Trying to Understand

I am really trying to understand what is going on in this country.

The Right is in the White House. We are being led by people who hold white nationalist ideas. We are being told to be afraid of Muslims, to keep Mexican immigrants out of the country. We are being told that when the news media (which does have issues) reports a fact, that it is “fake news.” We have a commander-in-chief who is shameless in his lying and hypocrisy, and aides to this man who say that his power is not to be questioned.

It feels like we are slipping into a dark, cramped space. The “drained swamp” is filled with the very people this president criticized his opponent for having relationships with. Billionaires, all over the place, are going to make policy. They, who have never done much to help America’s underclass, are going to be the ones to “make America great again.”

People who support the administration say, “We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.” What does that mean? I don’t recall ever hearing that kind of rhetoric before. I know people did not like the previous president, but for many of them, that hatred came not because of what he said, but because of who he was. When he was elected, people on the Right were heard to say, “We want him to fail;” “We want to make him a one-term president.”

This president is hated not because of the election results. He is hated because of what he has said, how he has insulted everyone, called people names, encouraged Russians to hack into American cyberspace. He has been crude and dishonest, has known it, and has not cared. He has drawn white supremacists, white nationalists to him, with love. He has embraced Vladimir Putin, a long-time enemy of America and a leader whom many has called a “thug,” saying he admires him because he is a strong leader.

Maybe it was the progressive agenda that was making its way into American life that has some people genuinely upset. Many Americans have been distressed at how the world has changed and is yet still changing. America will never be what it “was” in the eyes of those who have always had privilege. But this administration – and its followers – seem to be intend on trying to make the impossible, possible. They want the days back when sexism, racism, heterosexuality, and God knows what else, reigned, when the voices of the underclass were muted by policy and by practices.

Hate crimes are rising; little children in school are being permitted to spew hate language at other little children. Immigrants are frightened; Muslims are frightened; black people realize that the promise of “law and order” on the part of this president probably means really bad news for them. Jewish-Americans are frightened. David Duke says this president has opened the door for white supremacy to reign again.

Evangelical Christians are happy, though there seems to be not much of the God I know in what is going on.

The trouble is, the language of this administration and his crew keeps the angst going. It keeps people up at night. It is causing people to suffer from real depression.It feels like every single thing that has made America what it is is being attacked. Nothing feels safe anymore – not the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press.

And nobody on the Right is saying anything. Those who have claimed to be so patriotic and religious …are, for the most part, silent.

It is beyond comprehension why people who said they hated the presumed dishonesty of Hillary Clinton are not bothered by this president’s dishonesty. It is beyond comprehension why the Congress isn’t railing about the presumed relationship of Gen. Michael Flynn with the Russians, when they spent millions of taxpayer dollars for hearings on Benghazi. It is beyond comprehension why a man who welcomed leaks when they were helping him is now saying that leaks are illegal.

Nothing makes sense. You can see the pieces of the puzzle, but it’s like the pieces in front of you do not belong with the puzzle you’re trying to put together. It feels like this nation is headed into a maelstrom, and will be hurled downward to a place from which we will never emerge the same.

Many supporters of the new administration say what he is doing is making America safer. I think not. I think this administration is feeding an anger and frustration in many, many people who at this point feel caged in and trapped and who will fight ferociously to get out.

That is not good.

I am trying to understand what is going on. I do not know. But I do know that it feels very, very scary.

A candid observation…

 

The Season of Dis-ease

Since the election of the new president, I have heard more than a few people say that they do not feel safe. People of color, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community have all said something to the effect of “I don’t know anymore, when I look at people, who is with me and who hates me.”

I feel them. I have felt the same way.

Not long ago, I was in a doctor’s office just to drop off a form. I went to the front desk and said why I was there and the receptionist, without really looking up, said, “You’ll have to sign in.”

OK. All right. There were about six names ahead of me. For the life of me I could not understand why I should have to sign in, but I did. I was irritated because I had somewhere else to go and had thought I would just be able to whisk into and out of this office.

After a half-hour wait, the receptionist called my name. Yes, by this time I was ticked off, but was relieved that I could finally just drop off the form. But another woman said, “you’ll have to sign in” as she looked at me.

Totally irritated now, I said – and my irritation came through my voice – “I already signed in” and someone else in the area, feeling the tension, verified that I had in fact signed in. The woman at the desk rolled her eyes at me and said, grudgingly, “oh, all right.”

