Ahhh! The shock and horror! Oh, the humanity! No, no. Relax. Hollywood isn’t releasing another flimsy “reimagining” of Frankenstein. No, on the contrary…something racist and hateful happened on American soil.
Now while the aforementioned scenario may indeed prove to be quite scary and if we’re being realistic i.e. accurate, involve the use of pitchforks and real live torches, sadly it is based upon a non-fictional narrative far older than the Gothic classic penned by Mary Shelley. Ya see, racism in America is not the “new” dance craze that’s taking the nation by storm (Can we say, Summer ‘17 Dab?). Whether it be in the vein of the tragic yet telling events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia at the hands of individuals who unfortunately think very similarly to the man currently filling a position that was once commonly referred to as the “Leader of the Free World” or in the circumstances surrounding the murders of Philando Castile; Jordan Edwards; Trayvon Martin; Eric Garner, Miriam Carey; Sandra Bland; Rekia Boyd or Yvette Smith. Hmmm, I feel like I’m forgetting someone. No, unfortunately for me and far too often people that look like me, racism in America is not new at all and while it may presently be “in vogue” like something being hawked and/or appropriated by the Kardashians, it has existed within the soiled seams of our country’s fabric for a very long time.
In fact, I’d venture to say that the (are we really “United”?) States of America was founded upon the very same principles and values that we see routinely dominating headlines, appearing to be virtually inseparable from all manner of mainstream media; the same principles and values that birthed the divisive and indelible ideologies that have been interwoven into the sociopolitical views of this land since before the British were the ones calling the shots. America was built on racism fueled by the oppression of “inferior” races. Men, women and children were commercially and privately exploited, treated as little more than cattle but with far less TLC…not because they were criminal, violent or otherwise unfit for the civilized world but because they were different.
Do you know just HOW STUPID that sounds?
If you don’t, then I’ll make time to send up a prayer for your survival. The idea of a human being punishing other human beings, more or less for being born as something other than a carbon copy is detestable but guess what? It happened and it’s happening still. Black folks were bred and conditioned en masse to be literal and figurative slaves to a system that was not created with them in mind. We lived and died inside of that system; we celebrated what we could inside that system; we gave the best of the little that we had to raise families and still found ways to love inside of that system, one that divided us to the point that even in 2017, some of our people still don’t know their true origins and in far too many cases and arguably as a direct result, themselves. A system whose government once authorized experimenting on unaware Black men with syphilis, convincing them that they would be receiving free healthcare.
We have been broken for such a long time. And even in my short life, filled with what I consider to be a wealth of experiences, I still feel my heart breaking each and every time I’m reminded of the discord and disconnect that plagues the black community and continues to keep us from honoring the roots of that word or our own. And what’s worse is the awareness that within these borders in the eyes of more than enough, I am still viewed as the lesser.
I don’t consider myself to be “woke.” As much as I love the English language and colloquial terms, I typically try to distance myself from buzzwords and for me “woke” rests just a few notches above “lit” (apologies to my Brooklyn fam). Now, I have nothing against those that consider themselves to be amongst the “awoken”? “Awakened”? “be-wokens”? Whatever. I actually applaud the efforts of anyone who has either personally and/or professionally fostered a genuine commitment to being a voice to educate and inspire, championing causes that aim for the progressive change of outdated concepts, laws and leadership. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be something that one utilizes to raise their social profile. Drawing attention to such things can sometimes blur the lines between the super and the superficial. In my mind, Black Lives Matter makes absolute sense, but to others…even within the black community, it’s nothing more than a trend. I may never refer to myself as “woke” in a serious manner but I can recall various stages of my life when major shifts in my consciousness occurred.
When I realized and accepted that the so-called “Founding Fathers” didn’t have my people or myself in mind when the Declaration of Independence was ratified, in a way I discovered a kind of bittersweet and somber peace, as if part of me had died…in a good way. I felt like I had finally been freed of the wooly naiveté obstructing my vision. I loosened my grip on broad and lofty concepts like “change” and “post-racial society” because I was able to understand for myself that the ugly attitudes and beliefs that were the driving force behind the industries of this country never left. They just took on different forms under the guise of preserving law and order (No Tutuola) or history and heritage.
