By the way…have you seen the amount of pain white Southerners have been experiencing around their Statues taken away? Even though there are tens of thousands of books, movies, television shows, documentaries, songs and folk tales about the Civil War? THAT IS HOW IMPORTANT HISTORY IS.
A tiny problem, however.
All my life, white people have told me that the TOTAL removal of history, myth, religions, cultures, and languages from black people didn’t matter. “That’s all in the past! Live in the present!”
Do they grasp the irony? That the very anger and pain dominating the national debate sets the standard? If they aren’t bluffing, lying, exaggerating, engaged in theater…then take THAT pain, and multiply by a thousand, and you have what was done to us.
As Sho Nuff, the Shogan of Harlem once said: “Stings a little, don’t it?”
A guy gave me a raft of crap a week ago, because I wouldn’t provide him with links showing where I got my opinions about race, class and poverty in Appalachia, the Eastern U.S. cultural region that stretches from Southern New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.
I cannot count how many books, documentaries, news broadcasts, articles, films, country-western songs, stories, and personal reminiscences I’ve absorbed about this country, and that region. But no, I don’t keep a convenient list of links. I’m not his damned tutor, and that wasn’t a formal debate with neutral judges. David Brin was my debate coach in high school, and trust me, what goes on on Facebook is not “debate”.
Usually these works were created by white people, often by historians, writers, reporters, academics and artists who lived in the region, grew up there, had cultural and genetic and historical roots there, are proud and hopeful about the region, but often in pain about the media images or governmental neglect. There was never a time I didn’t hear about coal mining, farming, trucking, dairy, and whatever else in that region.
The specific question that triggered this gentleman’s ire was: where is white privilege? Wasn’t a poor white in Appalachia devoid of such privilege? And I answered: nope. And if I wanted to be more certain, I’d interview a sample of poor white Appalachians and poor BLACK Appalachians, and compare their experiences. He didn’t like that answer.
Fine. It is not my responsibility to please or educate him. All I volunteered to do was tell him what I thought.
Steven Soderburg’s new film “Lucky Logan” is sly and smart. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
While a caper film on the surface, it is also a comment on America. Racially, you might think that nothing is going on there, as all the main characters couldn’t be whiter if they bathed in bleach. But there is something very interesting, if you keep your eyes open. Channing Tatum’s world is NASCAR and junior pageants and coal mining. And it is also almost 100% white. Top to bottom. Huge crowds and audiences and passing motorists. and almost every speaking part. White, white, white.
But once we go to the state prison, looking for “Joe Bang” (played by a newcomer named Daniel Craig. I think he’ll have a career), a bank robber who is a genius at explosives, NOW we see black people. Tons of them. Big scary black bucks, and obese black Mammies.
The white people are drivers, miners, car dealer owners, beauticians, FBI officers, bartenders, and whatever. The full spectrum of human occupations. The black people are criminals, jailers and security guards.
Now, there are two basic ways to interpret this, with a line is drawn right down the political middle:
- Nurture. The liberal side of this debate. What we are seeing here is the result of generational damage combined with institutional racism. You can measure the damage, right on the screen. To the degree that this mirrors reality, you are seeing EXACTLY the difference between being a poor white and a poor black, in the same social/geographical context.
- Nature. The conservative side of this debate. Not all Conservatives believe this (some will offer weak sauce about “Liberal social policies” leading to the “breakup of the black family.” IMO if they were honest enough to relate this to centuries of oppression, brainwashing and horror I might believe they really believed this. Few of them do) but almost everyone I’ve met who DOES believe it is “criminal nature” is over thar on the far side of the political aisle. I notice things like that.
“The Bell Curve” clearly states that (to a major degree) genetics determines intelligence which determines criminal and irresponsible behavior. That’s its conclusion. Don’t expect me not to understand the implications.
What is clear is that people are so used to seeing this image (white people in their complexity and variety, black people mostly seen as zoo animals and zoo keepers) that it doesn’t even raise question. Few react at all, perhaps assuming it is the natural order.
