Thursday, June 23, 2016

God Didn't Bless America

And I'm proud to be an American, Where at least I know I'm free. And I wont forget the men who died, Who gave that right to me.
Lee Greenwood
Eric Garner          Walter Scott

       Philando Castile

Lee Greenwood first released God Bless America in 1984. After 911 it was re-released and has become the new unofficial national anthem. It's a song that invokes patriotism and unity. I've heard this song an uncountable number of times; I read the lyrics a few times before I sat down to write this. God Bless America gave me the inspiration to write about the public killings that were on display last week. I wish I lived in the America Lee Greenwood sang about. I wish I felt like I was part of the American fabric the way he did in 1984. In an age when people are more and more envious of the material wealth others have, I find myself envying the sense of patriotism people like Lee Greenwood have. It hurts to knowing America has never loved me the way Lee Greenwood loves her.  

I'm one of those "race hustlers" you hear so much about on conservative television and radio. I hold the scandalous world view that America still has some serious racial issues to overcome. I see the public executions of people of color as a problem, the state of many public schools in black communities are a problem, the data on unemployment and underemployment points to a problem, and when I see the disparities in the criminal justice system I think there's a problem. I'm a "race hustler" because I point out the reality many in our country either don't care about or would rather ignore. If you're tired of reading this type of critique: block me from all forms of social media and by all means stop reading now.

Too many Americans remain silent during highly politicized incidents of police brutality. Don't think your silence goes unnoticed! Some of you offer your "expertise" on issues concerning the black community when you feel we are wrong, but sit on your tongues and keyboards when presented with images that validate the claims we've been making over the years. We're not as stupid as you think. Our truth doesn't need the validation of your ignorance to have value, but your silence acts as a wedge that lossens the trust that we've built. Some of you have an uncanny ability to see incidents of police brutality as disjointed from each other. This, in my opinion, is rooted in a habitual denial of the  plight of African Americans. More times than not discussions about race digress into debates about what black America's priorities should be: as if one can't be upset about "black on black crime" and the legacy of racism in America at the same time. It's as if there are no facts left in the world; highly politicized events are filtered through political and racial filters capable of negating video evidence and empirical data. Videos are broken down to the millisecond, words are parsed, and facts are stripped of their truth value. There are people who will do or say anything to avoid admitting that America has a race problem.

The shooting of 12 law enforcement officers in Dallas has further illuminated the collective ignorance we're drowning in. We're surrounded by people who believe that there are sides to be taken. Our collective ignorance has forced too many people into either or propositions that guarantee we won't find meaningful solutions to our problems. If I say #BlackLivesMatter and you hear anything other than those words, then it's not my responsibility to unpack the cognitive and linguistic baggage you bring to the discussion. I'm not a trained psychoanalyst. I don't know why asking for equal treatment under the law causes anxiety in some people. It's possible to grieve for the families of victims of police brutality and the families of cops killed in the line of duty; doing both is actually easier than walking and chewing gum at the same time. When people of color or religious minorities commit crimes the elders in those communities are required to apologize for the actions taken by one of their own and assure greater society that we still love and value you, but when people of color die at the hands of law enforcement there's no such mechanism in place where greater society consoles our grief.

Discussions about race are exhausting. It takes entirely too much time to convince some people that minorities have a set of experiences that are different from theirs. There's so much paranoia surrounding the legacy of white supremacy that the notion of white privilege, or as I like to call it: advantageous societal predisposition causes a reflexive defense mechanism to kick in for many. It's been my experience that the term white privilege makes people feel like they've received a gift they can't physically locate; whereas, advantageous societal predisposition places the onus back on society, but either way we have to be honest enough to admit that America has a lot of work to do. 

When people of color are the victims of police brutality their character is the first thing tried in the court of public opinion, as if being murdered in cold blood could ever be justified. The media is complicit in this character assassination. I'm ever hashtagged the media won't use pictures of me addressing church congregations or lecture halls. You won't see pictures of me on my wedding day or helping some kid with his Algebra. You're more likely to see a picture of me leaving the gym on a cold day with a hooded sweatshirt, or me wearing a leather jacket and a baseball cap backwards. Instead of being someone's husband, son, brother, and friend, I'll be portrayed as a menacing threat that needed to be put down. If I get hashtagged white America won't have the collective freak-out they have when some animal is put down at the zoo. This is the reality that I can't kid myself about. I can't afford to live in the fairytale world where #AllLivesMatter. Not knowing my place in society can get me killed, and there's not any level of accomplishment that can shield my black body from that societal reality. God didn't bless America and certainly hasn't sanctioned the injustices that continue to be part of our daily lives.

Keep it 100%: which pictures of me do you think the media would use if I got hashtagged?