Can You Hear Us?

The Democrats are running Hillary Clinton today. We all expect and hope Trump loses, I guess. If Clinton loses, Trump has four years to fuck up the country. *shrug* I don’t have any particular enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s campaigning, despite her best attempts to nae-nae into my heart. Having Beyonce, Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper endorse her didn’t move me. Seeing her pull hot sauce out of her purse almost got me, if nothing else for the laugh. A narrative is being spread that minorities, young black people specifically, will not turn out for Clinton in the same numbers as for President Obama. To that I say, DUH. At least with Obama there was symbolic victory. Clinton brings that as well (if not more so for white women). Not actually speaking to black issues has been the liberal jig for decades. Pander to us, and hopefully we turn out to vote, and when they pass social and economic reforms the rising tide will raise all ships. By default we can only benefit from their victories, right? The problem is slow-moving progress isn’t working for us. Especially not the young. Can you blame us, we grew up on broadband. Student debt is mounting, police are shooting down men and women who look like us at disproportionate and alarming rates, the prisons are running over with people who look like us and jobs are scarce for people who look like us. But as usual the GOP has nominated a racist, this time more open and dramatic, but as usual they don’t want our vote and won’t get it (see Trump’s 0% polling numbers with African-Americans). We can vote third-party to keep it interesting, but the likely result is Clinton is our next president. The American left (the real world’s middle) will do what it can to drag their feet to progress, and hopefully none of us will get shot, evicted or fired in the meantime.

America’s liberal politicians have a history of assuming they can figure out what black people need instead of just asking us. Then we tell them, and they still decide to work it out on their own. I opted not to include the dramatic conservative setbacks we received, as we expect them to worsen our condition in this country. However, those who claim to fight for us have also done little. This is a brief and vague history of our requests and their actions over time. Our history is deep and rich and I encourage any reader to do some Googles and look deeper into our role in this country’s political landscape. 

1776-1865: FREE US

Black People’s Actions: Running away from plantations via underground networks, inciting violent rebellions, purposefully destroying property/equipment, creating a culture of resistance.

Black People’s Words:

I’ve heard Uncle Tom’s Cabin read, and I tell you Mrs. Stowe’s pen hasn’t begun to paint what slavery is as I have seen it at the far South. I’ve seen de real thing, and I don’t want to see it on no stage or in no theater.” – Harriet Tubman

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery”. – Frederick Douglas

White Liberal Political Responses:

-Missouri Compromise in 1820 allows only slavery in the south

-1860 Republican Platform: No slavery in any new states (leads to Civil War)

-Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (this one is fun) tells the Confederacy they have 100 days to cease rebelling OR their slaves will be freed. Yes, Lincoln tried to levy our freedom for an end to the war, save the union sacrifice the slaves.

-Then finally as a war tactic, Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which only really counts if the Union wins because the Confederacy sees themselves as a separate country with their own president anyway.

Former slave Felix Haywood said “The War didn’t change nothin’. Sometimes you didn’t knowed it was goin’ on. It was the endin’ of it that made the difference.”

We ask for freedom for centuries, the liberals of the day fall into it by accident.

1865-1877: Have Our Backs

Black People’s Actions: Political participation, found organizations dedicated to social and economic advancement, sharecropping, wealth accumulation and cultural progress despite legalized racism

Black People’s Words:

“I stand today on this floor to appeal for the protection from the strong-arm of the government for her loyal children, irrespective of color and race, who are citizens of southern states, and particularly in the State of Georgia.” -Hiram Rhodes Revels, first African-American senator

White Liberal Political Responses:

13th, 14th and 15th Amendments outlaw slavery (except in prison labor, THE JIG), grant black people citizenship and given African-American men the right to vote. Most of these are not fully granted or imposed by the federal government because of:

-The Election of 1876, in which the (at the time liberal) Republican Party, the party of Lincoln that “freed” us, sold black people out for the presidency. There was dispute over the election, and the Republicans struck a deal to pull the military out of the south (black people’s only line of defense) in order for Hayes to take office. A century of lynchings, violence (Google Black Wall Street in your spare time) and economic disenfranchisement would follow.

We are promised equality under the law and citizenship, the Republicans sell us out and abandon us in the Deep South to fight for ourselves.

