Each time I
Jackson, Boston Review, Jan 10, 2020
Last month, the writer of a
commentary, a black American, attempts to provide an image of that
increased level of apprehension Americans are experiencing since
Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. It’s an image
of blacks in America sleeping with one eye open, an image that
resonated with me—when it shouldn’t have. But it did.
Why is this? I’ve talked with
older blacks who lived through the latter era of legalized
segregation, and, for them, it’s as if forward progress has
been eviscerated. I often think, as do others of my generation,
coming to organizing and the streets in the late 1960s that I’m
living in an era that is not dissimilar to that of my mother’s.
Is this what it was like in the 1940s?
The terror of racism didn’t
start with Trump; it never ended in 1865. It certainly didn’t
become post with Barack
Obama. But as leader of the nation, Trump’s unapologetic
display of racism is allowed to flourish openly at a time when the
racial demographics are reeking havoc in the minds of white
Americans. For many Americans, Trump is a necessary distraction for
the media to sell to the Democratic Party as “the man to beat.”
Even if an unpredictable entity for his enablers in the Republican
party, he’s good for business, and business in the US is always
about profits—the boasting of the military industrial complex,
the health care industry, the banking industry, and so on.
long-standing idea of America as a democracy is laughable to anyone
familiar with stories about the “Founding Fathers,” most
of whom were owners of people. Black people. Most of whom profited
from the owning of land and people that worked that land and made
money hand over fist for those white owners.
the narratives these men left behind will not change the reality of
their lived experiences as owners of human beings, and those human
beings experienced the determination to sustain the undemocratic
ordering of humanity one kidnapped child at a time, one rape at a
time, one bloody whipping, one mutilated foot, one separated family.
400 years can’t be erased from the soil without pulling up
ordering of humanity into the haves and the have nots must be
uprooted as an actuality, as business as usual. But that’s the
problem. Many will agree but can’t commit.
so we have Trump and the mesmerizing goose-stepping backward
that is more than a show of the absurd.
are more Americans in attendance at the Trump inaugural than there
were at that of Obama’s Inaugural.
evidence to the contrary is “fake.”
this way, at the “Russian probe!” Follow the narrative of
the “perfect call” from Trump to Volodymyr Zelensky,
President of Ukraine, instead. And when despite all of this show of
the absurd, resistance from African Americans and Latino/a citizens
calling for systemic change, rallying around a socialist, then in
broad daylight, order a hit against the top
general in Iran.
fake news! It happened!
impeachment in December did little to deter him or his enablers.
While the media attempted to link Joe Biden to African American
voters, Trump enablers bet on a Biden Democratic nomination, and it’s
that potential nomination that is competing with the emergence of
protesters pointing for all the world to see at America’s
homeless, criminalized for having to sleep in the streets while the
wealthy are untouchable.
the Republican party nor the corporate world are shocked by the rise
of a democratic socialist candidate for president.
turn on liberal cable news and it’s Trump again applauding the
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for insulting and cursing at a female
didn’t you defend Marie Yovanovitch from Trump’s demand
to fire her?
her intelligence, Mike. And the Secretary of State for the US does
so. Question her loyalty to me, Mike. Question her right to ask you
why you didn’t defend a former ambassador in your department.
was Pompeo fired? If a black man, he would have been ostracized and
shown the door. He would have been one of Trump’s evil ones.
Insulting a white female journalist! Trump never did that, huh!
reality, Trump should never have been in the race for the presidency
of the US. He’s a racist, with both eyes open and no heart. He
has no respect for women. No respect for humanity.
reality, on the Right, there’s a sense that this is the last
chance. But it’s not an urgency limited to the Right or to 40%.
It’s in the way the working-class neighbor eyes you with
suspicion or the teacher chastises your child, with impunity. No fear
reality, the most vulnerable of society are increasingly worse off
while the rich are amassing unthinkable wealth and earthy resources
Trump failing at his role as a cover for Steven Miller, Besty Devos,
Steven Mnuchin, Andrew Wheeler, and the entire Republican party? No.
Not at all.
what’s so frightening!
maybe it’s the way Trump’s men and his base don’t
what? We’ll acquit him! Just as we do when law enforcement
shoot down black men and women.
the months leading up to the November elections in 2016, I listened
to an older white woman speak of her admiration for Trump. The way
she described him—he’s a man who speaks for her, a
self-described “political junkie.” Yes, she was going to
vote for Trump.
on. You know you like him too!
woman was my doctor, my general practitioner.
Yes, I was. I was… frightened.
history doesn’t matter, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell
spoke as plainly and as clearly: Watch! The senate will
take it’s marching orders from the White House!
