To her surprise, she found she could
not rent a building in which
she proposed to have Negro aides
unless they were servants!
Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells
Most of us have experienced the bad
neighbor. It’s nothing personal. Just self-centered. Rude.
In the best of situations, a knock
on the neighbor’s door brings him or her back to reality: There
are other people living here!
In the best of situations, the
neighbor becomes a friend or, at least, someone you can borrow the
proverbial cup of sugar from.
Not so much today. The old wounds
have re-surfaced. Again.
I was thinking about the opening of
old wounds, our current state of affairs in the US, while reading
Hiroshima, the late
journalist John Hersey account of the immediate moments and days
after the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Through the eyes
of six survivors, at least two of whom are physicians, tell of
witnessing survivors heal from their wounds only to return to the
hospital with the same wounds re-opened only a few days later. What
could account for such a bizarre occurrence?
only later that doctors, and everyone else for that matter, learn
“radiation sickness.” One such symptom is the closing and
re-opening of old wounds, with the re-opening worse, as in larger and
more life-threatening than the original wound.
the US, we are bombarded with images of white college students and
politicians in black face. Old slaveholders in modern garb wishing
for the old days. If mass incarceration is waning, how about
shooting? Shooting to kill? And yet, there are Americans arming and
training themselves in the use of high-teach weaponry. The rhetoric
of hate offers these advocates of white supremacy the guiding
principle without there can be no re-opening of old wounds.
were “conscious” back in the day. Politically
conscious. Today, among the
young adults, being black is being “woke.” Conscious or
woke, being black is to be aware of the historical injustice of white
supremacy. Return with the ancestors to the Western shores of Africa,
to infamous caves and European and American ships. It’s to
return to remembering through the eyes of survivors a continent
struggling to free itself from the injustices of capitalism,
plundering still its resources and re-enslaving blacks, luring them,
that is, to the “good” life, there for the taking as long
as there’s faith in the dollar. My generation might hail the
rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, but we still recognize the
first layer of those old wounds.
know the personal struggle is linked to the survival of not just
African Americans, but anyone who truly believes that inequality, in
terms of healthy food, decent and affordable housing, complete health
care coverage, and education, threatens the survival of this nation
larger narrative, as it concerns itself with blacks at all, concerns
itself with the revolving door: Some are let in while others are not.
not that whites only signs are visible over the entrances of
apartment complexes in towns that are predominantly white in our most
northern states. But more often now, these managements, wanting to
maintain a “whites only” building or complex, need only
be on guard for the perceived “uppity” black, the too
black, all too aware of just why white supremacy lives within these
gates and security entrances). Just keep that element of the
population out and all within are safe in the illusion of white
supremacy. In the meantime, while the manager or owner often lives
well beyond these locations in even more “secured”
communities, the black new comer is left to fearful and sometimes
angry white tenants who discover difference in their midst. If not
armed with guns, white America is certainly armed with enough of the
rhetoric of hate so as to take up the cause of maintaining white
residents in what they perceive to be not just a white place to live
in safety but also a white
N-----s are not wanted!
the subject to what whites are conscious of—not the black
experience which they fear hearing anything about. There are black
neighbors that are bad because black people are bad people. There are
bad schools because black children are bad. Few blacks work downtown
or on campus or at the hospital (other than in housekeeping) because
blacks don’t qualify to work downtown in an office not to
blacks have the credentials to teach on campus or serve as a
physician or administrator at the hospital. If blacks are keep out,
it would appear that the inadequacy of blacks is the root cause of
white’s only territory, blacks, acquiescent to the premise of
white supremacy, even if begrudgingly, whisper in corners about they
way in which blacks are treated…
Be content within white
seems, in the end, aboveboard. Progress. The sprinkling of black
(that is, a selected few) in white homes and in white neighborhoods,
like the maid or gardener, images embedded in American culture as
acceptable for its semblance of inclusion.
for blacks not afraid to be aware of that history of foundational
violence, the sprinkling is
superficial if not a controlled experiment for whites to show
themselves that all is well and they are progressive. A persisting
sickness for sure.
is a given under these circumstance. Any why not?
heard this story recently: Returning home from work, to her
apartment, a black woman, a physician, turned on Spotify.
was the familiar music she recalled from her youth. Rappers including
a Saturday evening—she continued to listen. An hour later, when
she had turned off the music, there’s a knock on her door. It’s
the police. Apparently, a neighbor called them. Apparently the music
was alarming. That’s the kind of music he or she heard alarmed
the neighbor. That kind of music from the “doctor’s”
apartment. The physician reveals an old wound. Yet who is punished
for this egregious offense? Who’s targeted to alleviate the
neighbors of their fear?
did the neighbors forget that the good doctor wasn’t white,
can identify with this story because earlier this year, I returned to
listening to Reggae, via You
Although not a Rastafarian, I have dreads, and for whites only
informed by the rhetoric of white supremacy, dreads represents some
message about something, hard to decipher. “Trouble,” as
one old white male tenant came up to tell me back in March. Anything
I listen to about Black Lives Matter is perceived, I’m sure, by
eavesdroppers to be “anti-American.” Right up there with
news sources—not the enabler Fox
rather strange programs—the Democracy
Now! The Mike Malloy Show, and
the neighbors to divide and conquer. My daring to be non-Christian
and Socialist too, lights the fuse of dynamite, and the war is on.
But more on this story in another article.
harassment of blacks has intensified over the last few years. And
while some Americans believed that the election of a black president
would remove the tarnished history of the enslavement of blacks and
Jim Crow, at least, initiating a new beginning, too many of us know
it just doesn’t work this way at all. Never has. As a
particular tool of white supremacy, harassment operates with
impunity: no one claims to see it happening. And yet, where is
America without the harassment of black Americans? The hanging of
nooses at workplaces, the Birther and Tea Party movements, in an
American where the open wounds represent a backlash that just won’t
“uppity” blacks aware of America’s foundation in
violence are perceived as annoying conscious in the same way an Ida
B. Wells crusaded against the practice of lynching. The threat is
that awareness. It’s an awareness that speaks to our knowledge
of the lingering violence that is America’s reality. African
Americans have been victims along with the mass majority of the
world’s co-oppressed people. We’ve been required to play
dead or come out. Stay silent or reveal the wound as open—as
never having been healed but allowed to fester deep in our soil.
Trump’s election to the presidency enables haters within the
borders and “beyond” because no sovereign nation in
Africa or Asia, in the Caribbeans or South America, is really beyond
the watchful gaze of white supremacy. No sovereign land in worlds
consisting of majority black or Brown, Indigenous or Asian is really
safe from an unleashing of fear and hatred.
not the origins of our current cultural atmosphere of intensified
hate, Trump’s a perfect cheerleader. Out the woodwork come the
harassers to do their thing. We shouldn’t be surprised at all,
as painful as this is to say, let alone experience.
or not law enforcement acknowledges this particular expression of
hate against blacks in their own homes, regardless of retaliation
from white managers or landlords, the reality of white supremacy will
continue to fester, if not called out—and now!