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Est. April 5, 2002
Feb 18, 2021 - Issue 853
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Too often, when I listen to a podcast in which two or more white Americans are conversing, it feels as if I’m eavesdropping. They have forgotten that others, who are neither male nor white, might be listening, too. As a result, the conversation isn’t necessarily meant to include my lived experience or the lived experience of Indigenous or Latinx, within a topic, spoken as if for the ears of the “universal” citizen.

It’s a habit since my earlier years as a journalist to follow political, social, and cultural news events. Alongside newspapers and online magazines, we have podcasts now. The podcast I listened to over the weekend was that of Micheal Moore’s Rumble.

This isn’t intended to be a criticism of Moore who has interviewed Cornel West, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Black grassroots organizers. Moore was, as I was, a Bernie Sanders supporter. Besides, I want to point out something that is beyond Moore or, for that matter, his guest last week, actor Viggo Mortensen. I’m not familiar with the work of Mortensen, but for this commentary, my lack of familiarity with Mortensen’s work shouldn’t matter.

We are talking about change. How do we bring about social democracy that includes all of our citizens?

Toward the end of the podcast, Moore expresses his wish that Mortensen’s debut film as a director, Falling, generates discussion on difficult familial and social relationships.

Mortensen’s film centers around a cantankerous, racist, and homophobic father and his gay son, the latter wanting to move beyond the angry father. The son wants to care for the ailing father, and the actor-director will take care to present a narrative about the ills of homophobia. And he, Mortensen, should address this particular brand of hatred toward difference.

What does Mortensen have to say about the father’s racist rants? What about the father’s hatred toward people like me? Indigenous and Latinx populations?

Am I, and other people of color listening to this conversation, suppose to give the father a pass? What about a son, no kid, who doesn’t seem to pick up on how the targets of his father’s racism might feel about being “absent” in this conversation?

I see the older white man. I’ve seen too much of him for too long. He is spiteful. Someone I’ve tried to avoid as I would the plague. Because he is dangerous!

The description of the father, however, seems to offer the listener (and I guess, expected-viewer) a harmless old guy who mouths off some racial and homophobic slurs.

I see a man who has been privileged all his life, not only to mouth off, that is, voice his hatred of Black or Latinx or Indigenous people, but also to practice racism among his neighbors and co-workers of color. From the conversation between Mortensen and Moore, the son-Mortensen wants to be with this patriarchal figure; he, son-Mortensen wants to forgive him. The son-Mortensen wants all of the citizens in the US to turn the page. Get over this “harmless” old man whose time is almost up! Let’s care for the patriarch now. Embrace him, now.

Mamie was 14-year-old Emmett Till’s mother. James Byrd, Jr. was the father of three children. Ahmaud Arbery was someone’s son. It’s been reported that one of Byrd’s killers had Nazi and anti-Black tattoos on his body. I’m sure he voiced his hatred of Black Americans more than once. And the opportunity presented itself for him to act out his hatred on this Black man.

From what I gather in this conversation between Moore and Mortensen, this patriarch in Falling has nothing I want to embrace or care for! I’ve had my experience of him. Why should I forget what has been done or condoned by hateful people like this father? In the era of Black Lives Matter, why would I want to appease this man by agreeing to get over it, turn the page, and wave the flag of “unity”?

I would be, simply, a damned fool, or worse! Many such men who espoused hatred of Black people also raped Black women! Lynched Black men and women!

While crafting this narrative of father and son, Mortensen has learned much, he tells Moore. The biggest thing he’s learned is that we, people in general, shouldn’t hold grudges. No matter what, make up with people. Bring the likes of the old man into your orbit. Isn’t it possible that this guy would have witnessed, if not known, of picnics culminating in a lynching of a Black or Jew?

Who are the people who should unite? Who are the people who must reach across the hall or across the street or across the proverbial water cooler and engage in a friendly chat with someone who would rather see Black Americans return to any “shithole” country?

Did Mortensen see what happened on January 6, 2021, the way I did? Or the way members of the Squad did? As Reps. Maxine Waters or Hakeem Jeffries did? Or the millions of US citizens who have long been made the enemy within white supremacist and white nationalist narratives? Did he view those eight minutes and forty-six seconds in which George Floyd begged for his life the way many of us did, unable, like Floyd, to breathe?

Did he see himself on that floor with Breonna Taylor as she exhaled for the last time?

Despite these seemingly minor differences, we citizens of the US should unite!

Is that the thing now?

What just happened has always happened as a result of the US’s embrace of collective amnesia, deliberate amnesia.

Unity isn’t what I want! I don’t want unity with the old racist man! Or woman, for that matter!

Black Americans can’t afford to embrace racists, day or night, or any day of the week! To throw the burden of “unifying” this nation back on the shoulders of Blacks or other people of color is to be indifferent to the history of violence in the US. White supremacy will not evaporate in some fantasy of a grand, nation-wide Kumbaya campfire.

Of course, the ringleaders of the January 6th Insurrection would love nothing more than to see a nation indulging this fantasy. The better to storm every damn campfire site in search of the foolish Black people in attendance! These ideological dreams of whiteness are akin to the actualizing of that breached Capitol in Washington DC. Those insurrectionists who ransacked Congressional offices and waved the Confederate flag straight through the Rotunda would be pleased to receive an endorsement of their political assault from the entertainment world.

Let’s blame the “troublemakers” and BLM protesters!

An argument much favored by Trump’s lawyers, too!

There’s no end to this sentiment, for it certainly does unite folks. Just not, thank goodness, everyone!

Is it asking too much to remember in the father’s hate those he hates as victims of his violence? And recognize, too, generations of men like him.

Black people can’t be asked to reconcile with white supremacy for the sake of “peace” in the US. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Dr. Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels and BC.

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