1877-1964: Stop Your Citizens from Lynching Us, Stop Giving Us Second Hand Education, Resources and Political Power

Black People’s Actions: Developed our own community and culture out of segregation, invented jazz and rock and roll, created our own Black Wall Street, got college degrees, established black schools and universities, served in the WWII, tried to buy homes, still denied access to full rights as Americans, spend two decades protesting (Civil Rights Movement) to end housing, workplace and academic discrimination

Black People’s Words:

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” – W.E.B. Dubois

“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour” – Mary McLeod Bethune

“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.” – Marcus Garvey

White Liberal Political Response:

-The federal government didn’t intervene in lynchings for decades because murder was already illegal. Multiple bills were presented and not passed. For context: From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people who were lynched 3,446 were black.

-1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed SCOTUS decision outlaws segregation in public education. Equal funding was not (and is still not) allocated to schools in majority black areas, instead bussing moves students out of their school zones to schools in other single-race dominated neighborhoods.

-Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 outlaw discrimination in employment and housing, respectively

We spend a century being lynched, excluded and denied our rights.

After decades of vocal and visible protest, we are given federal intervention to outlaw Jim Crow laws.

1964-?: Stop Using the Police to Kill Us, Still Stop Economically Disenfranchising Us

Black People’s Actions: Greater political action following death of MLK, found multiple organizations including Black Panther Party for Self Defense,

Black People’s Words:

“America preaches integration and practices segregation.” – Malcolm X

“In a sense the quest for the emancipation of black people in the U.S. has always been a quest for economic liberation” – Angela Davis

“And still [police] have been killing people at higher rates than even last year, for example. July was literally the deadliest month of 2015. And that’s a problem.” – Johnetta Elzie (2015)

“We should not have to protest.” – Deray Mckesson (2016)

White Liberal Political Response:

Nixon drags his feet on desegregation and uses busing to send some black students to white schools rather than providing equal funding and resources for black schools

-The federal government starts Cointelpro via the FBI to infiltrate and destroy black power movements, particularly the Black Panthers

-Bill Clinton passes ’95 Crime Bill, arresting black and brown people at historic rates for non-violent offences

-The police continue to kill unarmed black men and women

-Our first black president, Barack Obama signs into law a Blue Alert bill (albeit it has no teeth to this point)

Statistics show black people receive fewer opportunities for employment, harsher sentences in the judicial system, have less access to quality education and continue to have their culture socially stigmatized by the white majority. Same shit different decade. We ask for our rights as citizens under the law, and our black president tells us to respect the police. His successor in Clinton opts to (attempt to) culturally relate rather than promising to fix the issues plaguing our communities.

Now, another generation of young black people are still demanding the same rights our white counterparts have had since America’s founding. Some of us will begrudgingly vote for Hillary out of fear of Trump. Others of us will withhold votes or vote third-party in rebellion of the usual two-party system. What we will do enthusiastically is protest for equality under the law or look for other options as our rights promised to us by the Constitution continue to be violated on the local, state and federal level. It took months for Clinton to say Black Lives Matter. Why? Because she, like every other liberal politician in this country’s history has a fundamental misunderstanding of what we need and want, despite our best efforts to vocalize them. Be angry if we don’t vote as expected, but don’t you dare fix your mouth to ask us why.

“The black experience is black and serious. Cause being black, my experience is no one hearin’ us. White kids get to wear whatever hat they want. When it comes to black kids one size fits all.”

-Childish Gambino, Hold You Down

More Malcolm, than Martin

ASIDE *I’ve been wanting to write this for about four weeks. But quizzes, papers and finals happened and true to the student life, emotional expression ranks below my GPA. Finals are done now. That being said, I feel a need to explain something in detail via a blog. Once. Hopefully once is sufficient.*

I don’t hate white people.

I know, that should be fairly obvious. But recently, more than one person has suggested or outright asked if I do. I was taken aback. Then I thought about it more and I wasn’t. Over the course of less than eighteen months I went from Uncle Ruckus Lite to Huey* and that was a lot for people to take in. I found a pride in myself, then mixed that with three different classes in one school year on American History, two specifically from the perspectives of minority groups (African-Americans and Native Americans). I took in a lot of information and mixed it with a lot of information I had compartmentalized and defined as “yeah, but not me” over the years.

