Monday, December 19, 2016

The Hug Heard Around The Country

"Next time we may have to kill him."

                                                      John McGraw

On December 15th 79-year-old John Franklin McGraw plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault that stemmed from the well-timed forearm shiver he delivered to 26-year-old Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in March. He was charged with a misdemeanor for a crime that had felonious intent. North Carolina state law allows such offenses to be classified as misdemeanors, so I can’t blame him, but let’s be honest: he was sentenced to unsupervised probation for committing an assault captured on video. If you're reading this and believe Rakeem Jones would have received such a lenient sentence had their roles been reversed I would suggest you do a quick google search of this country's history.

Donald Trump created a “Stone Cold Steve Austin” like confidence in some of his most ardent supporters. After months of denying the violence we saw with our own eyes president-elect Trump finally acknowledged his supporter’s behavior during one of his thank you tours, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall? We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison! Prison! Lock her up!’ I mean you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right?” He went on to say his supporters have since calmed down, but none of the data I’ve seen supports that notion. There has been a spike in hate crimes since the November 8th election, but some of these tensions have been brewing since the earliest days of the campaign.

Donald Trump's campaign successfully emboldened a racist subset of geriatrics longing for the good old days. These seniors see it as their duty to protect America from those of us born a little less “American” than them. This gets particularly dangerous when you consider how militarized some of these people are. We have de facto slave patrols in America again. This sounds like hyperbole to people who don’t have to worry about stand your ground laws being distorted to justify the extrajudicial killing of people who look like you, but the evidence is out there. A few weeks ago, in Charleston, West Virginia, a few hours from my home, William Ronald Pulliam murdered 15-year-old James Means. Pulliam claimed Means bumped into him at a convenience store before brandishing a firearm. Pulliam murdered a child and then went home and ate dinner. No gun was found. 

These kind of situations are happening more often than our national media is comfortable with. I had a man in his 70’s threaten me.  I’m 6’1” and 240lbs; I’m probably one of the last people a senior citizen should provoke into a physical altercation, yet my size and strength didn’t deter someone from provoking me. This is a real phenomenon with real world consequences. In the last few years we’ve seen militia members aim firearms at federal agents and another group take over a wildlife refuge. This isn’t just grumpy old men. These people pose a clear and present danger to society. It was all laughs and giggles when Uncle John was just repeating the crazy things he heard on Fox news, but now that he’s been arming himself for the last 8 years it isn’t funny.

America has changed so much in the last 50 years. Some of the belligerent behavior we're seeing from disgruntled seniors is their last gasp effort to derail the train of history. Some of these 70 and 80-year-old men have had front row seats to three generations of Black people destroying the lie of white supremacy. Many openly say "their" country has been stolen from them. Many of them have always viewed equality as their enemy. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, global capitalism created a new class of people. 

Here's a truth that goes contrary to the religious principles I fail trying to adhere to: I don't care that "real America" feels bad about what’s happening to them. When my parents, grandparents, and every ancestor I had on this continent were working like dogs to build this country and provide for our family many of these same "good ole boys" did everything in their power to make their lives worse. I won’t spend a minute trying to better understand people left behind by a system built on the backs of Black slave labor. I’m not one of these happy go lucky Negroes going out of my way to forgive people for failing in their attempt to destroy me. Black people are the only people on Earth routinely called on to forgive those who would cheer our destruction. I won’t be Rodney King; while I believe most of us can get along I’m not naïve enough to believe all of us can. My faith and religious conviction isn’t as strong as the family members of the Emanuel Nine who forgave Dylann Roof.

When Rakeem Jones hugged John McGraw I knew that image, like the image of the crying young boy hugging a Portland police officer, would be used by well-intentioned people to shift the focus from what happened to the promise of a utopian future; America has way of pivoting from potentially painful conversations about race. Rakeem Jones and John McGraw’s hug, and promise to “heal America” is as American a response to racial tensions as apple pie. Twitter and Black Twitter’s response to the hug heard around America couldn’t have been more different. My timeline was filled with overly optimistic White people wanting to turn the page, and Black people in disbelief at how lenient the sentence was. How many more of us have to forgive White people for senseless acts like this before that same spirit of forgiveness translates into America collectively treating us better? Don't Answer that!

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