My white friends often ask me, “Why is it always about race, Sophia?”
What they mean to say is, why do black people always think everything that happens to them or around them is about race? The answer to that question is long and complicated, but here is the short answer: It’s “always” about race for us because America has always made it about our race.
We didn’t enslave ourselves for more than 200 years or ask to be brutalized, families sold off, and build America economically with our free labor. We didn’t institute Jim Crow segregation laws after slavery ended and enact “Black Code” policies that barred us from public bathrooms, transportation, restaurants, basic education, and human dignity. And we most certainly did not invent racial stereotypes of us being angry, scary, shady, prone to crime, or living off the public dole, which is how so many of our fellow citizens still see us.
It’s always about race because we can’t drive a car, jog in the park, eat in at a Waffle House, sit in our college dormitory, work in our offices, cut our lawn, be a medical doctor trying to set up COVID-19 testing outside, or go to the store in peace in our own country without being subject to daily acts of unconscious bias, microaggressions, blatant hate and disrespect or, worse, death, often at the hands of law enforcement.
So here is my question in light of the horrific killing of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of two white vigilantes, a father and son. How many videos does white America need to see of black men—or in some cases like Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, boys—being killed by police, or racists like George Zimmerman making “citizen’s arrests,” to be convinced that there is a problem?
I am so very sick and tired of the callous excuses being made. That these racist monsters somehow were just defending themselves. Or that their victims somehow asked for it, or that the officer wielding the gun as the victim had no gun sitting in his car or was fleeing for his life was a threat to the officer’s safety. It’s all, in a word, bullshit! Utter bullshit. No white person would ever be subject to this kind of routine harassment and death at the hands of black citizens and not be afforded swift justice and redress by the courts.
Worse, the so-called president of the United States of America never speaks out against such racist acts, as normal presidents used to do. Both presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Rep. Justin Amash, who is running for president, made early statements and called for the immediate arrest of the men, and for justice to be served. Instead, President Donald Trump calls it “sad” and says he will get a full briefing. Feelings are one thing. How about a DOJ investigation?
I have been deeply affected by this video. I am hurt. Angry. Confused. Horrified.
How did we get back to this kind of America? This is a lynching in 2020, not 1920. It happened in broad daylight. This man was jogging. His daily routine. And a sick, racist, shotgun-toting father and son hunt him down and kill him like an animal. They tracked him. Taunted him. Set it up to “arrest him.” And then when he rightly resisted, they shot him dead.
And two months later, these killers were still walking around free until their arrest Thursday, after the video sparked such outrage. Our nation is in deep trouble. We are headed in the wrong direction, America. The wrong direction. Our president is not to blame for racism or hate in America. Sadly, it has been with us since white people started coming here in the early 1600s.
What we can blame him for, however, is stoking the flames of racism, for changing the factual narrative, for dog-whistling to our worst instincts regarding race and nativism, for outright lying on men like Colin Kaepernick, and calling him and other black NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem sons of bitches. And then there is Vice President Mike Pence, who attended a football game intentionally so that he could walk out when the players took a knee (as he knew they would). This was code to the MAGA base that we will not tolerate their insolence and disrespect of our flag.
You know what is disrespectful of our flag, Mr. Vice President? The random and wanton murder of our black citizens without redress or justice. My soul is sick over the vile act of racism and hatred done to Mr. Arbery. Jogging while black is now something we must add to the long list of things black men in America must fear. Yet the president of these United States still has not said a word of condolence or outrage to his family or the nation. We have to ask ourselves, as a nation, some very hard questions.
First, how did we get “back” here? To a place of such anger, hatred, and national division?
Why the sudden rise in open white nationalism, armed protests, and civil disobedience?
What did the rest of us not see about this hidden white rage and nationalism? How did we get lulled into this awful sense of a so-called post-racial America? That once we had a black president all would be solved and all would be well related to race? Quite the opposite is true. What Trump and his ilk, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have done is to be laser focused on stacking the federal judiciary with unqualified judges, over 200 of them—almost all younger, white men, with very few people of color.
Trump himself complained this week that female reporters were not acting like Donna Reed of her eponymous 1950s sitcom. He has played on our fears and called it protecting our faith. America, we are in very deep trouble. To my fellow citizens who are white, you cannot sit idly by. You must speak out against this evil, just the latest in a long string of hate crimes against black people, simply because we are black.
Donald Trump’s America is going to get us all killed—if not physically, then in our souls. He is the virus. A virus we must cure come Nov. 3, 2020.