It’s been a lot. I see things in my life growing up and things now through a different lens. Things that bothered me before but I decided I could ignore aren’t so easy to ignore anymore.

 

One of the most important terms I learned in school this year was “double-consciousness”. I learned there’s a word for what every single minority I know has done their entire lives. There’s a sociological term (dating back over a century) for “don’t be acting up in front of these white people.” I was shocked. I almost wanted to cry. I felt less ashamed of the years I spent trying to ask for a place in mainstream culture and for ignoring offensive things for the sake of fitting in. We have all done it, so much so that W.E.B. Dubois coined a term for it in 1903.

I could never unlearn it. I could never stop seeing myself acting different in white spaces. Like a flashback in a movie, twenty-two years of memories flooded my mind. I didn’t feel ashamed. I just acknowledged them. But with acknowledgement came transition. A phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot recently.** “Unapologetic Blackness.” My African-American History professor said it when she told us about the first activist to say “Black Power” (Stokely Carmicahel). About the afros and bright colors of the 1970s. The boldness to be black in front of white people (an era I believe we are cycling back to Harlem Renaissance, Black Power, whatever they inevitably name my generation). It made me beam with pride. Generations past have decided they don’t want to apologize for the cultural differences we didn’t’ ask for or create, but they would wear them proudly.

That comes with a price. When you inhabit mainly white spaces for the majority of your week, not laughing when somebody mocks patois comes off as an assault, acknowledging that there are cultural differences between you and those around you, and not wanting to be part of their culture is firing shots on Fort Sumter***. The right to be offensive in “their” spaces (which is most of the academic/career/social spaces in the United States) free of guilt has been challenged. You also learn to not correct or try to educate everybody around you. That’s not my role unless addressed or asked. So to simply ignore those things which offend you and revel with the one other worker who looks like you over how amazing Lemonade was is seen as social violence. But, none of those perceived slights are my problem.

I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I hate white people, or have some deep bitterness against anybody. People build relationships with those they have things in common with. I don’t care what color or background you have, if you fuck with Kendrick and Beyoncé, we have something to talk about. But don’t demand I learn to like what you like to appease you. I’d sooner not be your friend. The interests that connect people (music, sports, politics, hobbies) are valid for anybody of any background. If the people who believe Ultralight Beam was gospel, that crazy dunks require equally wild responses, that Black Lives do Matter, and also like to freestyle, roast each other and look at sneakers for fun happen to be the same color isn’t racism. They are cultural differences created BY racism. Created by a history of being excluded from mainstream culture and being forced into segregated neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

America STILL is one of the most segregated places in the world****. Even I, growing up in predominantly white spaces (special shoutout to the other 3 black kids who by dice roll might end up in one of my classes) had one best friend over everybody else, and he was black. We would hang out and do all the things other black teenagers did: marvel over beats in hip hop songs, debate Chris Brown’s place in R&B and dance greatness, watch movies where the main character looked like us, Stomp the Yard still being a favorite etc, and then turn it off when it was time to go back to our respective schools on Monday.

Double consciousness is a burden to bear. I will not anymore. Just know it isn’t racism. Racism is about hating others. In this case, it would be centering whiteness. I would be acting with white people in mind. But I’m acting with me in mind. Centering my experiences and my race for once. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, I’m probably not going to be a fun friend in the first place.

Know that not every black person feels the same as me. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just as important as Malcolm X. Both views were necessary, as we are not a monolith. I speak for me. I’ve been told this isn’t a progressive way to view the world, but I disagree. It centers on perception and what we’re trying to progress towards.

 

“Channel 9 News tell me I’m movin’ backwards. Eight blocks left, death is around the corner. Seven misleadin’ statements ‘bout my persona.”

“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honesty gudin’ me, I could be more than I gotta be. Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy.”

“Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.”

-Kendrick Lamar, feature on Beyonce’s Freedom

 

 

*Go on Netflix and watch The Boondocks.

**Mainly online spaces such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Washington Post etc.

***The Confederacy fired shots on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, unofficially beginning the Civil War

****http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150625-data-points-racial-dot-maps/