This happened after the presidential election. I had heard of increasing incidents of racial hatred in schools and in businesses and saw a truck slowly moving in my neighborhood sporting a Confederate flag. It had all made me uneasy. I thought white Americans were pretty much moving away from racism.

But what I’d seen and heard since the election did not verify my beliefs, and raised in me, I admit, some concern and anticipation of what to expect from people who were happy with who was now in the White House.

They were glad; they had a guy in place who would “make America great again,” which meant, in my mind, that he would make America unabashedly embrace her white supremacist world view.

The fact that I have heard so many different people say the same thing boggles my mind. At a recent direct action rally, a man of Hispanic descent said the same thing. I have heard Muslims, little black and brown children, members of the LGBTQ community all say the same thing – and I have read stories where even the little children, little white children, have picked up the language of division and hate and are spewing it to their classmates.

Nothing, when it comes to race relations and tolerance and acceptance and affirmation, and egalitarianism and pluralism has changed. In spite of her boast of being the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” America is still a foundation ally racist country which espouses and supports hatred toward people of color and people of different religions.

It is very disheartening, but true.

I don’t know if that woman in the doctor’s office that day rolled her eyes at me because I sounded irritated or if because she felt her whiteness gave her the right to do so. I know I raged inside because of my now heightened distrust of the fundamental American spirit when it comes to people of color.

None of us feel safe …here. Radical Islamic terrorism are the battle-cry words of those in power, but for us who are black, brown, members of marginalized groups, Muslim…for us, “radical American Christian terrorism and hatred” are far more real to us. I and many like me are in a state of dis-ease, the same dis-ease that people of color have felt for literally hundreds of years.

Little has changed, in spite of our hope that it would.

A candid observation.

Understanding America

I do not understand this country I thought I knew.

American-flag-America

 

Yes, there is and has always been racism, and sexism and in fact, all kinds of oppression meted out to a lot of people and groups. The history of racial and sexual oppression of people in this country is not pretty. People want to deny it, or ignore it, but it is there.

Even though I read this history and am knowing it better and better, even though I knew the history of domestic terrorism which white mobs have engaged in, most times with the help and support of law enforcement, I always thought that deep down, underneath the racial hatred,  there was the possibility of hatred passing away or at least diminishing so that all God’s children could live together.

I believed that.

I do not believe that all white people are bad, nor do I believe that all white people are racist.

But this election has shown me that too many white people are racist and are unable to rise above their racism for the common good.

During the presidential election, I truly thought that the masses of Americans, white and black, would be disappointed, angered and repulsed by the hateful rhetoric spewed by the incoming president. I thought they would reject hatred, reject racism and sexism and all the other “isms” that we heard over the past year and a half.

But the masses didn’t care. The incoming president tapped into something in them – an anger based on economic woes, for sure, but also based on something else more sinister. They did not care what he said, who he said it about, how true or false it was, how crass it was, or whose feelings it would hurt.

He was going to “make America great again,” which seemed, in the end, to mean that he was going to give a lot of Americans permission to openly …hate …again.

I was sure the masses of Americans would be dismayed that he used people from Breitbart News as close advisors. I was wrong. I was sure people who called themselves patriotic would be appalled at this would-be president delegitimizing the heroism of Sen. John McCain. He was speaking to a certain group of people – mostly white – and he was clear about it.

I was sure the masses of Americans would reject that. I thought we had come further than that.

I was sure Americans would be disgusted by this man making fun of journalist who had a disability. He said he didn’t do that; his surrogates say he didn’t, either. No, it was the “dishonest media” that spread that story. He completely ignored the fact that people saw him, saw what he did and said.

His supporters were ready for a change; how it came about didn’t matter. They loved it that he was “not a politician” and that he “said it like it was.”

But “like it was” for whom?

Time will tell what this man’s policies will be. It is not my opinion of his shortcomings which is the big deal here. The big deal is that the masses of Americans supported his hateful rhetoric. They applauded and ignored his name-calling and bullying people They ignored his obviously thin skin and his lack of impulse control. Even now, they do not care that he is buddying up to Vladimir Putin.

It is troubling to me because I thought I knew America, fundamentally. I thought there were more people who despised racial hatred than there were people who still live in it.

