#Brexit, #Trexit, #No Exit
Last post I spoke from the global. Let me speak from the personal. Several years ago I went camping in Tennessee. I was a young airborne infantry officer taking leave to meet my then girlfriend. I was winding through the Smokey Mountains and the camp site was not clearly marked and it was late, well after sundown. I stopped in a convenient store to get directions (yes, men do that). When I walked in, I saw the clerk and a state trooper, I thought, “great, I’ll ask the trooper.” When I stopped and very respectfully said, “sir, I am looking for this location, can you help me?” His face remained stone and expressionless. He was about six foot tall, and he just stood there, looking at me with a look that I took as one of intimidation and superiority. I waited for an answer, in silence, for about 30 seconds. Not a peep from the white state trooper. I walked over to the counter and asked the cashier if he could help me. The cashier, having witnessed the entire encounter, thankfully gave me directions and I walked outside the store toward my car. About 15-20 seconds prior, a pickup truck with a bunch of teenagers pulled into the parking lot, and seeing me as I exited, with the only car in the lot, other than the trooper’s, the kids began to throw rocks at me car. I ran to my car and got in. Back then there was no conceal and carry, but there was the concept of the “make my day” law. In those days, I was not opposed to personal firearms and had one in the car. I had that split second decision to make. I can get out of this car, fire a shot in the air and scare these kids off, or just drive away and hope they don’t follow. As I reached for the gun and turned my head, I saw the state trooper. He wasn’t stopping this assault on me and my BRAND NEW, Honda Accord LXI hatchback, infantry blue, in blue on blue. In fact, the trooper was watching the entire scene with his arms folded and face still an expressionless rock. I knew in that moment, if I got out of the car with or without the gun, I was dead. I floored it and took off.
I am still here.
A few years later, my wife and I were driving home from a family reunion and we stopped just over the Illinois border at about 5 am to get a quick cup of coffee and breakfast. Our boys, 5 and 10 at the time were asleep in the van. The two of us walked in and there was the waitress, who sat us at a table, and about two tables away were three guys and three girls, maybe in their mid-twenties, early thirties, eating. We ordered coffee, I had a side of sausage and my wife ordered a bowl of oatmeal. As we began to eat we heard from the other table, “nigger, nigger, nigger. Nigger, nigger nigger. Go back to Africa fucking nigger.” My wife and I were talking and two questions entered the discussion. Question one was, do we say something, or just ignore their racist taunts? The second question was, if we speak up or confront them, what happens to our children in the van? Would we be too injured to help them? Would they be harmed? We decided to eat our meal, ignore, as best we could the taunts, and then leave- and yes we still left a 15% tip.
I am still here.
When I was hired at the university I still work for, I moved into my office and within a week, I overheard two professors talking. “He doesn’t look like an intellectual to me. He’s just an affirmative action hire, he can’t be that smart.”
I am still here
I was stopped in Naperville, Illinois, a wealthy Chicago suburb not far from the university, and when I was pulled over at about 1 am after working on my dissertation, I was a little surprised. As a black man in America, I know the drill- license plate up to date-check, lights in order- check, plate light good- check. I address these things because as a black man I know that if I give a cop any pretext to stop me, he will and that could mean arrest, or beating, or death. The policeman pulled me over, and he didn’t tell me I was speeding or any other violation. His question? “WHY are YOU here?”
I am still here
My son’s daughter used to live next door to us. One night my son went next door to check on her. A police officer turned the corner into my neighborhood and put his lights on my son, aggressively pulled into our driveway and began telling my son, “you, get over here.” My wife went outside and explained that this was our home, that was our son and whatever the issue was, we could solve it. The response from the officer, “we don’t need your animalistic behavior, so go back inside.” The officer proceeded to very roughly pin my son against the car and frisk him. My wife, having not gone inside was now pleading, “what are you doing, stop that!” The officer, once asked for his badge number and made aware that we knew the chief and former chief, let my son go and told us the police were looking for an African American male with dreads and a purple T-shirt in his mid to late 20s. My son was 20, short cropped hair, wearing a white t-shirt with his mother pleading with the cop, and that was how he was treated by the white officer.
I am still here
My son is still here
I mention these incidents because for me and millions of other African Americans- there is no exit. We aren’t going anywhere. And guess what? The majority of whites are not going anywhere either.
