For months, I’ve wanted to write about the state of race relations in this country but the words never came to me. I convinced myself that it was fair to avoid the topic, as my brain was enamored with rewriting pages upon pages of dialogue for a manuscript, and my mind just couldn’t make the switch.
I accepted that there was nothing that I could write that Ta-Nehisi Coates couldn’t write better.
I could provide no commentary that Jon Stewart wouldn’t likely execute with greater wit and better style.
In truth, current events seemed so dire for Black Americans that it felt disrespectful to merely lend an opinion to the multitude of circumstances that led to the deaths, unlawful arrests and disappearances of Blacks because of where they were standing, swimming, driving, or daring to expect the rights that are supposed to be provided to them as citizens of this country.
It seemed vain, pointless, and dare I say, self-serving to merely lend another opinion to these things, so I avoided it until now.
Like so many other people, last Thursday night I received a news alert about a mass shooting that was committed in a South Carolina church.
“Several deaths…believed to be race-related…” I read before turning off my nightlight and going to bed.
Mentally and physically exhausted from my child’s softball game, I couldn’t muster the energy to be angry or scared, fearful or resentful. In my last moments of being awake, I said a prayer for those who were slain and forced myself to go to sleep.
I was and still am numb.
In the days that have passed, I have witnessed the predictable and shameful politicizing of the event that should be referred to as nothing other than a hate crime and terrorist attack. Politicians using this as an opportunity to say much, but do nothing, other than encourage the proverbial holding of hands.
There are urgings for resolution with no acknowledge of the real problem.
Presidential candidates are calling for unity with no honest discussion of the things that divide us.
And everyone, reaching for something – a sign to say that we, as a country, are not who we appear to be – we set our eyes on a symbol to make things right. We rally around an emblematic action to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, rather than to accept that the cornerstone of racism from which this country was founded has never been replaced with one of racial reconciliation and more importantly, adjudication.
So we set our eyes and efforts on eliminating the “real villain,” the Confederate Flag. We focus our efforts here instead of focusing our efforts on the ways that what it represents threads itself throughout our inequitable school and criminal justice systems which do more to promote the ignorance and perceptions of Black criminality that people like Dylan Roof believe as fact.
As a result, an opportunity that could be monopolized upon to charge our political leaders to address these issues will be marred with debates about whether or not a flag should fly.
Out of respect for the victims of the Charleston shooting, I will clap my hands approximately three times if the Confederate flag comes down from its state capital and is replaced with a new one. They deserve whatever remedy that they believe will make their hearts heal. If eliminating the flag will do that, then I can only support the effort. However, as a Black American who is growing uncomfortable with the increasing number of crimes against Blacks, I would like for everyone who desires to rally behind this flag - despite what is done in it's name, to wave their Confederate flags as high as possible.
Though my brown skin denotes a perpetual threat to society, it would be unfair and counterproductive to relegate all Whites as racists. The continent of Europe has given me friends, family and coworkers who I love dearly. White America has given the world Ellen DeGeneres, Starbucks, fro-yo and an endless array of three-day juice fast companies. So this isn’t about every white person.
This is about those who hate, and have the power to do something with their hate. This ability allowed Dylan Roof to remain hidden in the shadows (by those who knew him) and to assassinate nine parishioners who presented him with nothing but open arms. This is about those who, like him, sentence Black youth to prison for their own profit. Those who consider white teens as worthy of second chances that brown teens should not be afforded.
So allow those who let hate steep in their hearts keep their Confederate flag, all I ask is that they wave it high. Let it brandish them as the terrorists that people who look like me are assumed to be. I can’t speak for anyone else but I would prefer to know who you are, and to recognize you for what you are, when I see you coming.