I was wrong.

A candid observation…

 

 

The Complexity of Hope

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As this country winds down from the Obama administration and readies itself for the incoming administration, nothing feels secure. Nobody quite knows what the new president will do or not do. His refusal to show his tax returns has maddened some to the point that they say they are not going to pay their taxes. His arrogance shows itself daily; his rants on Twitter seem so immature and, frankly, inappropriate for a head of state.

His antics, actions, and words, are, quite honestly, troubling and frightening. His refusal to severely admonish Russia for whatever role it had in hacking American cyberspace feels …like treason. His treatment of the press is an assault on one of the basic freedoms guaranteed to Americans; one wonders what the press will be able to do under his leadership – if they will be able to practice responsible journalism, though, to be honest, the press has for a while slipped from being a truth-seeking entity to being merely entertainment. Cable news programs are not really news; they are all-day talk shows.

This man who will be inaugurated president has insulted almost everyone who can be insulted – from women, to blacks, to immigrants to people with disabilities. Because of his rhetoric, little children feel free to hurl racist epithets at their classmates, and reports indicate that, since the campaign, hate crimes have been on the rise. (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/hate-on-the-rise-after-trumps-election) Immigrants – legal and illegal – including children of immigrants who were born here are afraid of being deported. Muslims are afraid of being assaulted.

The cold war between Russia and the United States ended years ago, and the threat of a nuclear war felt like it was really a thing of the past, but now, not so much. The new president is buddying up with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he apparently likes because Putin likes him, but both the incoming president and Putin seem to be of the same ilk: arrogant men in pursuit of power at any cost. They are “getting along” now but one has to wonder how long the warm fuzzies between them will last. When one or both of them get angry at the other, when the quest for ultimate power by one or both of them takes precedence over civility, what will happen? Who will suffer? And it’s not like the two of them are the only hot-heads in power; Kim Jung-un of North Korea seems to be just as volatile as Putin and the president-elect, and China has already been riled by actions the president-elect took when he accepted a call from Taiwan, in violation of the One China policy which has been respected for decades.

This country does not feel as safe as it has felt before now, and it’s not just because of the threat of terrorism. It’s largely because the incoming president has ushered in a spirit of hatred and bigotry – or maybe he has just unearthed it from the underground – and he has done so arrogantly.

And yet…today comedian Steve Harvey, loved and respected by so many people, black and white – visited the president-elect in Trump Tower. He said after the meeting that he did so because “President Obama called me and told me I should meet” with the incoming president. Harvey said that the talk was good; that his host seemed “sincere” and that he seemed like a nice person. He repeated that President Obama “said we should talk.” Harvey talked not only to the president-elect but to members of the transition team and to Dr. Ben Carson, who will head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (HUD) Harvey said the incoming administration wants to address the problems of the inner cities, something about which Harvey and others have long been concerned about and worked to improve.

He also said that President Obama said that “we have to come from behind our computers”and work, so “I came from behind my microphone” because, he said, we have work to do.

For a moment I couldn’t believe that Steve Harvey was in Trump Tower. I hardly knew what to think.  But he kept on saying, “President Obama said I needed to talk with…” and Harvey did it. If the president can do something for the inner cities, then, said Harvey, he’s good with it. Political commentator Ana Navarro, who said again that she thinks the incoming president is a “despicable human being” said she respects the office of president. If he can get people jobs and do all that that he said he would do, then she will respect that.

It seems that Steve Harvey has decided to hope. To hope, says Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark, ” is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is because the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” (p. 4)

Watching all that has been happening has been difficult and disconcerting; it has certainly widened the lake of uncertainty in which Americans are swimming. And yet, Steve Harvey reminded me of this thing called “hope,” daring to talk to someone whom you do not trust or like, for the sake of a transformation for the betterment of someone other than ourselves.

It may be that this time is a time in which we all…learn to hope and thus, learn to live in a new way.

A candid observation …

 

 

Poor Kids and Mental Illness

I was at a program a couple of weeks ago where children with autism and/or who were on the spectrum were performing in a holiday recital.

The atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and poorly controlled chaos. Some of the children were wide-eyed and expectant. Others had no life in their eyes at all. Some ran around the venue, parents chasing them, others sat stone-still or rocked back and forth making quiet noises.

