A Week In “Real” America

The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA (l) and Philander Castile in Minneapolis, MN (r) by police has escalate racial tension across the country. (hiphopdx.com)




(The views expressed are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HSRN or its sponsors)

          Once they became connected, the spark was lit.
          The minute — I’m sorry, I forgot the times in which we live — the <i>second</i> the media — both social and mass — packaged Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castlie’s deaths at the hands (and guns) of non-black police officers, it became the all too proverbial straw that broke the elephant in the room’s back. Which led to the breaking of this country’s heart.
           One death in Baton Rouge, LA. One in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Five in Dallas, Texas. All senseless, all inexcusable, none random. Or by mistake.Yet, depending on who you speak to, interact with or share beliefs, all unnecessary with but understood.
           Not one of these killings should make sense to any of us, but unfortunately to too many they do. Many of those on the police force disagree with yet “understand” the deaths of Sterling and Castile. They understand “being in the line of duty,” making judgement calls and all that comes with the reactions that come with “feeling that our lives are being threatened” or in danger. Many blacks <i>totally</i> and categorically disagree with the route Micah Xavier Johnson took to retaliate against the policed climate that too many black people have been living in for far too long, but many of us understand.
          And as wrong that is, that is our truth in America. The truth we have to live with and now answer while living in America. This week the events in American brought us to a place where we realized that there is a clear difference from us answering and living with a reality verses who we have to live with what we have to answer to. America’s new reality: OJ got nothing on this.
         Oh, and George Zimmerman is walking around free.
         Johnson’s reaction was to the “packaging” of the killings, of the culmination of killings of black men that he felt were an extension him being killed by police sworn to protect and serve. His reaction was not at the unity on display at the rally in Dallas that night, or at the Black Lives Matter movement that he had issues with as well, it was at the abuse of a power structure that allows the killing of 25-year old black men who theoretically look like him to be almost accepted as the “suspect by birth” norm.
        All anger reaches a boiling point. Unfortunately humans beings don’t believe that all anger has outlets. And when the build-up forces the words “fuck it” to escape their souls, death usually follows. Which honestly makes America no different from so many other countries. Yet, it remains the country that refuses to claim it. To acknowledge that not only are we not different, we aren’t any better.
         “We quickly blame the other guy: the Mexican or the Wall Streeter, the immigrant, Muslims, “millionaires and billionaires.”’ Jay Parini wrote on CNN.com. “In our confusion and malaise, we have become a deeply angry nation. As such, we reach for scapegoats and they’re easy to find. Anyone that doesn’t look or sound like ourselves becomes suspicious.”
           Dallas Police Chief Dave Brown stepped to a microphone and said the police “aren’t used to hearing the words ‘Thank you’ enough for the people that need them the most.” At what point does he think that black society is used to hearing “I’m sorry” from the people that are supposed to protect us when many of us are unjustifiably killed by those people who apparently are looking for a “thank you?”
           But power and privilege never surrenders an apology. Not even when cases of wrongful death pile up.  Not even when there’s video evidence that black life doesn’t matter.
           Black people have been in this crisis with police for a long time. Damn near since there was an us and a them co-existence, forced to share space and circumstance. And while this may be crest of the issue with both us and them, this recent three-fold of murder at the hands of both is not the end of the issues with them to us.
          Then there is love. Something this country has not honestly come to a clear understanding of what it really means.
          See, love doesn’t have a boiling point but it does have an outlet. And as simplistic as it sounds and is as being the answer to all of our divisive ills, sometimes the simplest form of human emotion and affection is the only trait that carries the strength of the savior.
          Here’s what’s very real: America is no longer about hope, it is about survival.
          As W. Kamau Bell said to a shocked (“Oh my God, I was hoping you weren’t going to say that.”) CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield when asked how he was going to one day explain this week in America to his daughter: “She shouldn’t be surprised if she comes home and finds out one day that daddy has been killed by a police officer.”
      No. We can’t. And we’ve never really been able to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t coexist with one another or function as a nation-as-one. It just means that until this country comes face-to-face with what it is and the existing flaws created with the foundation, being “as one” as a “people” is something that will never happen.
      America kills. It’s kills those we don’t like, it kills what we fear, it kills those that we oppose, it kills those that oppose us, it kills itself.