I had to make a choice. And for a time I decided that the answer, for me was first to try and be white. For a time in my life, the most anti-black person I knew was me. I figured if I could just get white people to approve of me, accept me, then I could escape the vile, ugly history that I was part of. Guess what? That didn’t work and I realized it when I walked into the middle of a nigger joke in college. Soon after college was over and the military and the racism I saw up to that point in my life, I made another choice. To read and truly understand the history of the African American experience. This led to another choice. I turned from self-hatred, to hating whites. The choice of carrying that chip on my shoulder was because confronted with the history of America, I saw no exit. Hear me- the choice to hate whites was based on personal experience, and a close reading and research into the history of my family and this country. If you take a real look, there is no exit.
The constitution calls me not human, but 3/5 of a human (Article I section 2) and places the full weight of the American government into catching escaped slaves (Article IV section 2). The entire history of the brutality of slavery, from the beating, castration of African American men, and rape of African American women, to the bloody center of the Civil War- slavery to the continuing benefit this country receives from slavery is real. There is no debate here on these issues there is no exit from the reality of the brutality of slavery, the systematic racism not only of slavery, but also the reconstruction period which saw things like the creation of America’s first terrorist organization, the Christian group known as the KKK. To the post reconstruction era of Jim Crow and segregation. A period which saw between 1890 and 1925 over 2500 lynchings of African Americans. Many of the gruesome events made into postcards.
to write home and tell mom about the birth of your new child.
I don’t have time to talk about Emmit Till and the thousands of African Americans who lost their lives at the hands of racism. What I can say, is at some point, if I kept on with my rage, with my hate I would have gone insane. I don’t know this shooter in Dallas personally, but I know when you are full of self-hatred and hatred for a group that you can point to- hear me- point to AS A COLLECTIVE, HISTORICAL GROUP that is responsible for unspeakable brutality for decades; a group that as I am sure, (because I don’t know any black person who has not faced the bludgeoning, spirit crushing blow of racism) he blamed for acts of racism against him personally, when he saw people who looked like him gunned down in the street like dogs, blown away at point blank range, shot and killed in front of their children, after hearing the counterproductive chant “no justice, no peace” he acted. He acted the way someone does when they see no exit. I don’t condone his acts or his hate, but I am saying that when you think there is no exit, you believe that the only way you can act, the only way to see anything that looks like change- is act with violence.
Fortunately for me, when I had a son, I chose another path. Love. I chose to forgive, I chose to let the chip fall from my shoulder and read even more, work for change, raise my voice for justice in all its forms through non-violence. I chose a new hero and a new path. Martin Luther King Jr and Jesus Christ. But there is still no exit.
There is no exit through denial of the problem. There is no exit through evasion, obfuscation, blaming black people, or the police or government or the media.
There is no exit. If you want to blame someone for the issues of racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, poor education and the whole host of social ills that coalesce around the central lie of the modern era- that one race is superior to all others and therefore justified in creating and maintaining systems of oppression and discrimination for its benefit and the denial of humanity to those who are ‘them’ and not the dominant European race,
THERE IS NO EXIT
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Have YOU educated yourself in any way about the history, epistemology, cultural, political or economic reality of this country in regards to African-Americans?
Have YOU looked deep in your heart and psyche and rooted out EVERY vestige of racism, and hate and prejudice?
Have YOU worked for justice, compassion and love for ALL people?
Did your heart break when the police officers were killed, but not Alton Sterling or Philando Castile? Did your heart break for those two and not the police?
Does your heart break when you look at the criminal justice system in America that incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth? Did you know that?
Does your heart break when you think about the “Savage Inequalities” of public education?
Does your heart break when you see or read about senseless gun violence? Sex trafficking? Addiction? Domestic violence? Abortion? The killing of abortion doctors? Refugees? The homeless?
We have a racism problem in this country and there is NO EXIT
We have an indifference problem in this country and there is NO EXIT
We have a lack of love problem in this country and there is NO EXIT
‘They’ are not the problem. I am the problem.
If you want to get off this highway of hate, abuse and death, then look in the mirror, realize YOU are the problem, let your heart break and open yourself to true love. That only requires a heart willing to serve others and see all people as unique, unrepeatable, and deserving of dignity and respect.
Ultimately, as a person of faith, I believe that when followers of Christ finally become broken over ALL the injustices of this nation and pray that they themselves repent and transform into the true image of the one we say we believe, that we will be empowered with the right wisdom to lead the nations out of darkness.
