Why Authentic Relationships Matter

“White Silence is Violence”

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.

Big difference.

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.

Authentic, Diverse Relationships Matter

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.

Why ABC’s “Women of the Movement” Gives Credence to the Need for Racial Reckoning

ABC’s Women of the Movement
(aired January 6 – January 20, 2022)

Like many of my Black American brothers and sisters, I watched ABC’s Women of the Movement with a profound mix of sadness, joy and pride. I knew the Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will Smith-produced drama series about the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till would spark collective action and solidarity within the Black American community, especially at a time when unenlightened members of the Conservative Movement are pressing forward with their nefarious campaign to suppress these kind of stories in the lead up to the 2022 midterm elections. For these unenlightened, White conservatives, Women of the Movement seemingly is nothing more than another attempt by Black Americans to make White people feel “uncomfortable.” But then I got to thinking. Not about the White American fragility that is on full display for all to see. But about how this new series gives credence to a more immediate need for a racial reckoning.

Roots, starring Levar Burton

We haven’t seen anything like Women of the Movement since the January 23, 1977 broadcast of Alex Haley’s Roots. I was only eight years old when this series aired, but my single-parent mother made sure my younger brother, sister and I paid attention to what was being portrayed on our small television set. Because it was a mini-series, we had to pay attention for eight consecutive nights as Kunta Kinte, a Gambian warrior belonging to the Mandinka ethnic group, and his descendants navigated enslavement, war and emancipation to give us a man named Alex Haley, one of the most prolific, Black American authors of my grandparents’ generation.

I am not going to lie; it was tough seeing Kunta Kinte getting his toes chopped off for running off the plantation and refusing to say his new name – Toby – after being commanded to do so by his White enslavers. But according to History.com, Roots was one of the most-watched television events in American history and a major moment in mainstream American culture’s reckoning with the legacy of slavery.

But on the same day that the final episode of Women of the Movement aired, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) uttered the gaffe heard around the world. During a January 20, 2022 press conference, when responding to a reporter’s question about voting access protections for American voters, McConnell said, “Well, the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

If you’re having a hard time fully processing that last paragraph, let me make it plain for you, based on what McConnell said. Mitch McConnell unashamedly made a distinction between Black Americans and Americans, who, in his world, are undoubtedly White Americans. But we all know that making this distinction is unnecessary, resulting from the fact that Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (National Constitution Center)

The inconvenient truth here is Black Americans have been the most durable Americans since the first Africans were brought to these shores, against their collective will, in 1619. And Mitch McConnell and other members of the Conservative Movement know this. Truth be told, their Republican Party used to champion causes that supported Black Americans’ citizenship and voting rights. Sadly, their present-day shenanigans are a sign that this support has been rescinded.

THE SHIFT IN BLACK LOYALTY

The Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of yesteryear. They have shown that their number one objective is to game and rig the system so they can continue to expand a Southern Strategy that allows White citizens to hold onto wealth that was largely attained through the subjugation and terrorizing of Black Americans. This is not governing; this is blatant disdain for a significant portion of their constituency. And they are attempting to do this by conditioning members of the White electorate to respond negatively to Black Americans’ push for more privileges and immunities, life, liberty and property, and equal protection of the laws.

As I watched each episode of Women of the Movement, I conceded that individuals once loyal to the Democratic Party are responsible for the most heinous crimes against Black Americans. The institution of slavery. The rise of the Confederacy. The institution of Jim Crow legislation. The withholding of justice in the Emmitt Till Trial. The denial of Black Americans’ voting rights. All Democratic Party efforts to keep Black people in their place. Consequently, it is no surprise to most why our Black ancestors pledged their allegiance to the Republican Party.

But this loyalty started to shift following the Great Depression, when the New Deal “made the Democrats a beacon for Black Americans deeply affected by the crushing poverty that was plaguing the country” (npr.org). This shift was slow, evidenced by the fact that about two-thirds of the Black American electorate remained loyal to the Republican Party. However, Karen Grigsby Bates offers the following in her npr.org article, “Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?”. She writes:

Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (R)

“(Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) wanted the federal government out of the states’ business. He believed the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional — although he said that once it had been enacted into law, it would be obeyed. But states, he said, should implement the law in their own time. Many white southerners, especially segregationists, felt reassured by Goldwater’s words. Black Americans felt anything but” (npr.org).

