Black Lives Matter. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. NAACP. George Zimmerman. LAPD. Ferguson. New York Police. Police Brutality. White Privilege. Christopher Columbus. Slavery. Civil Rights. Civil Rights Movement. Die-Ins. Sit-Ins. Church bombings. Home bombings. Domestic Terrorism. Protests. My skin. Your skin. Colorblindness. Equal treatment. Affirmative action. Equal Opportunity Employer. Assimilation. Conformation. Rainbow coalition. MLK Jr. Malcolm X. Harriet Tubman. W.E.B. Dubois. George Carver Washington. My self. My experience. Your experience.
And the list goes on.
Whether it’s one of courage and victory or one of defeat and anger, there’s no denying that every “mention” on the above list provokes some type of emotion. Initially, I was angry, but as I came to the name of George Washington Carver, I felt a sense of accomplishment; so much so that I thought about taking it off since this isn’t a “positive, feel good” type of post. But the reality is that there is a lot of good – a ton of things to be proud of as African-Americans. We have come a long way.
But with the infliction of recent events, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been taken back to 1960 in one fall swoop.
While legal segregation is no longer the norm – and often looked at with disdain – there’s an overwhelmingly apparent notion of mental segregation that happens day in and day out. There are people who still cross the street when they see a group of black kids. There are still blacks who are receiving harsher penalties for crimes synonymous to their white counterparts. And there are still kids who point at blacks because they have never seen a black person in real-life. (Yes. This just happened to someone I know this past weekend.) And there are those who feel privileged to say they listen to “n-word” music directly to a black person. (Again. This happened to someone I know this past weekend.) And the reality is that there isn’t an open line of communication to approaching the situation when the it comes from someone who’s a superior.
There’s also a problem when someone stares, walks up to you and touches you…all without saying a word because, once again, blacks in the area is a rarity.
I’m not only agitated; I’m annoyed and angry this behavior still happens. I’m annoyed that you can go up to another human being and “pet” them as if they’re some rare animal. And I’m annoyed that we can’t have open, honest, yet respectful conversations about race…about what we think on both sides…all with the goal of coming to an understanding and appreciation for the differences.
The notion that America is a melting pot is a lie. This notion didn’t include people of color per a PBS documentary I once watched.
The notion of being a tossed salad is better in theory, but we have to admit that America is a pretty messed up salad right now. We’re not a salad that beautifully brings flavors together in perfect harmony. Instead, we’re full of competing ingredients all screaming for attention and some screaming for understanding.
Here’s one thing I know…we will not have harmony until we face reality. Not only was slavery real, but we – the entire human race – are still hurting from it. Not only was Jim Crow real, but we’re still hurting from it. And not only are the tragedies of today real, we are now hurting from these too.
If we can’t address and embrace these things collectively, then there’s no way we will be able to progress. And please don’t ask us to move on, get over it, or get past it. I don’t want to get past it. It’s part of my heritage. A part of who I am. I embrace it. There may be a ton of pain, but there’s also a ton of triumph.
Is there anyone who’s really ready to have a real conversation?