Black Americans are tired.
Let me rephrase that: America is exhausting to Black Americans.
We are fighting wars on multiple fronts right now and we are stretched thin. Or as Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton’s George Washington sang:
“We are outgunned, out-manned, out numbered, out planned…”
The War to Survive State Sanctioned Murder and Military Occupation
Black Americans are reeling, angry, and still processing the shocking deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. (and others).
You know the horrific details so I won’t share again here. Their deaths are being memorialized locally and across the nation, and our collective trauma needs no additional reminders.
Their deaths (and others) represent our most recent war that has necessitated mobilizing to again bring attention to Black deaths by cops and other armed white men cosplaying as killer cops.
National protests in dozens of cities require our physical and mental resources.
And those requirements are taxing families and activists causing all of our vast resources of talent to be stretched thin as we march against cops killing us while we parent mostly young white citizens bent on co-opting another of our righteous causes.
We are also having to protect ourselves from armed white men intent on using their military-grade weapons on us….while the real military has been let loose by a president hoping and praying that Putin gives him the go-ahead to crush us as if we are the Ukraine.
Our activists, social workers, lawyers, doctors, sociologists, teachers, preachers, and on-the-ground community folk doing the unseen yet equally important real time work and tasks of healing our pain are road weary yet onward they go because what choices are we left with?
The current protests and uprisings mirror those when Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson and left dead in the street for hours like our ancestors who were lynched and left dangling so white people could get pictures and make postcards.
And before Mike Brown, there were uprisings when Trayvon Martin was murdered, when Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles police. Or when Texas decided Sandra Bland was too inconvenient to be left alive, so they murdered her for shits and giggles.
Every Black generation has its own police / state sanctioned murder that anchors it to a time, city, and horrific circumstances that is remembered only by Black citizens.
And while America could and should have learned lessons leading to ending the slave hunter tradition of hunting and killing us, America is instead always the worst student among nations and thus learns nothing other than America isn’t at fault.
America is perfect, America is great we are told endlessly.
The War Against Covid-19
The second war Black America is waging is against the global pandemic Covid-19 that has ravaged Black America more than any other population on the planet.
The wealthiest nation on the planet is the most sick and one specific demographic is taking the brunt of the deadly virus – Black people.
Covid-19 has exposed America’s 400 years-long inadequate medical profession and its lack of service and focus on Black people. An industry that takes an oath to “First do not harm” finds ample ways to actively and re-actively to harm to Black Americans.
The latest iteration of national race based medical malpractice is Covid-19 which was known in this country as early as December 2019.
The inept government defunded everything the Black president put in place globally and nationally to prevent such an epidemic.
And then white nationalists’ government let the deadly virus spread while denying it existed and embracing its anti-vaccination love affair, then minimizing its impact, to finally promising it would quickly go away in “April when it is hot.”
One-hundred and six thousands deaths later the virus rages on.
The government even trotted out a series of medical professionals and experts and used their air of credibility to support anti-science – snake oil cures such as bleach, and even admonitions specifically for Black people not to drink or do drugs.
Then something strange happened: Once the white nationalists government and CEO’s discovered the virus was killing more Black than white people, they all quickly agreed that “Work is good and healthy; get your Black and brown asses back to work and serve us.”
The call to return to work despite certain death was just so – America circa 1822.
Covid-19 is exposing (for white people because Black people are intimately aware) the severe lack of hospitals, equipment, insured people, qualified doctors, and medical staff available to Black people and Black communities.
The Covid-19 war is active and being fought by our parents, teachers, social workers, medical staff, small businesses, and *some of our more science-believing church leaders.
The Covid-19 war is taxing our resources and has caused millions of Black people to lose jobs, putting homes and apartments at risk; harming financial resources, and causing more stress, more anxiety, and more health issues.
It is a war that is in the early stages and we don’t know how we will look when we come out on the other side – there is no “winning” this war when we’ve already lost tens of thousands of our people.
We only know that tens of thousands more Black people will die from a virus that the government has now unilaterally and magically decided is “Over.”
The 400 Year War
Finally, Black Americans longest running war – one of the longest on the planet – is our 400 year war against racism in America.