According to Bates, Black Americans made an abrupt exit from the Republican Party because Goldwater and the Goldwater wing of the Republican Party opposed not only the Civil Rights Act, but the civil rights movement (npr.org). This opposition became apparent during the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California. Peniel Joseph, the Tufts University historian quoted extensively in Bates’ article, said when Goldwater became the Republican Party’s 1964 presidential nominee, he was speaking of a very specific notion of liberty when he told the ecstatic convention “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Joseph also told Bates that Goldwater advocated for a smaller federal government, one “that doesn’t give handouts to black people. A government that doesn’t have laws that interfere with states’ rights. A government that is not conducting a war on poverty” (npr.org).

These comments, Bates writes, represented a signal that both sides heard loud and clear. “Goldwater attracted the white Southern votes his advisors thought were essential, paving the way for the ‘Southern Strategy’ that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan would use successfully in later years” (npr.org). However, the employment of this Southern Strategy by Nixon and Reagan is also what ultimately caused the remaining third of black Republican voters to exit the party” (npr.org).

Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam

As I consider this shift in light of the Emmitt Till story, I realize that White racism has nothing to do with party affiliation. All Mamie Till-Mobley wanted for her murdered son was justice, but she didn’t receive it because, in the mid- to late 1950s, White rule made it impossible for Black people to receive the same level of justice as Whites. As the drama series depicted, even though Black Americans were granted voting rights in 1870, with the passage of the 15th constitutional amendment, and were eligible to sit on trial juries, no Black Americans had been seated for the Emmitt Till Trial. Consequently, the men who murdered Emmitt Till were tried by an all-white jury.

The only play that today’s Republican Party has is its appeal to White Americans fears and resentments about Black Americans. They realize Black Americans’ distrust of their party is baked in, so they continue to falsely claim that we gravitate to the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party is giving us handouts. But this is nothing but a dog whistle that elicits conditioned responses from White Americans who feel it is important to protect the gains White Americans have made by subverting Black Americans’ interests and disenfranchising them from the ballot box.

Mamie Till-Mobley’s pursuit of justice for her son, Emmitt Till, was subverted because the vast majority of the White people in Money, Mississippi thought the freedom of two White murderers was worth more than the life of a 14-year-old teenager from Chicago, Illinois.

AN ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR PLAYBOOK

My hope is more White Americans will awaken to the fact that their whiteness is now being used by conservative Republicans to elicit disrespect and disdain for us, their Black American neighbors. These unenlightened White Americans falsely blame Black Americans for making White children, adolescents and adults feel uncomfortable when they call attention to White racism, prejudice and discrimination. But not once do they test the accuracy of these claims, instead choosing to cover their ears and say, “Nah! Nah! Nah!” to prevent themselves from hearing them.

Childish?

No doubt.

But we shouldn’t be surprised by this type of behavior. They did the same to Mamie Till-Mobley. Everyone in Money, Mississippi knew Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam brutally attacked 14-year-old Emmitt before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. But, again, their White neighbors protected them because they lacked the empathy that most caring adults display toward individuals who have just lost loved ones.

I get that Mamie Till-Mobley wasn’t a Money resident.

I get that Mamie Till-Mobley not being a Money resident denied her opportunities to befriend White Money residents.

But none of that should have mattered.

Bryant and Milam should have received the death penalty for what they did to Emmitt Till. More importantly, Mamie Till-Mobley should have received the closure she deserved.

These days, conservative Republicans are trying to convince the American electorate that providing a fuller account of American History is a bad thing. It’s not. But the fact that so many White Americans are falling in line with this effort to recast White children, adolescents and adults as victims is telling. These unenlightened, conservative Republican politicians only want to enflame their emotions so they can remain in power. But when they are sent home after we reject them at the ballot box, the White American citizens that voted for them will have to explain to Black Americans why it was so easy for them to believe the big lies about Critical Race Theory and 2020 Presidential Election results, and not their Black American neighbors’ and colleagues’ heart-wrenching testimonies about their experiences fighting against White racism, prejudice and discrimination.

None of us can escape the racial reckoning that is sure to come. That’s why it is so important for us to turn to each other, not away, and have the kind of discussions that heal old wounds.

