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Est. April 5, 2002
Sept 10, 2020 - Issue 832

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Kenosha Is Healing!

“Lacking an understanding of systemic racism,
and the prevalence of white supremacy, Kenosha seeks
a return to a time before August 23, 2020, the day Sheskey,
representing the conqueror, the plantation militia, the
Frontiersmen, the Rambo - all wrapped up in
one gunslinger taking out the enemy.
Seven shots in the back!”

...Negroes have illuminated imperfections in the democratic

structure that were formerly only dimply perceived, and have

forced a concerned re-examination of the true meaning of

American democracy. As a consequence of the vigorous Negro

protest, the whole nation has for a decade probed more

searchingly the essential nature of democracy, both economic

and political. By taking to the streets and there giving practical

lessons in democracy and its defaults, Negroes have

decisively influenced white thought.

Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Kenosha wants to heal.

Less than a month since the shooting of a Jacob Blake, a Black resident of Kenosha, by Rusten Sheskey, a white police officer, the town is appealing to Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters and supporters to settle down. Let Kenosha heal! Clear the streets!

Jacob Blake’s father and BLM, however, are calling for systemic change in the way police and not just the Kenosha police, but also law enforcement across the country, treat Black citizens. America’s core “left” is its kidnapped and enslaved, disenfranchised and lynched, despised and criminalized Black population. Historically insisting on the pursuit of democracy in the face of terrorism and fascism, Black Americans have worn resistance like a skin.

America has long maintained some form of enslavement for its Black citizens, if not in the labor market after Reconstruction, then in its policies and laws which incarcerate a disproportionate number of Black Americans. And since the lynching of the first Black, America has resorted to the use of dynamite, ropes, and bullets to terrorize Black people.

But Kenosha wants to heal.

And so the narrative on the streets, away from the action, is that the unfortunate incident has been a bit of an inconvenience. The talk, low but firm, is about “curfews,” and fewer profits because store hours are short, and white citizens are driving around in search of “safe” spaces to eat or shop. It would seem that soft cultural events aside, more than neighbors cutting hair and cooking food is required to effect systemic change.

And that means that no effort will be exerted on the part of the white citizen of Kenosha to recognize injustice and inequality. Flags drape poles on most front lawns in Kenosha. Lincoln sits at the entrance of Library Park. And there are churches - Protestant, Catholic, evangelical churches. And Christians to fill the pews. Yet, the nation’s most committed advocates for freedom are still, in the minds of most white citizens in this town, the “them” in the “us” vs. “them” narrative. So many Americans find safety in this space where they reside as the “us” in requiring protection from the “them.” In short, protection from change.

In reality, as Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. has noted, there are no “outsiders” when, because of technological advances, “all inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors.” America is America and Kenosha is a part of that grand narrative that drives America toward its “manifest destiny.”

Lacking an understanding of systemic racism, and the prevalence of white supremacy, Kenosha seeks a return to a time before August 23, 2020, the day Sheskey, represented the conqueror, the plantation militia, the Frontiersmen, the Rambo - all wrapped up in one gunslinger taking out the enemy. Seven shots in the back!

Kenosha wants to go back to before this day as if the kidnapping, enslaving, raping, terrorizing, lynching, shooting of Black people happened just once, on one day.

Baffling. But the lack of logic calls Kenosha home to a safe space where it doesn’t have to think on its own history of violence. How did Europe and America amass a fortune? How much did Europe and America loot from Africa, India, the Caribbean, South America, China, Indonesia?

In normal times, white Kenosha is free to move about town, make a profit and a living too while its Black population appeases and smiles, pretending it’s all some big misunderstanding between the races. Nothing serious. Nothing a neighborhood cook-out won’t solve. And the protesters are to return home, leaving the movement for systemic change to the “community” of established leaders?

The elephant in the room is that white “agitator,” the branded outsider…

I saw the image of an assault rifle the other day, a tattoo on the arm of a cable guy. Matter-of-fact. An average guy. No “outsider.”

“On the ground,” I have yet to hear anyone voice empathy for Jacob Blake. For George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Any unarmed Black shot by police. There is something already within the town of Kenosha, something within its white population that draws it toward the perception that Blacks deserve what law enforcement dishes out. It’s not just an anti-Black sentiment but also an anti-human philosophy that isn’t out there alone.

It’s so far from the thinking of Socrates. Sojourner Truth. Niebuhr. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. So far away from what the man Jesus professed.

It’s not Malcolm!

Today, September 10, 2020, the Kenosha Public Library is featuring a program on the exploits of P. T. Barnum. I’m sure this program aims to inform the children of Kenosha - about something. The “weirdness” of Barnum?

“Old Weird America Goes Viral! P. T. Barnum, America’s Premier Purveyor of Humbug.” That’s the title of the problem, and only a few words describe the entertainer as a man, not just the possessor of an “entrepreneurial” spirit of a showman. He also exploited “unfortunate human specimens,” “specimens?” such as Tom Thumb and “outright hoaxes like the Fiji Mermaid.” Such “crusades” and “gaffs” mark “Barnum’s colorful career.”

Oh, my! Sounds like fun, but then, no, not really. I, the reader of this little teaser on the Kenosha Public Library website, am Black. Ah, “there’s the rub,” to quote Hamlet. I could have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews as patrons of the library, and I would want those young people, subject to enough humiliation because of their race, I would want these children to know that Barnum exploited Black people?! There’s nothing of the humbug about the exploitation of human beings by other human beings. It’s a tragedy this nation has yet to confront!

Barnum, according to Harriet A. Washington, the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial to Present, “grew rich by exploiting his era’s culture of racial subjugation and enslavement for his own gain.” Barnum’s purchase of an 80-year old Black woman, Joice Heth, to display in his show, is what “catapulted him to fame and wealth.”

Here’s an opportunity for the library to take the lead and teach, enlightened, without fear, relinquishing the false idea that a “safe” space protects one from reality. In that “safe” space resides the reality of an inescapable commitment not to social justice but instead to the violence of white supremacy.

Why would anyone commit to the narrative practice of omission, removing the truth about the origins of violence in the nation and substituting that truth with characterizations of Black women as “Jezebels” or “welfare queens”? Why would anyone think it isn’t a violence to see a “criminal” in my son jogging, or my nephew walking, or my husband driving, or my father selling loose cigarettes?

So it matters that the truth isn’t the goal of those who just want to heal. White supremacy looks normal when the collective mindset of white America controls the narrative.

When will Black lives matter in Kenosha? As long as Kenosha prioritizes healing rather than systemic change, it will be a good long while.

Systemic change won’t come about easily. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels and BC.
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