On stage, some performed so well that one would not know they had a developmental issue. Others merely stood and made noises. My daughter, a music therapist, was the organizer of the recital, and she literally worked wonders with the children, both those who were high functioning and with those who were more challenged.

What I noticed, though, is that most of the children in this school and therefore in this recital were white; there were only three African American children. The sight stopped me cold, because surely, there are kids of all ethnicities who are born with autism and other developmental issues, but they were not represented this evening.

The observation took me to my belief that there are many children in poor, urban and rural areas, who have autism but whose parents either cannot afford the specialized care they need or are too  young or too fraught with their own issues to recognize that there is something physically wrong with their children. Instead of getting care, they get yelled at, whipped, called names and are put down by their families. Then, they go to school and still, nobody recognizes that they have a developmental problem, and again, get chastised, criticized, put down, are ostracized, called names, labeled behavior problems …and they live lives of utter despair.

I imagine it must be like a person who has had a stroke and whose cognitive abilities are still intact but who cannot talk or communicate. He or she is at the liberty of people who do not understand and, unfortunately, often do not care.

These children enter the cradle to prison pipeline. They have a hard time in school; they must find themselves by themselves and many never do. Once they are pubescent, they are on the streets where they find some relief from feeling inadequate and stupid and bad. They find friends who like them and seem to respect them and they do what they can do to stay connected to what becomes their family.

That family, however, too often leads them deeper and deeper into the streets and the lure of excitement and danger offered by the streets. Too often, little kids with autism or other ailments grow up totally untreated; they are miserable children who grow up to be adults in despair. They push and fight and claw their way to try to find light and normalcy in this life but often fail.

They are killed, or they kill. They are arrested. They are convicted and put into prison, and they die.

As I watched these little children, my heart ached. There must be something we can do. There must be a way to form a foundation or something so that these children can get the same love, care and attention other, more privileged children receive. All children need that, no matter their color, ethnicity or class. If humans do not get care and love, they disintegrate, inside, spiritually and emotionally.

My guess is that there are more children than not being labeled bad who are really sick.

We who are able need to care about them and somehow, do something to help them.

A candid observation …

 

Despair and Depression Follows Trump Victory

The victory of Donald Trump was credited to his campaign hearing the pain of white working men. That demographic was not the only group to vote for Trump, but their supposed pain over their economic situation is not hard to believe or understand.

Since the election, however, there has been a serious lack of desire and willingness to understand the feelings of “the losers.” Yes, there has been and is great disappointment; that always happens when one loses, but bigger than that, there is a general feeling of despair, depression and hopelessness.

Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign was hate-filled. He railed against immigrants (his supporters will say it was only illegal immigrants, but many immigrants in general were offended by his words), he revealed his sexism, he berated and made fun of a man with a physical handicap, he called people names, and more. He was a bully, a proud, arrogant, privileged, white, male bully and his people loved it.

Others, though, did not like it. They did not attribute it to mere politics. To many, Trump’s verbiage revealed the soul, the spirit and the ugliness of America. He made it clear that he wanted to “make America great again.” He did not care that when he asked Stephen Bannon, for example, to head his campaign that the selection of a man who represented the so-called “alt-right” was threatening and troubling to people who feel that the alt-right is racist to its core.

When Trump won, the “other masses,” not white working class men, but women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants …felt like they had been hit – not by Trump but by the American masses – with a steel ball. They felt like all of the work they had done to get marginalized people fairer representation in this country was for nothing. If they were reading and hearing Trump correctly, they understood that what he intended to do was take America “back” to a place when they were kept in their place as wealthy, white men grabbed again to the horns of power.

While “the other masses” have mourned, racial violence has spiked. White victors, including Richard Spencer, an avowed white supremacist, have gloated, saying that “white America,” “white men,” won.

Those words are like knives cutting into the souls of people who have been fighting white supremacy all their lives.

To this day, the prevalent feeling of many is not “sour grapes” because Trump won, but ta familiar feeling of hopelessness. Many people are clinically depressed. The victories gotten have been hard-fought and hard-won, and to think that those changes will possibly be wiped out by this man and his administration is daunting.

Some people have sunk into their despair. “Why even try anymore,” asked a young man at a candlelight vigil for environmental justice. Another person distressed about the suppression of voting rights by the Republicans before and during the campaign, said that the suppression will only continue under the new administration.

