If you don’t care to read the musings of an old black man about race relations in the United States, please go somewhere else. This post is not for you. Go back to sleep.
On Sunday, my wife Carol stood up during the time in our church service for “Joys and Concerns” and talked about a streaming video we watched of a young black man who was unjustly detained by a policeman in PA. It was clear that the officer was looking for a confrontation with the driver, who had the presence of mind to stream this stop on Facebook and to call 911 when it was clear the officer was harassing him. Carol also talked about the events in Charlottesville the previous day and how she was afraid for me personally, and our country at large.
I then stood up and told the congregation that I would never own a firearm, and certainly would never have one in my car. I also said I’d never used drugs or have them in my car... just in case this ever became an issue. I’m afraid I was a little too obtuse. Two of my fellow UU members (bless their hearts) asked me what I meant after the service. These women were genuinely shocked when I told them that I have been stopped by police multiple times in my life, that I have been provoked by them, and that I have narrowly escaped from life-threatening situations with police by finding a way to psychologically disarm them. “You!”, they both said, aghast.
Whenever events like Charlottesville occur I do what I call “Racial Calculus” to illustrate to my white friends how I, and other black people feel. Imagine that a group of 500 black men gathered in Charlottesville, and that a great number of them were armed to the teeth with automatic assault rifles, and semiautomatic handguns. Imagine they were also wearing riot gear, camouflage uniforms, and bullet proof vests. I cannot think of what it might be, but imagine they also waved flags and wore recognized symbols of violent hatred towards white people on their clothing. Those men would be exercising their constitutional rights to assemble, enjoy free speech, and bear arms. Let’s admit it... that scene would seem insanely dangerous, terroristic, and threatening to most people. But why? Why is the thought of nearly 500 armed and ideologically dangerous black men so much more terrifying to most than the specter of 500 armed and ideologically dangerous white men? The answer is that unless “Racial Calculus” is applied, most of us simply do not see the explosive reality of racial hatred, and its corrosive effect on us all.
Oh yes – and imagine we had a black president who refused to acknowledge (truly acknowledge) that black people represented by these extremist groups pose a threat to our values and our way of life. It is hard to fathom that such a president could be worse than the one we elected eight months ago... but we did elect such a president. Trump may actually believe that race relations in the United States will be improved by “more jobs”, revealing a staggering ignorance of the subject. He apparently does not understand that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (both slave owners) differ historically from the slave owning generals who attempted to secede from the union and plunged our country into a civil war. But what else can be expected from such a simpleton?
Trump rails against “foreign terrorists”, but does not recognize the home-grown ones that jack booted their way through Charlottesville. Ominously, he believes their anger at the removal of statues celebrating defeated generals of a racist insurrection is justifiable. The irony of a man who constantly tells his political opponents to “get over” the loss of the recent presidential election, yet accepts the angst of those unwilling to let go of a struggle that was lost over a century ago is, well... monumental.
I grew up with the understanding that I would have to model either Malcolm X or Martin Luther King. Malcolm X had great appeal to most kids of my generation. We knew that we could not accept the kind of constant humiliation our parents were subjected to. We were willing to fight for our rights in ways espoused by Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Civil rights laws changed just in the nick of time. The promise of a level playing field, and equal opportunity is was what has pacified us for all these years.
Our white supremacist, neo-nazis, KKK brothers and sisters do not seem to understand a fundamental fact. Through the haze of their romanticism of unchallenged racism they cannot see that their enemies are not the same passive, weak, afraid, pitiful, unsupported prey of the past. Murdering people of color and from different ethnicities is going to be a lot tougher this time around. If things don’t change quickly in our country, black people will have rightly concluded that Malcolm X has been proven right and will act accordingly. I am not talking about the Malcolm X who went to Mecca and saw that all white people are not devils. I am talking about the Malcolm X who advocated racial violence as the answer to racial violence.
This morning I awoke with the desire to purchase rifles and handguns for the first time in my life. I wanted to learn how to shoot so I can defend myself and my loved ones from my neighbors... the ones down the road from us who use their ranch as a firing range and sometime look at me strangely when I walk in the morning. I wanted to get a concealed weapon permit so that I can defend myself when I drive. I am afraid. I am not afraid to admit that.
The primal part of my brain sees that police who kill black motorists are almost always acquitted. That part of my brain wants to tear up every confederate flag I see and put my fist through anyone who wears it on a T-shirt. The primal fight or flight part of my brain wants to do both. I want to throw off the nice nigger shackles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and bare the teeth of the person inside of me who is more angry than I can express. The primal part of me recalls every incident of prejudice, racism, and hatred that I have experienced in my life. I want to jump out of my skin at the pain of it.
On my walk this morning I realized that I cannot... I must not... give way to the rage I feel. I wonder how many other black men and women have not come to that conclusion, based on the threats they now see and feel?
I have resolved to follow another path. I have resolved to take the harder road. I will not purchase any kind of firearm. I will not flee in the face of this threat to my country. I will not be silenced. I will love others. I will listen to, and honor those who hate me. I will not change the person I am because I am afraid. I will not betray the principles I have always lived by. I am an artist. I am a spiritual being. I am a teacher. I am a healer. These are the things that give my life, and my death, meaning and purpose.
I will fight with words and beauty. I will look evil in its face and speak the truth loudly to it. I will, through my art and talents, seek to change hateful minds. This is the way I wish to be remembered. Who is with me?
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!