“We” in the “We the People” is the “I”
as in “I, Trump.” Has it ever been about the “We
the People”? Trump’s wish of becoming a full-fledged
dictator on his balcony, overlooking a massive and loyal crowd of
admirers, isn’t an unreality; instead, it happens every time
Trump requires the adulation of his base. Trump’s 2-hour
rallies are reminiscent not just of the fictional world of Orwell’s
1984, but of the actual rally
in 1939 at Madison Square
Garden. There is was the Nazis. The American
Nazis—rallying a crowd to think about the Jews and the African
Americans living in a “white man’s America.”
ecstatic collection of citizens cheer and call for the locking up of
a former Secretary of State, former Democratic candidate for
president, Hillary Clinton. “Lock her up!” And Trump,
with chin up, Mussolini style, waits until the chanting dies down
before defying facts with yet another lie.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, with a straight face, as serious
as that as the new idea of a “strategist,” that is,
Steven Miller, all-around-advisor and loyal man, announced to the
world that the Coronavirus is okay. Good for business.
Capitalism. Think: jobs for Americans!
a way to make America great! Again. Fill the land with the cold and
the heartlessness, again…
(or Republicans) and even the war activists ultimately rejected the
African American demand of my generation for an overhaul of the
system. Down with white supremacy!
The capitalists stepped in to overhaul the unity of American citizens
around issues of social justice, and, using the media to brand
African Americans as criminals and backing financially favored
politicians to establish laws justify the incarceration of black
people, things changed, not for the good of America, and certainly
not for black Americans.
one—running for president these days—took
a stand, refusing to run scared of the made-up bogeyman, the majority
of the hippies and the war activists and the white feminists went
home to families, tossing aside any concern about African Americans
being hauled off to prison to live their remaining days and die in a
when the writer of that article I read last month suggests that Trump
could order the deportation of African Americans, it’s not so
forward movement of African Americans during Reconstruction came to
an end just as brutally. Democratic-leaning laws were struck down and
blacks were stripped of their positions in social and political life.
were there former charges or a courtroom date, plenty
of self-appointed jurors and judges were on the scene, dressed in
white robes and hoods.
impossible for white America to recognize the abnormal when Trump
straightforwardly equated the “fine” goose-stepping
racists and anti-Semites with the “fine” anti-racist and
is being altered again with very real consequences for black
a senior black woman, I look over my shoulders. I’m careful
when I take out my cell phone or my coin purse. I’m nervous
when I have to pass white men with large dogs. I try not to appear
lost when I’m actually find myself walking down the wrong
street. I pretend I don’t notice the heads of cashiers turn
when I enter a store. My dreads attract attention. And the burden is
on me, a black woman in my mid-sixties—who has the burden of
making sure whites in the room or store I entered feel comfortable
with my presence among them.
with one eye open seems almost normal—until we realize that the
“shock and awe” unleashed in this unreality
show is just for show. Just to frighten the viewer, with that one eye
open, into total darkness. Resignation. Then, in our “absence,”
unreality becomes inevitable.
lies behind these images of the absurd, what will linger long after
Trump is finally removed from office, is the horror of this cruel
and chaotic era—that almost did America in! Almost erased black
Americans, Indigenous, Latino/a, LGBT. Almost did in the idea of
it was us! Ourselves!
your last chance.
write that you were killed aboard a burning Enterprise. Yes, it’s
burning. But in reality, you’ll be here for a very long, long
the year 2369. The Cardassian Gul Madred is speaking to a captured
and tortured Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. For days now, life has been
upside down. Intense. Unbelievable.
must I do?”
me how many lights you see?”
half-naked, is tired and weak. Barely able to stand or focus, Picard,
nonetheless, looks towards a panel of lights. Picard knows how he’s
supposed to answer. Five, there are five lights. Two. Three. Anything
but four, the actual number of lights.
last chance. Don’t be a stubborn fool. How many?”
just while Picard considers the alternative to the reality of four
lights, when he thinks (as he told Dr. Crusher later, safely aboard
the Enterprise) of giving this man what he wants—say two,
three, five, whatever, anything but four, a door behind Picard opens
and in come two or three Cardassians. Madred is ordered to get Picard
cleaned up. He’s to return to his ship.
is disappointed. Not because Picard is freed, but rather because he
didn’t break Picard. Didn’t succeed in hearing Picard
admit to the unreality of five lights. Two lights. Three lights.
Anything but the reality of four lights.
when Picard turns back to look at the lights and then at Madred, as
weak as he may be, he emphatically says: “There… are…
there are four lights!
all of Madred’s immense power over Picard’s life