“All that fighting and suffering to get black people the right to vote …and now, this,” she said. “I…am tired.”

The Rev. William Barber has said, as have a slew of Progressive preachers and pastors, that “standing down” in light of this new president is not an option. Mourning at the thought of what seems like useless efforts is normal, but just giving up is not the answer.

Those who have been fighting must continue to fight …and must bring others along with them.

It is ironic that the new administration can identify with the pain of white working men, but has said basically nothing about all of the other groups who are not only hurting now but who have been hurting because of America’s racism, sexism and economic policies which benefit only a small few. It is troubling that his new cabinet seems to be made up of white men who have done well in this capitalistic country without much regard for the poor and struggling.

The message that many hear is that it only the struggling of the white working class that matters.

Time will tell what this president will to for the masses of suffering who are not white. Time will tell how immigrants will fare, how urban children will fare with a person heading up his education department who doesn’t seem to much care for public education. Time will tell how black and brown people will fare as they are continually affected by state-sanctioned violence, and how women will fare if the U.S. Supreme Court is stacked with justices who care little for the rights of women, even as they bleed for the rights of unborn babies.

So much is on the line; so many are standing on that line, and this administration seems not to notice or care.

Whenever a group or an individual feels unaffirmed, unimportant, disposable – they grow within them a deep pain that often turns to resentment and sometimes to violence. That is the pain Trump picked up in the white working men. What he and his administration do not see or care to think about is that that same pain is brewing in the souls  of a lot of people who are not white but who, like their white brothers and sisters, are not working, either.

Pain is not black or white; it is not Republican or Democrat; it is not Right or Left; it is not Conservative or Liberal.

It is simply human pain, and pain, unattended, causes problems.

It would be nice if some of the Trump people would acknowledge that there is a lot more at stake than the bruised feelings of working white men, but I don’t suppose they ever will.

And it is because so many of them won’t acknowledge that that the predominant pain of those who did not want Trump (and many did not want Hillary, either) is pain, depression, hopelessness and despair.

Can a nation truly be great if so many are in despair? I think not.

A candid observation ….

God, Waiting

In spite of the vitriol of the president-elect, and the bubbling anger and rage that can be felt in our land, it is a fact that we as people are not wired to hate.

We are wired to care for others; we are wired for compassion; we are wired to be in community with each other.

Inside all of us is a place I call the “God-spot.” It is that place where we love each other, where we lose hatred and the desire for vengeance. It is that place that God put in all of us.

The problem is, we hide it and run from it. In our society, there is pressure to give into hatred and prejudice in the quest for power and popularity. We see it early, as in elementary schools, bullies taunt classmates and too many people remain bystanders, in agony over what they are seeing, but afraid to say anything, because they want to belong.

I said in a presentation that I gave recently that I was appalled not at Donald Trump; he has shown us who he is and that is just the reality.

What has bothered me is that so many people have gravitated toward him, even those who are embarrassed and bothered by what he has said. Politicians have lost all semblance of honesty and morals and self-respect because they want to “belong.”

As much as that bothers me, I still think that God has wired us all to care for each other. The “God-spot” can move people from hatred to agape love, from racism and sexism to a spirit of inclusion. The “God-spot” is a power within us that few acknowledge or perhaps even know is there, and it is a power that we stifle because it is frightening.

It is frightening because acknowledging and employing the “God-spot” sets us up to attacks from those who would rather sit in hatred, bigotry and worse. It sets us up to be called “weak,” and “loser,” and worse.

In a seminary where I spoke last week, a woman said that the election of Donald Trump might be good for the country. Perhaps. If he gets people jobs, that will be good for the country.

The issue is that he has moved people so far from the “God-spot,” including and especially Christian Evangelicals, who seemingly rejected the principles of God and chose instead to act on …other feelings.

I leave you, the reader, to define and examine and admit what those “feelings” are and were.

But in the midst of this turbulent time, a time when racists and sexists are coming out boldly to “make America great again,” something special is being ignored.

It is that “God-spot,” being replaced and pushed back by anger based on race, sex, class and economics.

America is in for some rough times, as people rely on their ideologies and leave the theology of a God who seeks justice behind.

But sooner or later, my hope is that those who acknowledge the “God-spot” within themselves, weeping as God’s people tear each other apart, will step forward and desire to “belong” to a beloved community, rather than a community so fractured that it threatens to implode before our very eyes.

