Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
Feb 13, 2020 - Issue 805
Bookmark and Share
This page can be shared

When Black Americans
Sleep with One Eye Open

"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 demographic
are reeking havoc in the minds of white Americans."

Kelly On Trayvon Martin

Each time I

Find myself walking

Home from anywhere

In the evening

I think of

Him minutes from

Home a bag

Of Skittles the

First man to

Be accused of

Using the sidewalk

As a weapon

In this grate

Country they hate

Us there is

No sense in

Telling me otherwise

Reuben 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.

The 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.

Reading 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.

Those 400 years can’t be erased from the soil without pulling up roots.

The 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.

And so we have Trump and the mesmerizing goose-stepping backward that is more than a show of the absurd.

There are more Americans in attendance at the Trump inaugural than there were at that of Obama’s Inaugural.

Photographic evidence to the contrary is “fake.”

Look 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.

Not fake news! It happened!

Trump’s 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.

Neither the Republican party nor the corporate world are shocked by the rise of a democratic socialist candidate for president.

But turn on liberal cable news and it’s Trump again applauding the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for insulting and cursing at a female journalist.

Why didn’t you defend Marie Yovanovitch from Trump’s demand to fire her?

Question 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.

And 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!

In 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.

But it happened!

In 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 of retribution!

In reality, the most vulnerable of society are increasingly worse off while the rich are amassing unthinkable wealth and earthy resources for themselves.

Is 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.

That’s what’s so frightening!

Or maybe it’s the way Trump’s men and his base don’t fail him?

He’s innocent.

He’s guilty.

So what? We’ll acquit him! Just as we do when law enforcement shoot down black men and women.

It’s all good!

In 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.

Come on. You know you like him too!

This woman was my doctor, my general practitioner.

Apprehensive? Yes, I was. I was… frightened.

Because 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!

The “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.”

Trump’s 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.

The 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!

What a way to make America great! Again. Fill the land with the cold and the heartlessness, again…

Yes, that’s frightening.

Hippies-turn-Democrats (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.

Although 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 cell.

Lock them up!

So when the writer of that article I read last month suggests that Trump could order the deportation of African Americans, it’s not so preposterous.

The 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. Rarely 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.

It’s 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 anti-fascist protesters!

Reality is being altered again with very real consequences for black Americans!

As 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.

Sleeping 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.

What 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 democracy.

And it was us! Ourselves!

It’s your last chance.

We’ll 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 time.

It’s 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.

“What must I do?”

“Tell me how many lights you see?”

Picard, 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.

“Your last chance. Don’t be a stubborn fool. How many?”

And 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.

Madred 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.

So when Picard turns back to look at the lights and then at Madred, as weak as he may be, he emphatically says: “There… are… four… lights!”

Because there are four lights!

And all of Madred’s immense power over Picard’s life vaporizes.

It’s over! Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.
Bookmark and Share
This page can be shared




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers