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.

When You Know Better, Do Better

The late Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” That’s a profound statement from one of the United States’ most prolific Black writers, but the more I mulled Dr. Angelou’s statement over in my head, the more I found myself questioning our collective ability to get there, to do better.

I have no doubt that most, if not all, of us are doing our best in our personal endeavors. We’re working 9-5 jobs to keep food on our tables, clothes on our backs, roofs over our heads. However, as we struggle to survive and thrive in a world that at times can be so unkind, we find ourselves succumbing to forces that cause us to feel sad, angry and even depressed. The key to overcoming this sadness, anger and depression is to take stock of the thoughts, feelings and events that cause us to feel sad, angry and depressed. But we also must develop routines that decrease our susceptibility, and, more importantly, counter the big lies that make us feel sad, angry and depressed.

And that leads me to the question that is on most citizens’ minds these days: Why don’t Republicans want us to do better, to feel less sad, less angry and less depressed? They don’t want us feeling less of anything negative relative to the state of our union because these feelings fuel cynicism about government operations under Democratic administrations. And as their persistent CRT dog whistle foretells, Republicans don’t want us to do better, to feel less sad, less angry and less depressed, because it makes it easier for them to appeal to White fears and resentments. These unenlightened Republicans goal here is to make White people believe that they have to vote for their Republican candidates because their Republican candidates will prevent non-Whites from taking things from them. But in the final analysis, non-Whites have never endeavored to take things from White people; we non-Whites have only demanded that this country, the United States of America, give us the things that were withheld from us because of White racism, prejudice and discrimination.

Trump supporters participate in a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his baseless claims of election fraud. The president is expected to address a rally on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There are some who believe Donald Trump was good for the country because he got things done. That’s a common refrain within Republican circles. But it is easy to make it appear you’re “getting things done” when your party controls the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches with large majorities, and your cult of personality causes you to be surrounded by a bunch of Yes men. The questions we must ask ourselves about what Donald Trump’s administration got done should center around what Donald Trump did to make all of our lives better, not just the lives of the people who voted for him. When we elect individuals to public office, they should be leading efforts to help the country and its people become a more perfect union. Donald Trump and members of the Republican Party did neither. Now, far too many of our neighbors are willing to give them another pass rather than hold them accountable for further enriching the rich off the backs of middle- and working class Americans.

I don’t know about you, but after four years of Donald Trump’s lunacy, I grew tired of being sad, angry and depressed about the state of our union. That’s why I was one of the 81 million plus citizens who voted for Joe Biden to become the nation’s 46th president. And it wasn’t a difficult choice. Donald Trump and Republican legislators showed us through their concerted rhetoric and deeds that building a wall to keep immigrants and refugees out was far more important than building back better for current and future generations. They even balked at the fact that many states were allowing their citizens to vote by mail during the global coronavirus pandemic. Even now, we see Republican governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis making fallacious statements and signing legislation that undermines efforts to get more citizens vaccinated. Who does that? And when they engage in these types of bad behaviors, why are they getting rewarded?

January 6th Select Committee Co-Chairs
Benny Thompson (D) and Liz Cheney (R).

They’re getting rewarded because some segments of our society are all for owning the liberal Democrats, running against any bipartisan bills and legislation they put forth that improve peoples’ lives. That’s what saddens, angers and depresses me the most.

But I pray that these Trump-friendly people segments come to their senses by getting vaccinated so we can finally claim victory over COVID-19.

I pray that these Trump-friendly people segments come to their senses, and start applauding the truth-finding efforts of the Select Committee on the January 6th, 2021 Insurrection.

More than anything, I pray these Trump-friendly people segments come to their senses to gain a better appreciation for the big lies that the Republican Party is spreading about the 2020 Presidential Election results, Critical Race Theory and, most importantly, President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan.

There are a number of things we can do to do better to be better. First, and foremost, we have to counter Donald Trump and Republican legislators’ big lies with shared inconvenient truths. Next, we have to get the vote out (and vote) against the irresponsible Republicans (and Democrats) that are preventing us from doing better as a citizenry. Lastly, we have to treat others the way we want to be treated. If and when we do these things and more, we will restore the admiration and respect that the United States of America previously had in the eyes of other sovereign nations before Donald Trump and his domestic and foreign loyalists stole the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The CRT Dog Whistle

For most Black Americans, the ongoing attack on Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is something that makes you go, “Huh?” Individuals who are more educated than you and me tell us that CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools, but this truth falls on deaf ears. It seems to fall on deaf ears because so many White parents want to exonerate some of their White ancestors from the crimes they committed against Black citizens and other citizens of color. And they don’t want their White children feeling uncomfortable about the advantages these crimes give them in the here and now. In short, they want to maintain the status quo by convincing the general population that non-White citizens are similarly criminal when they make White children and adults feel uncomfortable with all this talk about White racism, prejudice and discrimination.

But truth be told, America’s non-White citizens have not, and never will be, the perpetuators in this scenario. That’s a dishonor reserved solely for unenlightened, White children, adolescents and adults. Black parents have been complaining for decades about the suppression of Black American history. Study the history curriculum of any public school in America, and you will discover that integration has done nothing to expose White children to the excellence within the Black community. Instead, these public schools present a whitewashed version of this excellence by trying to make it look as if even founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did right by their enslaved African Blacks. This historical suppression is what produces generations of White children who lack the compassion to reconcile with Black and other non-White citizens.

If you can’t see through these attacks against CRT, you’re a fool. This constant railing against CRT is nothing but another dog whistle that stirs up White people’s fears and resentments. The fact that it is being blown by conservative Republicans is telling, for it shows the Republican Party lacks plans for the country’s governance.

Like so many in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I shook my head when Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 gubernatorial election. We must wait and see if Youngkin and members of his administration plan on leading responsibly, for we had just experienced four years of Donald Trump’s irresponsible leadership and were hopeful that another responsible Democrat would succeed Ralph Northam. But it wasn’t to be.

I give Youngkin credit for stiff arming Donald Trump when Donald Trump offered to campaign for him in Virginia. But if the Youngkin administration proves to be as disastrous to the Commonwealth of Virginia as Trump was to the country, the unenlightened, White voters who voted for him must ask themselves why it was so easy for them to fall for the big lies surrounding who won the presidential election and whether Critical Race Theory is being taught in public schools.

Truth be told, the CRT dog whistle was first blown in Southlake, Texas. Based on the information I read, it was a way to derail efforts to promote talks about racial diversity, equity and inclusion in the public schools there. It didn’t matter that these talks were initiated because Black students complained about being the victims of outright racism and microaggressions. By ignoring these complaints, the White parents attending school board meetings to blow the CRT dog whistle have proven to us that they believe their fears and resentments about a manufactured CRT controversy are more valid than Black students’ actual grievances.

We Black people have had to endure this country’s worst, and we’re still standing. Part of me wonders why unenlightened members of the White majority still look down on us with disdain, even after some of us have become similarly situated. I believe it has everything to do with their refusal to get to know us, our daily struggles, as if the closer they get to us, the more we take from them. But the Black people I interact with aren’t trying to take anything from White Americans. We just want to be treated fairly, and not used as proverbial punching bags. And that’s what today’s Republican Party is doing to us, all in its quest to acquire executive, legislative and judicial power. But we have to fight back. And we have to accept the support received from our White allies along the way. We have to acknowledge when some members of the White majority are working with us Black people to get it right. We have to keep believing that true racial reconciliation is possible within our lifetimes.