God is waiting, I think.

A candid observation …

Defining Racism

I am at a loss.

In spite of the rhetoric of president-elect Donald Trump, which reeked of racism and sexism, Trump and his surrogates insist he is not a racist.

Neither, they say, is Stephen K. Bannon, who served as candidate Trump’s campaign chairman and who ran, Breitbart News, the platform for what is called the “alt-right.” The alt-right adheres to the belief that the United States is supposed to be a white man’s country.” Richard Spencer, leader of the alt-right movement, said as late as last Saturday that the alt-right is a “white identity movement.”

Spencer said that many people who voted for Trump will not admit that at its core, the support for the president-elect is mired in identity politics. In a recent article, Spencer said, “White identity is at the core of both the alt-right movement and the Trump movement, even if most voters for Mr. Trump “aren’t willing to articulate it as such.”(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0)

A cry of protest, “we want to take our country back”  has been loud and persistent ever since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 and again in 2012. Many heard that statement as dog-whistle language, putting out the message that people of color had gotten out of their place. The country was becoming “too brown,” and the ascendancy of Obama, a black man, to the White House, was the last straw. The Tea Party was formed, many believed, not merely as a backlash against the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but against the election of Obama, and as a protest against establishment politics which had allowed the situation to develop.

At the heart of the backlash that erupted after Obama’s election was racial identity politics. In private circles, white people would admit it; I know it because enough of my white friends have said the same. But in public, whites – in politics and out – have insisted they are not racist, despite supporting a political movement which is based, it seems, in the belief that America’s whites have been marginalized and disrespected.

So, what is racism, exactly? One woman in an interview on NPR last week said, “this word racism is used so much that it’s losing its effectiveness.” Other white people have outright laughed even as they have totally rejected the notion that they are racist.

It seems that people are confused. I have heard white people declare they are not racist because they do not use the “n” word and do not wear white sheets. They have black friends …and they voted for Barack Obama. That ought to be proof, they say.

They deny that there is such a thing as institutional racism, implemented and supported by the power structure  – which in this case is based in white supremacy – in determination to maintain its power. They deny that people of color and of different religions have been used to bolster the economic and political power of the white ruling class.

They deny that voter suppression has been a part of American history from the beginning. Black people have been seen as being “a problem,” as W.E.B. DuBois once wrote, and every effort has been made down through the years to keep blacks from gaining too much of a political presence.

That’s not opinion. That’s historical fact.

Donald Trump’s followers have been openly racist, many of them, in their language and attitudes toward people of color.  Indeed, Mr. Trump’s history reveals that he has been less than supportive of black people in this nation.

But he’s not racist. Right?

I need someone to tell me, explain to me, what the white definition of “racist” and “racism” is. If we are not seeing racism walking this land now, then what is it we are seeing?  When Donald Trump stood up and warned his followers, for example, to “watch the voting in “certain areas” because, he said, “we all know” that voter fraud goes on in these areas, what was he saying? I think we all know …but nobody wants to say it. If implying that in areas where a large number of minorities vote is automatically prone to have voter fraud is not racist, then what is it?

People get immediately defensive if called racist, and yet, the speech and actions of so many people say that they believe in the concept of white superiority. Their speech and actions say that they want their country “back,” back to a day and time where white supremacy ruled unfettered, not having to worry about so many people  of color in this, the country that many believe was and is supposed to be for white people.

There is a need for reconciliation between the races in this country – most specifically between white people and native Americans and white people and people of African descent. But reconciliation and therefore the “healing” that everyone is talking about is and will be impossible unless and until we come to a consensus of what racism is. White people deny not only that they are racist but that racism as an entity even exists anymore.

That is a problem …and it also is not true.

Ask Richard Spencer and participants in the alt-right movement, and then go to a respectable gathering of establishment white people  and ask the same question. Over a glass of wine, the educated and uneducated alike will admit what few will admit publicly – that of course, most of what is going on is evidence of the racism which still runs rampant in this country.

A candid observation…

 

 

 

Don’t Let White Backlash Win

Thoughts from a couple of months ago. White backlash won.

