My shoulders slumped when I learned there’s to be a White Lives Matter rally. Of course White lives matter, but no one is suffocating white men to death with impunity. Quite the contrary, white men are unlikely to be harmed, shot or killed even when actively engaging in violent, armed conflict. Such men, as witnessed on January 6th 2021, walk away triumphant and largely unmolested by police. These charmed icons of generalized power remind of all the protections their black male counterparts lack. Much later when I learned that Chauvin was the lead Officer that day on Floyd’s neck, it made sense to me, that he was training the other officers to ignore community input, treat external feedback with contempt and eradicate the Other with the added traumas of fear, death, helplessness and painful memories. Lynching is a powerful weapon of subjugation. So it is that in a time of American-racial reckoning, some turn to old familiar habits for solace.
“By eliminating manumission, gatherings, travel and bearing arms for black people only; by granting license to any white to kill any black for any reason; by compensating owners for a slave’s maiming or death, they separated and protected all whites from all others forever.”~Toni Morrrison
Years ago, shortly after moving to California, I remember seeing an old black and white postcard of KKK members in full regalia marching down a major boulevard in Oakland. The fearful image shocked my senses. And again, in 2020 when I learned of the so-called “Little Africa Fire” depicting the 1921 Tulsa Race Murders wherein over 300 Black Americans perished, I denounced it. It just couldn’t be true. But it was and is real, and there’s plenty of printed evidence available in every major city and town across our great land.; nearly one for each murder, and yet, there’s no shame or stigma to these callous acts of violence in a country where people claim to love justice and God. Like the hundreds of postcards capturing celebratory lynch mobs with charred remains of black person surrounded by a crowd of White Americans; these tokens are unapologetic demonstrations of White supremacy that asserts that the law will protect whites even against self-created evidence to hand, mailed with a note and signed for posterity.
“Black and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates, but black Americans are 2.7 times as likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses.”~Hamilton Project
When I heard the news, I lost hope, deciding that the battle to open hearts is lost. Even while Saint Floyd’s death and life are scrutinized with the sharp scalpel of racism, white people gather to re-assert their relevance in the face of America’s massive outcry for equality, inclusion and just a little respect. I call those of us, who are witnesses to the last fifty years, to those men who remember not just our own stories, but the past as transmitted in our learning, hearing and listening to history, to wail today. Yesterday, it was my brother’s agony, comforted. Today, yours. Yes, weep. This is the weeping time. Do. Let your heart break. Do.
The idea of White Lives Matter rally is particularly poignant in contrast to the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, which we at last commemorate in June. This bitter history, one in which the mass graves of more than 300 innocent victims of hate crimes remain heretofore earthed in dark forgetting, if sought; forgotten in careful reconstruction and overlooked until the recent years, and in which not one person has been held accountable in one-hundred years. We look with horror on how no white man, white woman or white child (yes, children) was held accountable for shooting, bombing, stabbing, lynching and burning black men, black women and black children whose skin happened to contain large quantities of melanin (a dangerous substance that lowers life expectancy by decades) and marked by equally menacing affluence. And, finally, we are numb with the importance of White Lives, White Money, White Rules and White Justice. In shock, we wake from our collective traumas to another day of voter suppression, high unemployment, duplicitous “criminal justice” (Is that really a thing?) and finally, White Hate, a deadly, ubiquitous, pervasive source of pride and shiny badge of honor.
I flinch at the clips of Father/Grandfather/Man/Human George Floyd, martyr and liberator of generations, dead for twenty dollars. I’m grateful that Floyd’s community will now have the means for a fully-stocked supermarket with real food choices. We are dying of white hate, a nameless, faceless, gender-less amplification of white-supremacy in action, and this is only the one we all saw together–the only way to heal. Each day, the minds of Black Americans are lobotomized in classrooms with organized systemic oppression. Classrooms where children with brown hues are bequeathed villain roles and pigeonholed into awaiting criminal sentences without ever learning what a sentence is. The vaccine is only a shadow fear, because the firm knee of government-sanctioned White hate smothers us whole.
“The Mississippi chapter of the Ku Klux Klan firebombs 20 predominantly Black churches, and then (with the aid of local police) murders civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.”
The marvel for people of color is how white lives could possibly matter more. It’s unclear what that would look like, given centuries of uninterrupted discrimination against American citizens of color, some brought here en masse–abducted, bought and sold–Natives displaced from their ancestral lands and others emigrating for opportunity. Herein lies the mystery of the proposition of a White Lives Matters rally: Is this a rekindling of Klu Klux Klan rallies like in 1924, when White Americans marched down the streets of Oakland in dreadful white hoods with fiery bludgeons and hate. And, a as a retort almost 100-years late, people of all colors protest that “Black Lives Matter,” citing a litany of civil-rights violations that began centuries ago:
- Equal economic opportunity and jobs
- Fair access to voting and civic participation
- Safety from hate and violence
- Safety in our homes and https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/23/us/breonna-taylor-timeline/index.html during religious worship
- Fair housing and lending practices
- Educational and school-quality improvements and equity
- An end to death by police
- A cessation to the school-to-prison pipeline
- Reduce Black Maternal and Black Infant mortality rates
- An end to lynching Black people with impunity https://www.thoughtco.com/the-ku-klux-klan-history-721444
- Incarceration for possessing small quantities of drugs and/or drug addiction
- Forced sterilizations of women of color
These are methods of demanding that all people of color shut up, die on demand and vote only when instructed to do so; these are elements of ongoing systemic oppression. The hardest thing is trying to understand the root cause of this hate. Questions arise: What did I do? How did this start? What can I say? Anger over discrimination touches us at the store, the bank, in the classroom, during job interviews and at polling sites. Once a photographer at a friend’s wedding refused to photograph my group because of my color. And yet, I was an invited guest, left to feel defiled, empty, self-conscious. A neighbor crosses our street rather than greet me. The store clerk thrashes my paid flowers. I’m a constant pariah in public spaces, and I am not alone in my dark so-called black skin.
On the other hand, after centuries of lynching and policing of people of African-diasporic origin, Black Americans are experiencing a perverse form of potent and traumatic reparations: A Black family must sacrifice yet another Beloved to death by police, followed by civil litigation for large settlements in the victims’ favor. In sharp contrast to their criminal-proceeding counterparts, these payoffs can alter the lives of Black Americans and insulate them from the pervasive racist violence and open a passage through the food deserts of our communities. What we need now, more than any rallies, especially more than white-lives-matter rallies, more than reparations and police reform is reconciliation. Without it, Black Americans remain inhuman in the eyes of those in power. And despite “America not being a racist country,” once the conversation around reconciliation begins in earnest, we can talk about restorative measures, because reconciliation restores, first, harmony and friendship (that which was never given to our African ancestors by their colonizers) and after, establishes peace between the offspring of slavers–who possess the power to befriend the ancestors of enslaved people and those of us who bear resemblance–and a progressive move toward liberty and justice for all people in the wealthiest nation on our planet.