The generational trauma, the DNA we carry from our ancestors who survived some of the most brutal and long-lasting evil in world history ripples through all aspects of America.
You know the comprehensiveness of systemic racism – jobs, healthcare, housing, schools, wealth, loans, student debt, redlining, gerrymandering, stop and frisk, police brutality, unfunded Pre-12 public schools, interest rates, lower salaries, food deserts, poor tax, pass laws, lynchings, sundown laws, confederate reenactments, and daily microaggressions that are as numerous as the stars in the sky.
A plight for equality in a country that defines itself by a document that righteously says “All men are created equal” but yet cannot seem to find a way to manage an equal and fair society for Black citizens and our Native sisters and brothers.
We all know schools with majority Black kids are underfunded, our teachers earn less, and our books are older and outdated.
We as a society know that. Each of us.
And yet those who control the funds – hint: it’s not Black people – are okay knowing it and okay celebrating their own kid’s school success that comes with a built in advantage.
We know Black college students incur more debt.
We know Black home-buyers receive higher interests rates than white home-buyers even when factoring in cash on hand, credit score and deposit, and anything else you think can explain it.
We know Black and white kids steal and smoke weed at about the same rate (with white kids slightly higher rates) but that Black kids are punished /jailed at a much higher rate, and even for white kids who are jailed, they receive lighter sentencing.
We know that.
We know Black neighborhoods lack services and resources, grocery stores, and banks, and are prone to toxic dumping and new freeways that intentionally block those neighborhoods from white neighborhoods.
And we know those services are replaced by predatory lending companies like pay-day loans, liquor stores, and fast food restaurants.
We know that gas, food, and services cost more in poorer neighborhoods versus wealthy neighborhoods creating what is known as a tax on the poor and non-wealthy.
We know about police brutality, our kids being suspended in school starting in kindergarten, our mothers dying in childbirth at higher rates that so-called third world countries – and before you think to blame it on the mother, the studies show the blame lies squarely with doctors who do not empathize with Black mother’s pains and her knowledge of her body.
And we have known for four-hundred years – despite each generation of Black folk going back hundreds of years, to more recent civil rights activists, to you and I right now – that America doesn’t hear us. America is deaf to our cries, ignores our tears, and scoffs at our pain.
What America does when it bothers to engage us is blame us.
It blames us for slavery.
It blames us for being lazy after emancipation.
It blames us for cops killing us.
It blames us for quietly protesting.
It blames us for loudly protesting.
It blames us for poor credit.
For higher arrest rates.
For any and everything bad and wrong with America – Americans blame Black people.
Americans even blamed – and blames– President Obama for… racism!
This war is four-hundred years and counting and shows no signs of ending.
It will be the war that eventually heals us or destroys us.
America has a choice and that choice will define us into the remainder of this century.
Already America’s adversaries know the easiest way to cause unrest is to exploit America’s weakness – racism. Countries targeted white and Black Americans with targeted advertising on Facebook during the last election.
The ads had two purposes:
To depress Black voters with ads that said “Hilary and Trump are the same so there’s no need to vote.”
And to white voters they showed fake Black Lives Matter photos and other inflammatory words and pictures that played into racist ideology and white confirmation bias.
We saw it with the “Birther” movement, with Obama effigies, with the Senate leader saying “We will do everything in our power to make him a failure and one term president.“
But the four-hundred year war will end at some point.
Americans have to decide if they want that point to be the equality for all its citizens, a successfully integrated society that works for all its people, or a society that collapses from individual and systemic racism.
There are no other choices.
We can allow America’s three wars on us to continue to invade all aspects of our lives like termites slowly destroying a home’s foundation, or we collectively decide to do the work that is needed and necessary to strengthen our foundation and save our home.
Only Americans shared humanity – which is too often missing in our daily lives – will save us.
We each have to find it and share it if we are to survive as a nation.
The choice is right before us all.
© 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
Oh, Myron, this line: “Once the white nationalists government and CEO’s discovered the virus was killing more Black than white people, they all quickly agreed that ‘Work is good and healthy; get your Black and brown asses back to work and serve us.’”
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