      An America that wants to preach equality but affords, say someone such as former elected official Joe Walsh, a public platform and where thousands of people “like” his tweets calling for retaliation against President Obama and those “black lives matter punks” or their roles in creating a climate that “have gotten cops in this country killed” without any empirical or substantive evidence to support his biased, supremacist, uninformed ignorance all under the disguise of a constitutional amendment. is an America that is going to change no time soon.
       It’s about what America we think we live in. There are so many different and separate Americas but still only one at the same time. In a tweet from Richard Kenner in direct response to the Dallas “incident” (where in this case the term “world” can also be replaced with “country”) he wrote to me: “Our world is a trip, getting worse everyday.” To which I replied: ‘Not worse, just more exposed.” To which he replied: “Truth.”
       Of all of the different Americas we think we live in the one that is the most disturbing and dangerous, yet promising, is the one where we believe the living field (not playing filed because this thing called life is no longer a game) is level, that the same laws apply to everyone, that all things to and for everyone are equal, that we deeply believe what we are told and sold.
        That America is the dream. The one America they want us to believe actually exists, even when it’s never been experienced. Dreams, understand, by nature of the word itself only happen when we are sleep. And for blacks in the case of this “American Dream,” we’ve been asleep way too long. Too long to continue to believe that the America we are being told that we live in exists.
        Where there is a such thing as “post-racial”; where races and groups of people aren’t labeled, called and looked at as “illegals” or “aliens”; where a “This is America” comment isn’t always followed by a “Things like this aren’t supposed to happen here,” aren’t laced with such elitism and condescent that other countries don’t feel the shade from thousands of miles away. Where a police man’s job is only to “protect and serve,” where they are taught in schools that it is impossible to “discover” a land where people are already living, where “Make America Great Again” isn’t direct and divisive coding for a return to the America that existed before any form of emancipation was proclaimed.
         But we can’t acknowledge that reality. It’s too hard. And too hard to fight. Everyday America continually tells us that the land we live in is different then what it continually presents itself to be. A land where someone can come on CNN and refer to the shootings in Dallas as a “killing” and the shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis as “incidents” and no one even notices or  says anything or finds a problem with it.
         Jay-Z, who is the living, breathing epitome and best case example of the “black” American dream given what he had to overcome and do to find success, relevance and notoriety, said in his most recent ode, “Spiritual”: “I am saddened and disappointed in THIS America — we should be further along.”
         Why? What make anyone  — even the most come-from-nothing-to-something stories in American history — think —<i>believe(!)</i> — that American should be further along? Because it elected a black POTUS? Because we as a race have attained “some” middle-class stature and wealth? Because, Oprah?
          The hope and delusion that the “Constitution should work for us,” that Cory Hughes, Dallas protest organizer and brother of the of Mark Hughes who was falsely identified as being a suspect in the Dallas police “ambush,” fundamentally doesn’t exist. And the fact the he and millions of other African-Americans living in American believe that it does, is more of the problem than the problem itself.
          This week simply verified our greatest fear: Our owned reality.
          The calm came after the storm. “Enough is enough” is what Cleveland police officer NakiaJones said in her plea. The most understated cry for change heard in the aftermath. Unfortunately the history that this country has to own substantiates that enough is never enough. America doesn’t operate on enough. Specifically when it comes to us, especially when it comes to change.
         Because as much as all of our lives may never be the same after this week, nothing will change. And we as black people shouldn’t expect it to.
         Shaun King wrote in the NY Daily News in his letter to America: “Somehow, the United States of America wants to have all of the ingredients for murder and mayhem, cook it at 500 degrees for a few years, and be shocked when what comes out on the other end isn’t sweet peace and colorful rainbows. That’s not how recipes work.
         “What you put in, combined with the temperature and time you cook it, determines the final product. It’s not luck. It’s not chance. It’s not a flip of the coin. Baking a good cake is equal parts science and art. Building a harmonious society is no different.”
          America doesn’t want a harmonious society. Never has. They want what they’ve always had, a society built on ruling class and hierarchy where pyramids aren’t only schemes but the way of life. Harmony in America means all others follow the rules of one. Harmony in America means all Americans must fall in line. White. Male. Rules. Everything around me… you, you, you and you too. And the major issue we continue to have living here is believing everyday and every time America tells us we are equal participants on land where we never will be.
       “We are a nation and we are people and we stand together,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in her official government news conference in response to it all.
        Truth told?
         No we aren’t. No we don’t.