June 7, 2020

We must face the black now


It’s February. You know what that means. Black history month. For 28 days we’ll revisit the anomalous legacy of African Americans. Our preferred versions of historic stories we will tell will be clean. PG-13 at very best.

No blood. No gore. No blistering satire that pulls the pants down on a foolish nation.

No power.


“I have a dream” and “We shall overcome.”

Just Ms. Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus. Mr. T. Washington’s vocationalization of education, and, conversely, W.E.B. Dubois insistence on black elitism. Mr. Carver Washington’s creativity with peanuts.

I might participate in this month out of a semi-religious devotion to the beautiful story of our epic struggle, unyielding hope, and incomparable resilience. But, I don’t have black history on my mind today because the black past feels less important than the black now. History for all it’s worth feels like a luxury, a fetish of the comfortable. Yes, I am blessed right now. Life is good, overall. I could take comfort in materialism and the vacant markers of status.

But God won’t let me be. I am bothered.

If only I didn’t care about the fact that America is proving again that black people have no human rights that white society is obliged to recognize. If only all available evidence did not point to the fact that we have become a Dred Scott nation again.

If Aiyana Stanely-Jones, a precious 7 years old girl, had not been sleeping on her father’s couch when a parent’s worst nightmare came true. Her sleep interrupted, her dreams cut short, and this

Final charges against Joseph Weekley, a police officer who shot dead a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, in Detroit in May 2010, were dismissed on Friday, leaving a family bereft and raising serious concern among national groups over an increasingly militarized –police force.

If it had not all been captured for reality TV on “Another 48 Hours” because our pain and suffering is entertainment for a softly sociopathic and robustly bigoted nation.

If a 12 year boy had not been shot for being in a park with a toy gun, like kids in any of America’s homogenous Pleasantville’s might do. If his sister had not been tackled by officers and detained as she agonized over her dying brother.

God bless video. If we didn’t have the evidence provided by a surveillance nation to give us the clarity of this quote:

Patrol officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen within two seconds of a patrol car stopping near the boy, and the confrontation was captured on surveillance video. It shows Tamir in a park carrying what turned out to be an airsoft-type gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.

If police officers had not become so hyper-vigilant as to draw their weapons on kids having a snowball fight.



If cities across the country weren’t slapping badges on any little creature and allowing them to disrespect law abiding citizens and to insult the dignity of public service.


If it weren’t the case that what might seem like random incidents were becoming so numerous that we are compelled to tell the truth: America has militarized her police, given them a license to kill, and our constitution is weeping, not for us, but for the death of its own false principles.

If it weren’t such an old problem.

Years ago here in Minneapolis a police officer shot Tycel Nelson, a young black man. The official story was Tycel raised a weapon. It was complicated by the fact that we was shot in the back. While the community responded with demands for transparency the police officer’s union gave the officer that killed Tycel a medal of honor.

It’s that pathos which leads incompetent men to wear “I am Darren Wilson” wrist bands all these years later.

Years after many other communities had their own Tycel. Their own Rodney King. Their own Trayvon Martin. Their own Rekia Boyd (yes, the police state kills black woman too). Their own [reserve this blank for the next black child, woman, or man to die at the hands of white power].

You would think those noble libertarians who theoretically believe in perfect concepts of freedom and liberty would try to preserve the constitution by stopping police tanks from rolling over it.

You would be reasonable to expect elected Democrats to stage die-ins on the White House lawn.

If you were voting while black in the last two elections you might think a black president might actually start acting black.

You might be disappointed.

The bodies are piling up. If feels like lynching nouveau, a reboot of the hanging era, but without the brutal honesty of that period.

So, if we must participate again in the ruse that is black history month let’s use the adult version. Maybe we give brother James Baldwin the first words: “The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.”

Maybe we remember his admonishment that God gave man a rainbow the first time, but, the fire next time.


War Comes Home by Chris Stewart


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