Yes, I place squarely the solution in the hands of the “Church” who need to lament, repent and transform. From this….. there is no exit.
for further reading:
A Selected Bibliography
These are some of the important books on racism and race relations, as well as African-American history that you may find enlightening. They are not in any particular order- including alphabetical, but I hope this rather incomplete list at least provides a starting point for your own reading and study.
Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness
Baptist, Edward, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me
Jones, Jaqueline, A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America
Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
King, Martin Luther Jr. Why We Can’t Wait
_____. Strength to Love
_____. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (edited by Clayborne Carson).
_____. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
_____. Testament of Hope: The Collected Writings of Martin Luther King Jr.
_____. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
DuBois, W.E.B. John Brown
_____. Dusk of Dawn
_____. Black Reconstruction: 1860-1880
_____. The Souls of Black Folk
West, Cornell, Race Matters
_____. The Cornell West Reader
_____. The Future of American Progressivism
_____. Keeping Faith
Karenga, Maulana, Introduction to Black Studies
Bell, Derrick, And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice in America
Van Deburg, William, New Day In Babylon: The Black Power Movement And American Culture, 1965-1975
Cruse, Harold, Crisis of the Negro Intellectual
_____. Plural But Equal
Hernton, Calvin, Sex and Racism in America
Forman, James, The Making of a Black Revolutionary
Madhabuti, Haki, Black Men: Single, Dangerous, Obsolete
_____. Claiming Earth: Race, Rape, Ritual, Richness in America and the Search for Enlightened Empowerment
_____. Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology
_____. Enemies: The Clash of Races
_____. Why L.A. Happened: Implications of the Los Angeles Rebellion
Genovese, Eugene, The Political Economy of Slavery
_____. Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made
Harding, Vincent, There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America
Bennet, Larone, The Shaping of Black America
_____. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America
Berry, Mary Frances, Black Resistance, White Law
Hough, Joseph C. Jr., Black Power and White Protestants: A Christian Response to the New Negro Pluralism
Garrow, David, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Stewart, Jeffrey, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History
Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Films and Television
Carson, Clayborne, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s
X, Malcolm, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
_____. Speeches at Harvard
Brooks, Roy, Rethinking The American Race Problem
Oaks, James, The Ruling Race
Woodson, Carter G., The Miseducation of the Negro
Wilson, Amos, Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination
Staples, Robert, The Urban Plantation: Racism and Colonialism in the Post Civil Rights Era
Pinkney, Alphonso, The Myth Of Black Progress
Kivel, Paul, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
Nkrumah, Kwame, Africa Must Unite
Rothenberg, Paula, Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study
Raboteau, Albert, Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South
D’Angelo, Raymond, The Civil Rights Movement: Readings and Interpretations
Carmichael, Stokely and Charles Hamilton, Black Power
Cose, Ellis, The Rage of a Privileged Class
Dyson, Michael Eric, Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X
_____. I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.
_____. Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line
_____. Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur
_____. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina the Color of Disaster
Massy, Douglas and Mary Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
Mills, Nicholas, Debating Affirmative Action: Race, Gender, Ethnicity, and the politics of Inclusion
Lipsitz, George, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics
Myrdal, Gunnar, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy
Patterson, Orlando, The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America’s “Racial” Crisis
_____. Slavery and Social Death
Wilson, William J. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy
_____. When Work Dissapears
_____. The Declining Significance of Race
Griffen, John, Black Like Me
Baldwin, James, The Fire Next Time
Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man
Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart
Akbar, Na’im, Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery
Diop, Cheikh Anta, The African Origin of Civilization
_____. Civilization or Barbarism
Fanon, Frantz, Wretched of the Earth
_____. A Dying Colonialism
Jordan, June, Civil Wars
Manning, Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America
Morrison, Toni, Beloved
Walker, Alice, The Color Purple
Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery
Domhoff, William, Who Owns America Now?
Fredrickson, George, White Supremacy
Kozol, Jonathan, Savage Inequalities: Education in America
_____. Death at an Early Age
_____. Illiterate America
Anderson, Claud, Black Labor, White Wealth: A Search for Power and Economic Justice
McWhorter, Diane, Carry Me Home: Birmingham Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.
Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years
__________, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965
_______, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968
Omi, Michael, Racial Formation in the United States
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America
Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness
Wise, Tim, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son