Yet, Blacks and other disenfranchised people are told to lull ourselves into an amnesia-like stupor of blissful ignorance, continuing to dedicate our time and valuable resources to some of the same entities that chose to hate our very existence, so much so that they presented Mamie Till with the choice of having her son be nothing more than a whispered memory, blown away with time like bloodstained leaves or having his open casket funeral serve as a grim reminder of the inequalities and injustices that black people regularly experienced and lived in fear of…that we still do. As much as the events that transpired in Charlottesville did not surprise me, I mean of course white (men) nationalists get to enjoy the freedoms, privileges and protections of things like “free speech” while stomping on the land that their white forefathers stuck a flag in. And I totally respect the convictions of a woman like Heather Heyer who ended up losing her life in support of her beliefs; there just aren’t enough Heather Heyers.
I mean, technically speaking, yes there are lots of Heathers out there but only in numbers. Not enough of them are showing up in the ways that really matter like spirit and action. Things that could serve to tangibly tip the scales in the favor of equality for the first time in history. What are they doing instead? Well, for one showing up on an HBCU campus just one week after the now infamous, “Unite the Right rally,” sporting the latest in Pro-Trump attire though somehow I doubt that they would have been received any better had they shown up in vintage FUBU threads. When the teens in question were called out regarding their actions, they quickly responded with a predictable and questionable victim narrative. “Uhhh, let’s see…I’ll have a large McPrivilege Burger with a side of fries. Are these potatoes even locally sourced?”
There was a time when we couldn’t even walk outside of our neighborhoods, let alone set foot on a college campus and even now it’s still hit or miss.
White women are like DUMB powerful, I mean look at Ellen DeGeneres. She had middle-aged white women in her studio audience (sort of) twerking to Future ANNND Migos. And they performed separately! But Ellen, while influential, not unlike Heather Heyer, is one voice too few. A lot of the controversy and coverage that erupted after the protests in Virginia were because a white woman died. There’s even a parallel term, “Missing white women syndrome.” Look it up. Now, if Javon Jenkins from the Bronx had been killed, it would be due to his being a “troublemaker” or maybe a “poor student” with a “troubled past” whose babysitter sold drugs while bottle-feeding him. Those are all just different ways of saying, “he had it coming,” ‘twas blackness that killed the beast.
Now, in no way am I attempting to make light of Miss Heyer’s death but I am calling attention to one important detail:
White people will most certainly show TF up…for each other.
And why wouldn’t they? Whenever their way of life is threatened, you can be sure that they will sound the alarms to the furthest reaches of the Earth, singing “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, all the livelong day while dancing too hard and/or offbeat. The reason behind this being, generally speaking, the status quo has been serving them just fine for generations. Why would they want to give that up? Amongst their ranks are those who have the most to lose and just so happen to be the ones who could actually shift the course of this country and the world at large but have no desire to do so because that would mean relinquishing a stranglehold on unimaginable power and influence that has long been set into place by rigor mortis. Until those people…those men along with the women who marry them and give birth to their children or call them, “Daddy,” care enough to have a dog in this proverbial and antiquated fight, things will not change, at least not in the way that they need to. Not in this lifetime.
Is this an indictment of white people? No, at least not intentionally. These are just reflections on some of the things that little by little I’ve come to observe in our deeply damaged society. The truth is out there (à la Mulder and Scully. Who said I don’t like white people?) for those who choose to look…and listen beyond the deafening sounds of entitlement or a disconnected existence from their own people.
End of Part 1
Simply put, Victor Arumemi is a creator, a multihyphenate (TOTALLY a real word). As an experienced actor; writer; blogger; (see why I had to use that made up word?) and spoken word artist, performing for over 17 years, he believes in the profound power and value of impacting the world through art spanning various mediums, so that it may be experienced and embraced by every soul, beginning with yours.