You don’t dare wonder if your ancestors did so much damage over centuries that their victims are still staggering. Or if maybe the justice system isn’t a level playing field, and the descendants of those ancestors are still playing legal Whack A Mole with the descendants of those slaves.
In Lucky Logan, a white woman brags about talking her way out of a ticket. A white man is given a wrist-slap for driving his car through a convenience store. In fact, they are so confident the sentence will be minimal that that is actually an integral part of the heist.
If you believe that black offenders would be treated as well, then you too have chosen door #2.
Those who wonder why I cut so much slack to a Jefferson, or Washington, or America in general around issues of race would be wise to realize that I’m simply saying that context and programming matter. I CANNOT consider them corrupt in essence, or whites corrupt in essence, or America corrupt in essence without thinking like the sleeping children who are so desperate to believe the playing field is level, absolving them of responsibility and ennobling their own efforts, that they are and have been willing to slander an entire people.
This is either a human problem, or there is no hope at all. America drowns in burning blood.
No, I don’t ask for white folks to feel guilt. I don’t consider that a useful emotion for a conscious adult. And I’ve never asked for reparations. I see no way to facilitate that without causing more damage than it ameliorates.
But I do ask that the lies stop. That we speak the painful truth.
You know: truth about how desperately the South needed slave labor, and the myths of inferiority they devised, evolved, and spread, and the lies they told about the motives for the war they fought to protect it.
Tell the truth. That’s all I ask.
If there had been a “Truth and Reconciliation” or “Nuremburg Trials” style reckoning after the Civil War, it would have been more painful…for a blink in time. But if slaves had been able to confront their masters, if the crimes had been documented and the “Lost Cause” narrative killed in the cradle, the pain felt would have been a tiny fraction of the anguish blacks felt all those centuries, and it might have saved us the national agony we’re experiencing now.
The Truth will set you free.
Then, without having to carry the load of bullshit your ancestors shoveled onto your shoulders, you would be able to see your own beauty, grasp the wonder of the American dream, realize that the statement “All men are created equal” is a goal, a vision of possibility, an ideal: if we are the best we can be, see with hearts unpoisoned by fear and greed, THIS is what we will see.
All men are created equal.
I will not drink the poison, even if it gives me temporary political leverage. Don’t need it to see the divinity within my heart. Don’t need to drown out the voices of doubt and self-pity within my mind. Years of meditation and martial arts have turned that shit down to a whisper.
Won’t allow my enemies to turn me into one of them. It ain’t that kind of party.
What I will do is say: if THEY won’t tell the truth, WE MUST. Sing your songs. Tell your stories. Your history explains your past. Your dreams determine what you must do TODAY to bring them to reality.
America is a story. History is a story. When you tell your stories, demanding to be heard, you are weaving together the fabric of society, and consciousness. You can move away from pain, and toward pleasure.
Joy. Fullfillment. All any of us have ever really wanted.
Because I have FAITH that that is our true heritage as a species, as living things. Goes way, way beyond a few hundred or thousand years of history, all the way back to the Big Bang: connection and complexity with a garnish of chaos and fear as ego shells dissolve to create the energy we need to move forward.
Most of the fear is just fear of loss: If I’m not descended from heroes, I’m descended from monsters…If I don’t control THEM they will kill ME…
No, you’re descended from human beings, doing the best they can with the resources they have, trying to move from pain toward pleasure. Black and white, male and female, Christian and Muslim and atheist…that’s all there is.
Any my family are those who are strong and centered enough to offer the hand of friendship, an open heart, to any who can hear what I’m saying.
And we do this by focusing on the beautiful…while never forgetting the ugly. Forgive, but not forget.
Always from a position of strength, of course, because there are a few smiling monsters mixed in, of course. But rare. And that will never be my first assumption.
Most dangerous people are just enmeshed in an ugly dishonest story, afraid that if they look more closely, they will find corruption.
Sure. But look more deeply and you’ll find beauty. You will find the light.