The spectacle of mass movement draws
attention inevitably to
the borders, the porous places, the
vulnerable points where
one’s concept of home is seen
as being menaced by foreigners.
For many, the approach of an
industrial army had presented a
menacing prospect. The press had
predicted that the [Jacob]
Coxey movement would mean class
warfare...One source of
fear was the fact that the capital
was home to eighty-five
thousand African Americans, the
nation’s largest urban population
of blacks. More than half of them
were now unemployed. They
turned out in large numbers [in
1894] to cheer Coxey’s legion.
The city’s police chief
pronounced himself more afraid of ‘colore
people that he was of Coxey’s
What will it take for Americans to
feel safe? To tear down the walls Americans insist on building?
Recently, in Vallejo, California, a
Taco Bell employee decided to call 911. It’s 10:30 pm on a
Saturday night, February 9, 2019, and, parked outside the
establishment, asleep, is 20-year-old rapper, Willie McCoy. There’s
a gun on his lap.
Police arrive, and the young black
man is still asleep in his car.
Maybe he senses them. He wakes. He’s
disoriented: there are six police officers surrounding his vehicle.
They fire, however, before he can adjust his vision good. They fire.
All six officers. And even when he’s placed on the ground,
dead, the officers are still pointing their guns. Witnesses report
that the officers are still yelling at the dead man on the ground.
When asked why, why did each fire
rounds of bullets at McCoy, the officers responded: they “feared
for their safety.”
Once the English colonists looked to
the west, beyond the humanity of Indigenous inhabitants of the land,
they establish a wall of words serving to vilify the Native Americans
and justify America’s practice of extermination. When asked
why, why the resisting warriors were swiftly eliminated, the
colonists responded: they feared for their safety.
Since the kidnapping, packing, and
shipping of Africans as cargo bound for labor camps, otherwise
referred to by stately names, such as Monticello, that, “came
into existence as a symbol of the cosmopolitan dominion of the
Enlightenment mind,” according to Lewis P. Simpson in The
Dispossessed Garden,” the
Americans have concerned themselves with safety from those whose
origins in the New World begins in enslavement and oppression.
generations later, in the 1950s, when the American dream has
“shrugged off all sense of moral disquiet, becoming a
triumphalist patriotic assertion” (Behold, America),
Americans, to fulfill the tenets
of the American dream, adjust their lives to situate themselves
within an impracticable charade of entitlement, superiority, above
all other human beings—despite evidence to the contrary. It
becomes a notion, for many in the era of civil rights activism, of
what it means to be an American. A really American. And so these
fellow citizens accept and abide the unsustainable and systemically
oppressive and exclusionary. And if asked why, many Americans today
will echo the mantra: they fear for their safety.
with pro-Fascist groups, the Klan, writes Sarah Churchwell in Behold,
America, feeling “uncomfortable”
and “deeply depressed” over the progress of the people
they sought domination over, the “‘strangers,’”
“who challenge the commercial power they believed was theirs by
entitlement.” Throughout the US, “blacks, Jews, labour
unionists, radicals, the foreign and uppity women” are
routinely terrorized, sometimes as a matter of sport, but most often,
in rage—as white supremacist and white nationalists controlled
by the misguided belief of being wronged by the inferior, the
subhuman. What should be eliminated from the face of the Earth.
perpetrators of atrocities flip the narrative. Eliminate them! Become
the victim. Repeat the mantra, over and over again: America First!
America First! America First becomes the newest slogan to coalesce
with the American dream. And everyone will know who they are. Where
they stand. And what’s to be done in order to maintain the
supremacy of safety in the US.
so it’s happening, as it always has.
there’s Woody Guthrie writing a song, “Old Man Trump,”
about the version of fear and hate who, no surprise, “‘knows
just how much racial hate/He stirred up’” (Behold,
America). Owner of a “Trump
Tower,” the Old Man, rents to Americans—just not African
black folks come to roam’” at that home then while the
newest generations of citizens continues today the building of walls
for the safety of the American
fear is greater than ever.
meanwhile, Amazon is running amok. I know, I know, Trump despises
Bezos. Bezos, at least, isn’t the Koch brothers. But who is
Bezos if, instead of many Big Brothers, his behemoth of a corporation
becomes the one Big
the way to chief-of-surveillance operations, at least 49 corporations
are threatened by an all-consuming Amazon, a runaway monopoly on the
buying and selling of just about everything, from books to office
supplies, clothes and furniture, body lotion and pharmaceutical
drugs. According to (“America’s Proof Positive that
Capitalism is Failing,” Truthdig,
February 18, 2019), Barnes & Nobles, Best Buy, UPS, Target,
Trader’s Joe, Office Depot, FedEx, Staples, Macy, Walgreen,
CVS, and Costco may find themselves unable to sustain their yearly
profit margins under Amazon’s shadow. It’s the iron
boot! Nothing good can come of this, to paraphrase Hamlet.
richest man on a planet losing animal life at 1,000 to 10,000 times
the natural rate, Bezos maintains his profit margin as one of the
good Americans. No, he’s not Trump senior or Trump son and
grandsons, smiling all the way to the bank while refusing to pay
those who did work for the family. But how is paying workers an
average of 13.00 dollars per hour while taking to his bank 132.95
billion dollars annually—how it that a different
afraid of Jeff Bezos?
90-94 Amazon warehouses, the workers are under surveillance and their
restroom breaks and lunchtime is measured in terms of Amazon’s
bottom line. What’s being protected in these well-lighted
warehouses? What does Bezos fear? Because the whole issue of safety
isn’t about fellow citizens, his workers, his fellow human
beings. This supremacy of safety, beginning with the practice of
whipping, torturing, and maiming Indigenous and enslaved blacks, has
never been about protecting human beings. Instead, supremacy of
safety is about stroking the nation’s irrational fear of
blacks, people of color, and any other that differs, ultimately, from
the 1%, the one’s in control of the narrative and therefore the
money, the material resources. Whether intentionally or not, the
movement toward building walls of policies or concrete or “beautiful”
slats, the expansion of the dehumanization of Americans is what
becomes the norm. Whether Amazon workers or not.
something to fear when progress means the accumulation of
well-lighted plantations. This isn’t the way toward social
democracy and justice!
the supremacy of safety has the eyes of the 1% watching the 99% now,
the 1% threatening the lives of the rest of humanity and life on
Earth. Yet, the narrative for building a better existence for all
life is and has always been in the hands of those who, for the good
of their own lives, won’t tear down the walls enforcing racial
and economic segregation.
want to be exceptional. First. It’s what some have been told.
Others, however, have never been told they were exceptional. The
exceptional can’t bear the loss of their dreams.