those issues and feel confident that someone on the ballot will fight for them. None of those conditions will exist next Tuesday. No, the prospect of a third Clinton term is not at all equal to the lunacy of a Donald Trump presidency but let’s not be delusional and think that the concerns of black communities will be front and center. Sadly, we as black people must shoulder some of that blame.
This conversation isn’t for white America–I’m speaking directly to my brothers. Most of my life I wondered how so many white folks could be apathetic to racism and black suffering. I get it now. Although we as black men are intimately familiar with suffering and oppression, a great number of us manage to be wholly apathetic to (at best) our oppression of black women. Nate Parker’s case highlighted many of the misogynistic tendencies we have learned to normalize but “Surviving Compton” took it to a completely different level. Sure, many whites show little urgency in confronting black oppression but just maybe their apathy parallels that of black men who aren’t all that pressed to fight the mistreatment and abuse of the women right in our line of sight.
I saw “The Birth of a Nation” over the weekend. The movie had everything to do with race but in the months before its release the discussion around it was anything but. Blacks and whites in my circle united in their insistence that I boycott the film because Nate Parker was accused of rape 17 years ago. While my reaction to these individuals differed depending on their race, one thing is certain: all were asking me to boycott in an attempt to police the issue of violence against women because our criminal justice system does not police the issue well. For systemic change to occur, however, the energy and protests toward Nate Parker (and other individuals accused) must also be turned against a criminal justice system that does not value women.
Hillary Clinton visited a Black church in Charlotte Sunday, a city still wrestling with the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. In her address Clinton said, “I am a grandmother and like every grandmother, I worry about the safety and security of my grandchildren. But my worries are not the same as black grandmothers, who have different and deeper fears about the world that their grandchildren face.” Hillary Clinton only had to say that Blacks are more likely to be shot in the streets by the police–whom our tax dollars fund–in order to differentiate herself from the other guy.