“But the truth is that no one is exempt -- the system that crushes one will crush all.” Emily Temple, review of Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”
Disturbing days in TrumpLand. My anger isn’t burning as hot as it was a few days back when I wrote and posted “Poet in a Bad Mood,” but I am plenty mad about all the shit going down in this failing nation. The cop who killed Philando Castile will stroll, free, as if he had gunned down a coyote or a rabid dog. Castile, like all the other unarmed black men murdered by state agents, doesn’t matter enough to warrant the prosecution of his killer. What does it take for a police officer to be held accountable for killing a black person in America? Video evidence brings the crime into the light but rarely seems helpful in securing an indictment, let alone a conviction. As Ronnie Dunn noted on Counterspin, all a cop has to do to walk away unscathed from one of these fatal shootings is claim he feared for his life. For a cop who guns down a black man, them’s the magic words.
I was reminded of the racist reality of America by a segment Bill Moyers did on the Big Lie that got Donald Trump on the national stage and then into the White House: the Birther Lie. The birther lie, in case you’ve forgotten, was the proposition put forth in 2009 by right-wing cranks, and then Trump, that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Trump was all over the corporate media back then, spouting this bullshit that our first African-American president was not actually an American, that he was born in Kenya, educated in a madrassa, raised a Muslim, in other words, foreign, suspect, illegitimate. On and on this went. It was a minor story that should have flashed across our TV screens and vanished, but Trump and his ilk kept it alive for several years. Bill Moyers interviewed four distinguished historians, three of them African-American, one white, about how the Big Lie placed Donald Trump in a perfect position to benefit from the white electorate’s pent up hatred of our African-American president. If not for Obama, it’s unlikely Trump would today be in the White House doing everything in his power to erase the legacy of Barack Obama, from undermining the nuclear agreement with Iran, to sabotaging the Paris Climate Accord, to replacing the Affordable Care Act with an even less effective, and far crueler, alternative. Trump is in many things ignorant, lazy, unhinged, idiotic, and bigoted, but, like every demagogue, he senses what a particular group of people want to hear, need to hear, either to give them hope that their power and privilege isn’t waning, or to give them a scapegoat for their own failure. The problem isn’t you, white America, it’s the liberals, it’s political correctness, it’s multicultural studies, it’s Affirmative Action, it’s feminism, it’s the LGBT people, it’s Muslims, it’s Mexicans. It’s the destruction from within of “American Values” by all these other, non-white undesirables.
It’s all the fault of the black man in the White House who doesn’t deserve to sit at the apex of power in White America.
Racism is the stain on the American soul that cannot be erased, whitewashed, painted over or scrubbed away. It was present at the beginning of our history, present during and after Reconstruction and during the long struggle for civil rights, through lynchings, beatings, fire-bombings, terror campaigns, sit-ins and marches and boycotts. Every time we get to thinking of how far we have come, we turn around to find we are back where we began.