Black Americans have been trying to tell White Americans that Black lives matter since 1619, when the first Black Africans were forcibly removed from their native land to work America’s cotton and tobacco fields with no promise of compensation. Back in 1619, and the decades that followed, the enslavement of Black bodies was a common practice, and had the full support of the British Empire at first and the United States government beginning in 1776. My Black American ancestors did not secure freedom for themselves, and generations to come, until January 1, 1863, when Republican President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. But the date that most Black Americans celebrate as their emancipation date is June 19, 1865, for this was when enslaved Blacks in Texas learned that they had been freed.
We know our bold “Black Lives Matter” proclamation is not falling on deaf ears. More than ever before, we see progressive-minded White Americans marching in the streets alongside us, chanting, “Black lives matter!” as well as singing old time favorites like We Shall Overcome. Seeing these images, experiencing these events, gives people like me hope for a brighter future. But, truth be told, I still can’t shake this sinking feeling that White American conservatives are trying to sink these efforts “by any means necessary.”
White American conservatives are seemingly trying to reverse Black American progress by using our own weapons against us. Exhibit A is their Million MAGA (Make America Great Again) March, which was held on November 14, 2020. Their use of the words “million” and “march” harkens back to Black Americans’ October 16, 1995 Million Man March.
What these White American conservatives fail to realize is the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and other prominent, Black American Civil Rights icons called Black men to Washington, DC for the purpose of motivating Black men to stand in the gap for their women and children, become leaders in their neighborhoods, communities. The Million MAGA March was more symbolic, lacking any real substance. Donald Trump loyalists, which included White supremacists and far-right extremists, seemingly wanted to send a message to the former president that they support him, his missteps, his misdeeds.
Black lives do matter, and more people accept this fact when we cultivate more authentic trans-racial relationships. Progressive White Americans, when they march alongside us Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color, show us that they are tired of judging others by the colors of our skins, preferring instead to congregate with us in our spaces so they can get to know what the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the contents of our characters. As a result, they are rewarded for boldly taking these steps, for they are now seen as compatriots, or what I like to call White siblings in the struggle. And the more they endeavor to love on us, the more we endeavor to return the gesture.
Today’s conservatism has nothing to do with conservative ideology. Conservative ideology used to be about smaller government, less government regulation, and fewer handouts to the poor and downtrodden. But this platform only came into focus for Republican conservatives after former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater articulated it after his presidential nomination at the 1964 Republican National Convention. When Goldwater decried Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s newly signed Civil Rights Act of 1964, and unashamedly said he didn’t want to “give handouts to Blacks,” he was appealing to a White American resentment that falsely claimed Black Americans were taking things from them.
If you’re White and you resent us Black Americans because you think we’re taking things from you, you don’t know what it means to be in relationship with others. You also lack the emotional intelligence to display empathy for racial/ethnic groups that have been terrorized, marginalized, murdered and disenfranchised, all to preserve and expand White Rule. Granted, you may think your relationships with the White Americans who share the same flawed, conservative ideology are authentic, but they’re not. Shoot, you may even have a few Black American conservatives telling you that you’re not racist for standing before the school board to rail against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public K-12 schools. Buyer beware. These Black American conservatives are nothing more than opportunists trying to gain a semblance of relevancy in your world. These aren’t authentic, trans-racial relationships; these are inauthentic, transactional ones.
These inauthentic, transactional relationships run counter to authentic, trans-racial ones because they are temporary, and their sole purpose is to deter Black Americans from developing a more definitive identity through the learning of their history. These insincere efforts also prevent White Americans from learning more about their ancestors’ mistreatment of Black Americans. In their minds, if White Americans learn the truth about this history, they will undoubtedly want to make amends in the here and now to their Black American siblings. They will begin to understand that Black Americans have never attempted to goad White American’s into feeling guilty and uncomfortable. That’s a piece of coal handed down through the ages by their White American ancestors. Their White American ancestors established protocols that allowed them to commit crimes against other human beings and then avoid the penalties associated with their commission.
The May 17, 1954 U. S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas is what allows non-White American students to learn alongside White American students in public school classrooms. Yes, there was resistance then and there continues to be resistance now, as an increasing number of White American parents are enrolling their children in all-White private schools. But our primary and secondary school children, adolescents and young adults are now allowed to truly see each other, and then make their own determinations on whether they will be racist or anti-racist.
White American conservatives believe giving White Americans’ license to be racist toward non-White Americans is a winning strategy. Making false claims about President Barack Obama not being an American citizen paved the way for Donald Trump being elected U. S. president in 2016. And falsely claiming public school teachers are using Critical Race Theory to make White American students feel uncomfortable is pitting White American parents against Black American ones. The latter example shows that White American conservatives continue to systematically condition the White American populace to show a lack of empathy toward our grievances. But in reality, they are forcing all of us to focus on racial differences rather than human similarities.
It has been said a kingdom divided cannot stand. White American conservatives are exploiting our racial differences because they want to keep us divided. They increase the stakes when they assert that White Americans are predestined to rule over the subjects in this kingdom, and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of what their White ancestors had to do to become America’s ruling caste. But we live in a different era now, one governed by our collective need for fairness, equity and justice for all. And the most definitive dividing line is the one that separates those enlightened about the issues of race and those unenlightened about the issues of race. Once more of us become enlightened about the issue of race, we can continue to address our common problems together.
And let’s face it. All we Black Americans have ever wanted to do is claim a seat at the table and engage in honest dialogue with you, our White American siblings, consuming the meal that we all had a hand in preparing.
We want to be close to you.
We want to laugh with you.
More than anything, we want to wrap our arms around you, tell you how much you’re loved.
You just have to summon the will to love us back by being fully present in the moment and then working with us to continue the movement for fairness, equity and justice for all.