Friday, July 8, 2016

The Broken States of America

Today America is officially broken. We are broken hearted and we are broken in half. We are broken into political parties who like to keep us that way for their own gain. We are broken over science vs. religion, Christians vs. Muslims, White vs. Color, as if all these things are completely exclusive to each other. We have come to believe that we can only be “united we stand” with those who look like us, think like us, love like us and believe what we believe. But in a country of this size, this scope and with the mission the USA started with, all that belief does is scatter us into little warring tribal factions like some third world republic. The horrific acts that took place in Dallas last night were the culmination of so many things that it is almost impossible to see them all. They are the mixture of so many parts and pieces that have been brewing for so long that some sort for explosion was bound to happen. Don’t get me wrong, it horrifies me, it makes me cry, and it is truly beyond awful and wrong in every sense of the word, but it is not surprising.

 We live in a culture that glorifies violence as a response to violence. And Black Americans have become the victims of violence at the hands of a small but significant few police officers in very disproportionate numbers. 

We live in a culture that supports, no worships, unfettered access to weapons designed for one thing and one thing only….the mass murder of other human beings. When the slaughter of 20 six year old children is met with calls for more weapons, you have a problem.

 We live in a culture that denies there is a racial problem. Last night I heard several people say something to the general effect of “we need leadership that is going to address these problems!” Obama gave his first speech on racism in March 2008, BEFORE he was even the Democratic nominee for President, addressing, among other things “the subjects of racial tensions, white privilege, and race and inequality in the United States, discussing black "anger", white "resentment", and other issues... His speech closed with a plea to move beyond America's "racial stalemate" and address shared social problems.” ( ).  

We didn’t address them. Instead their existence was denied.

Obama and Americans of color are continually met by a White America that doesn’t believe them or the protestors in the streets and on TV. Black Americans are continually met by a White populace that claims we are in a post-racial America and a black family in the White House is proof of this. Right up until they are faced with the tragic horrors of last night. There is nothing post-racial about what happened to Alton Sterling, Philando Castile or the men and women of the Dallas PD and DART killed and injured in the line of duty last night. Think that’s an exaggeration? Pew Research has done surveys. Fully half of America thinks we live in a post-racial society. It isn’t the people of color who are thinking this either.

Why do people think this? Especially people with no real life experience in this area? Because they are told it is so. Greg Gutfeld, FOX News anchor, from 2010, “See, in the post-racial world, it's Obama who sees race.” It isn’t just FOX News either, but if we are being honest here, and honesty is the only way to get to the bottom of this, they are a large purveyor of the idea that “only Obama sees race.” Every time he addressed race and the issue of black people being killed by police officers in questionable circumstances he was accused of “stoking the fires of racism,” despite the fact that he addressed all these things in the same calm tone he uses for everything. Despite the fact that he let the judicial decisions play out without interference (noted by the fact that there have been no convictions.) What these people who are getting the white public all riled up never stopped to consider, or if they did they never discussed it on the television, is that maybe, just maybe, he was well aware of where the fires of racism could lead if left unchecked and by addressing these problems he was attempting to make a marginalized group of people feel heard in an effort to tamp down those fires. Maybe he could remember what happened in LA in 1992 when a jury refused to convict anyone of the brutal beating of Rodney King, all caught on camera.

 And then brings us to the part that I believe really pushes things over the edge. Cops are always given the benefit of the doubt and the men killed are always assumed to be terrible people who had it coming. There is no in-between. No nuance. No ability to say that maybe, just maybe, an unarmed person did not “need” to be shot or “deserve” to be shot. No ability to say anything other than “if you just comply this won’t happen to you.” But then Philando Castile complies. He has a permit and a legal gun. He informs the officer. And he is an American with all the rights that entails…every bit as American as all those white men and women open carrying their assault rifles into Starbucks to assert their second amendment rights. And he is dead anyway. The similarities in the reactions to all these cases are what really lights the fire. The cops who commit these crimes are not held accountable the way you or I would be. If charges are filed, they are almost universally acquitted. The public is met with a wall of silence from law enforcement when these things happen. We all are aware that 99% of police officers are good people doing a hell of a hard job, dealing in the worst parts of society day in and day out and doing so with nothing but honor. But their refusal to condemn the few bad apples in their midst screams into the void. Their silence is taken as tacit approval, or at the least a total willingness to look the other way at the expense of those they serve. I do not believe that is how law enforcement feels, but they need to know that is what it looks like to everyone on the outside.

And so we are left with the tragic mass shooting in Dallas. The horror of a police force that was doing their job with respect and dignity, supervising a peaceful protest and in doing so they way the Dallas PD and DART officers were, hopefully bridging parts of that chasm, and in steps someone with easy access to powerful high capacity weapons and a sick and wrongful desire to harm as many innocent people as possible. When more than 4 people are shot, the FBI declares it a mass shooting. There were 3 yesterday in America.

After all this anyone who believes Donald Trump is the answer to this countries problems STILL doesn't get it. Trump is a birther in the first degree and in case you honestly don’t understand, that is a perfect way to stoke the fires of racism. Trump has been investigated by the Justice Department for racism claims at his casinos. Trump has refused to disavow David Duke and retweets memes from white supremacists twitter feeds. Trump has said laziness is “a trait in blacks, it really is, I believe that.” Trump declared a Hispanic judge unable to hear his case simply because he is of Mexican heritage. He refers to minority groups in monolithic terms like “the Muslims” “the Blacks” and “the Gays.” He is being endorsed by white supremacist groups all over this country. He also claims that violence is the answer to everything. At his rallies as he runs for President he has taken issue with the fact that there are no longer any “consequences” to protesting. He has claimed that he would beat up a protestor.  He has applauded the audience “fighting” back against people who were not physically fighting in the first place and even offered to pay their legal fees. He has told rally attendees to “Knock the crap out of them” referring to protestors and said “I would like to punch him in the face.” He includes violence against the innocent by saying we need to “take out their families” when referring to terrorists.

What do you get when you stoke racism against people of color? And people of other religions? And immigrants? And then advocate violence against those who do not agree with you? And protestors? And innocent people who are in community with those who you are fighting against?

Dallas. What you get is Dallas.

And if Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, the brokenness we now are dealing with will be complete. There will be no hope of a return to anything resembling America. The great American experiment will have failed, and that is something we cannot allow to happen.

1 comment:

  1. So very well said, Melissa...I personally have never understood how divisive racism is. I guess I just have never seen the human race in 'color'... only as a species. It's sad, very sad.