My thoughts have been all over the place lately and this piece is more emotional vomit than anything else. If you are looking for a succinct and thorough run down of how the US of A got into its current state, Michael Harriot of The Root, created this amazing timeline of events. If you care to read my thoughts, disjointed as they are, keep reading.
I’m a black American woman and a history buff. I saw this coming and so did most black Americans. You can’t have the kind of history that America has, put a horrid imbecile of a human, dead set on returning America to its pre-Civil War era status, at the helm and not expect this result.
Ever since the 45th president of the USA began his campaign for his current position I have had the opening lines from the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring film playing in my head, fluttering in and out so that sometimes it’s louder than others but never completely goes away.
The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it.Galadriel (Spoken by Treebeard to Galadriel in the book)
But it’s not so much that the world is changed as that people have forgotten how horrible the world can be when we let assholes run shit. What’s even more painful is to realize that many of your fellow Americans are more than happy to see the country go to hell in a hand basket just as long as they get to sit in the upper most part of the basket. This is what’s on my mind as Icelandic summer rolls around, with its 24-hour sunlight and almost COVID-19 free, and American cities rise up in protest against anti-black racism and police brutality.
I say, “we all saw this coming” but from what I’ve seen on social media, a LOT of white folks are surprised by both the rampant racism in America and America being completely unprepared for a pandemic. But NONE of this is surprising. Not one bit of it.
As much as I was reluctant to leave NYC three years ago, I am so glad we did. My family and I were very fortunate to have the option to move out of the US and to a country that doesn’t have a military or armed police and is small enough to quickly contain and handle a pandemic. Most Americans don’t have that option and are, as I write this, fighting for the most basic of human rights, the right to live. And I don’t just mean black Americans, I’m talking about the 99%. It is absolutely ridiculous that Americans have to choose whether they will pay for food, their rent/mortgage, healthcare or education. People who can afford three out of four of these things consider themselves lucky #blessed and it shouldn’t be so.
The everyday stress of stretching paychecks as far as they can possibly go and still not being able to afford necessities such as healthcare, is significantly compounded if you are not a well-educated, white, typically abled, cis-het, property owning man. And it has been this way for centuries. For hundreds of years, this has been the reality. Back in 1776, America’s founding fathers––well-educated, landowning and in many cases, enslavers and human traffickers––dangled the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness before the eyes of white men, the soon-to-be Americans, entreating them to rise up against the tyranny of the British Empire, ignoring the tyranny they themselves were already wielding against the landless and enslaved.
This magical idea of all* men having inalienable rights was irresistible, even to the black men who didn’t see the teeny-tiny asterisk above all denoting that it only applied to white men. When they said all, they really meant only some. I think some white folks think there’s an asterisk type situation going on with #blacklivesmatter and that’s why they don’t get that it does not mean only black lives matter just that black lives matter too.
Sure, there were debates about the hypocrisy of founding a country on notions of freedom while enslaving thousands but for wealthy, landowning white men, the benefits of “free” labor far out-weighed the horror of it all.
Change has rippled through America at a glacial pace since the British were defeated in 1781. Slavery was eventually abolished and women got the right to vote but the seeds of inequality planted then are still bearing strange, mangled fruit today. No matter how many times the people, the masses, the ones who make America, America, try to erase that damned asterisk, it just won’t go away, not completely. It feels like we take two steps forward and then are dragged 150 years backward. Hundreds of thousands of people shouldn’t be dead from this pandemic and state sponsored murder and yet, here we are. The very foundations of America haven’t changed, they remain as bloody and rotten as ever.