How Black Conservatives Are Failing America

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott

In my research for this post, I re-read an article written by Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. The article, titled “Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative” (April 30, 2021), positions Black Republican Senator Tim Scott (South Carolina) as the face of Black conservatism. Parker praised Scott for leveling “strong and smart criticisms of (Joe) Biden’s agenda for the next four years.” However, she also asserted that Scott being referred to as “Uncle Tim” on Twitter, a “tool of white supremacists,” and a “blind servant of the far right” is what racism looks like in America today.

Parker’s brand of “racism” is purportedly being leveled against Scott by other Black people. However, there is nothing racist about their references, resulting from the fact that these other Black people’s blackness similarly situates them with Scott. Moreover, these other Black people are only calling Scott out for being insensitive and unresponsive to the real needs of his Black constituents.

Parker also misses the mark when she writes that liberals cannot handle Black conservatives. Truth is we liberals don’t feel obligated to “handle” Black conservatives. However, unenlightened, White conservatives seemingly welcome this opportunity. If this wasn’t the case, Scott and other Black conservatives would not have allowed Donald Trump and other unenlightened members of the Republican Party to make disparaging comments and institute divisive practices and policies that strained relations between Black and White Americans during the four years Donald Trump occupied the Office of the Presidency.

Everyone knows Scott is currently the only Black conservative Republican in the United States Senate. We know that he is a staunch defender of conservative values who challenges what Parker calls the “current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs Whites as oppressors.” While Senator Scott should be commended for overcoming adversity in his life, the fact still remains that he and other Black conservatives are failing America on a number of fronts because they willingly allow themselves to be handled by unenlightened, White conservatives.

GIVE WHITES LICENSE TO BELIEVE CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS BEING TAUGHT IN PUBLIC K-12 SCHOOLS

Black Conservative Allen West

Most rationally minded people know Critical Race Theory is not being taught in public primary and secondary schools. It is being taught on college campuses, in law schools to be exact. But what you may not know is the letters C-R-T were first used as a racist dog whistle in Southlake, Texas in 2019, when White conservative activists flooded local school board meetings to condition and elicit parental outrage about the implementation of a developed diversity, equity and inclusion plan within the Carroll Public School District. After this conditioned and elicited outrage about CRT proved to be successful, these White conservative activists proceeded to leverage support for and seat at least two of their conservative allies on the school board.

A few days later, Black conservative Allen West suggested to a packed audience that this model could be used in suburban communities all across America to win local, state and national elections. West’s prediction proved to be correct. In November 2021, the big lie about CRT being taught in public K-12 schools was partially responsible for Republican Glenn Youngkin winning the Virginia gubernatorial election. You can rest assured that the CRT Dog Whistle will be blown again in voting districts all across America during the 2022 midterm elections.

But why are White parents so susceptible to believing the CRT lie? Probably because they received license to do so by Black conservatives. On the topic of systemic racism in America, Black conservative opinion matters. And many Black conservatives are seemingly telling Whites that they should not view themselves as unredeemable oppressors. That’s a noble thing to say; however, it drastically improves White conservative politicians’ ability to enflame White fears and resentments about Black and other non-White Americans. The main thing that these White conservative politicians are telling the White electorate is Black and other non-White Americans are taking things from them. In reality, though, nothing is being taken from Whites; the country is just going through the arduous process of righting past wrongs.

Most Black Americans know that our schools do a piss poor job when it comes to teaching Black history. Yes, history teachers will talk about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, but students rarely hear about the enslaved Blacks who fought to be free. The Black Freedom Fight seems to always be presented in a way that has enslaved and emancipated Blacks working in tandem with benevolent Whites. Additionally, students never hear about the Black kings and queens that inhabited our Black ancestors’ African homeland prior to 1619. I believe this White disdain for Black history is intentional because a critical review and analysis of this history will show that the descendants of enslaved Blacks, more than any other racial/ethnic group in America, are entitled to full reparations for their ancestors’ uncompensated labor.

Black conservatives fail America when they ignore these facts, and allow racially sensitive content (i.e., books written by Toni Morrison or Ta-Nehishi Coates) to be censored or removed from our schools because it makes White public school children and adolescents feel uncomfortable.