Candid Observations

After the Civil War, when Americans of African descent had been freed from slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks enjoyed a season of being treated as genuine American citizens, with greater rights than they had had before. Some blacks had fought for their freedom in the War Between the States and had earned, they felt, the right to demand and to experience full American citizenship.  During Reconstruction, nearly 2000 black people were elected to public office on local, state and federal levels. They organized and became activists and advocates for the rights and black people. From 1867-1877, a period known as Radical Reconstruction, the Congress actually granted black people the right to vote. (http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/black-leaders-during-reconstruction)

But Southern whites resented the gains made by black people; they yearned for the return of the reign of white supremacy, and they began undoing every gain made by blacks during Reconstruction. Using violence…

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Make America “Great” Again!

The battle cry for Donald Trump is that he will “make America great again.” He will get the jobs back, he will defeat ISIS, he will build that wall and keep all the illegal Mexican immigrants out, even as he deports literally millions of Muslims from this country.

He will take us back, back to the time when, he says, America was truly great.

When was that? What made America great and for whom was it great?

America may have been “great” when Founding Fathers crafted the concept of democracy, using and relying on the words “all men are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights,” which included  “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But from the time of the crafting of the Constitution, it was clear that those words were woefully mythic in nature. The Founding Fathers never intended for some people to be free, to be considered equal, or in the case of African-Americans, to even be considered full human beings.

Nearly every endeavor engaged in by those who “made America great” involved the subjugation, oppression and discrimination against people who were not white and male. Indigenous Americans were killed off; that is called genocide. White women were considered second class citizens, prizes to be used for the sexual fulfillment of their men and to be used as an excuse to indiscriminately lynch black men.

Black people were, simply, the backbone upon which the local and global economy was built. They were objects to be used, traded, and ultimately discarded.

So, given that reality, when was America great? Or, maybe the better question is, “what”  does “great” mean? What is the definition that Trump and his followers are using?

At one of his rallies, Trump ordered a protester out, saying, “remember how it used to be,” and going on to explain people who “caused trouble” were often handled.  (http://www.mediaite.com/online/trump-tells-crowd-to-knock-the-crap-out-of-protesters-offers-to-pay-legal-fees/  ) Wild West” mentality, a man was considered tough by the way he handled his enemies, real or perceived. If he had to take someone out, then so be it. “In the good old days,” Trump mused at one of his rallies, “this didn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. (http://mashable.com/2016/03/12/trump-rally-incite-violence/#ytvHzFqipiqh)

He is right. In the “good old days,” black people could be and were lynched at worst, or at least badly beaten, for merely being accused of a “crime,” which could be something as petty as being out at the wrong time of night. In those “good old days,” African Americans returning from battle in World Wars I and II were treated like common criminals, often being beaten by whites while still in uniform. Brutal, barbaric lynchings of blacks were carried out by white people as a matter of course, increasing in the time period after Reconstruction, with white perpetrators never having to worry about being held accountable, and with white law enforcement officers often part of the lynch mobs.

In spite of the US Constitution saying that every American citizen had a right to a trial by a “jury of his peers,” black people were almost always tried by all-white juries – which almost always convicted them. After slavery was abolished (except for people who had been convicted of a crime, per the 13th Amendment), white people and white systems sought to criminalize as many black people  as possible, via the Convict Leasing program, which kept blacks virtually enslaved for the duration of their lives.

And so I ask again, when was America so great, and for whom was it great?

Trump knows what he is thinking. His definition of a great America is a time when people did not have to care about, worry about, what black people and brown people and Muslims and Mexicans needed. The great America was a place where women were objectified and used at the discretion of sexually and physically abusive men. “Great America” is a time when white people could enjoy their whiteness basically undisturbed.

That America is long gone; the demographics of this nation have shifted too much. Women have gained too many rights. A way has been made for “the marginalized.” Jobs have been outsourced by business moguls like Trump so that they can realize the greatest profits possible with as little output of capital as possible.  “Great America” is now, as Fareed Zakaria says, “post America.” That idea is scary to everyone, not just white people.

But Trump is seeking the triumph of white male supremacy in an era where the resistance against it is behemoth. Trump is calling the troops for a fight that has been in the losing lane for years. The question is, if Trump wins, and those who want “Great America” back as it was, and it doesn’t come – which it most probably will not – what will they do?

What will America do?

America the beautiful is now America the embattled. Not even Trump can change the course of history that has been in place for generations.

A candid observation …