SAY NOTHING WHEN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OPENLY ALLOWS WHITE SUPREMACISTS INTO THEIR RANKS.

White Supremacist Group The Proud Boys

While all of the citizens that assembled in front at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 were not insurrectionists, the fact still remains that they were present with one objective in mind: Stop the Steal. We had just completed a routine presidential election, during a global pandemic mind you, and the states had submitted their vote tallies for federal certification. Donald Trump, the former president, told his supporters that the election had been rife with fraud. But when asked to provide supporting evidence, Donald Trump’s lawyers were unable to do so.

With all legal recourse exhausted, Donald Trump and his allies seemingly used outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, Twitter and Facebook to make coded appeals to White supremacists and militia groups. When this occurred, I thought I would hear more of a public outcry from Black conservatives. Heck, I thought we would see more Black conservative defections too. However, these outcries and defections never came, seemingly resulting from Black conservatives being lulled into complacency and complicity by unenlightened White members of the Republican Party.

Any individual or group that welcomes White supremacists into their ranks is not a student of U. S. history. And if you’re a Black conservative who sits idly by as these White supremacists invade the Republican Party, reshaping its identity, it is clear you forgot that the Republican Party used to be the standard bearer for equal rights and protections for all.

When I think about the Republican Party from bygone eras, I think about the Republican abolitionists that worked collaboratively with enslaved Black Americans for their freedom. When I think about the Republican Party from bygone eras, I think of Republican Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to enslaved Black Americans. But this contemporary version of the Republican Party cares very little about equal rights and protections for all. These days, its primary focus is to make rich White people richer, by any means necessary.

Black conservatives fail America when they have no problem with Republican leaders embracing support from White supremacists identifying as conservative Republicans. But this selling of their souls seemingly doesn’t come free. I believe many of them are being compensated monetarily by conservative-controlled dark money organizations to participate in activities that undermine gains made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these conservative-controlled dark money organizations were paying Black people to vote Republican in local, state and national elections. By failing to speak out against the Republican Party’s full embrace of White supremacists, Black conservatives allow themselves to be used for short-term gains that only pay dividends for themselves and not for members of the Black American Diaspora.

SHUN THEIR OBLIGATION TO AMPLIFY BLACK VOICES AND BLACK CAUSES

Black Conservative Candace Owens

The struggle for Black uplift did not end with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 or the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We Blacks still find ourselves watching helplessly when our unarmed Black brothers and sisters are being gunned down in the streets by rogue police officers, or explaining to our White neighbors why Black lives matter. We also find ourselves battling the Republican Party’s legislative efforts to suppress our votes in mostly Republican-controlled states. In the midst of all this corruption, Black conservatives are seemingly sleeping at the wheel, not countering Republican big lies with inconvenient truths.

Our Black conservative brothers and sisters have forgotten what the struggle for Black uplift is all about. The struggle is all about creating a more perfect union, one in which everyone has an equal chance at achieving the American Dream. Black conservatives believe this day has already arrived. But when the Federal Reserve reports that in 2019 white households owned 85.5% of wealth, while Black households owned 4.2%, you begin to understand how White racism and discrimination has given White people a unique set of advantages, privileges even.

Achieving the American Dream is more possible now than ever before. But when Black people choose to adopt conservative ideology, they seemingly forget to view this conservative ideology through the prism of the Black struggle for equal rights and protections. This struggle only became less of a struggle because so many of our Black ancestors collaboratively used their time, talent, treasure and testimony to demand change within our communities, schools and corporations. Because of their efforts, our communities, schools and corporations are becoming more diversified.

But the same cannot be said about the Republican Party, or the conservative movement as a whole. Black people account for less than 10 percent of their voters, and Black people are rarely seen or heard from in conservative-controlled rooms where consequential decisions are being made. It’s almost as if White conservatives are trying to keep Black people out of these rooms so they can dilute Black influence at the polls without receiving any push back from enlightened, Black conservatives. But when you have unenlightened, Black conservatives like Allen West endorsing and participating in this dilution, you realize some Black conservatives are willing to say and do what unenlightened, White conservatives want them to say and do if these same unenlightened, White conservatives are willing to compensate them nicely for their efforts.