how do we define A RACIST? AND WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT one?
Senior year. Suburban high school. Music room. Decades ago. A fellow senior called a female friend of mine "nigger." I ripped him for doing so. He called me a nigger-lover. It got physical. The administration disciplined us. Equally.
Three months later. Night. Quiet suburban street. My best friend and I walked to a party. Three males approached, one of whom was the star running back of our football team. African American. He cold-cocked my friend in the eye. No reason. No explanation. His buddies laughed as my friend hit the ground. He wound up with stitches. Not sure what happened to the football star. If anything.
Nearly four decades removed, that brief window of experience remains both vivid and oblique. The irony, the anger, the sadness, the confusion. What I do know today is that these two incidents were, first and foremost, bound by ignorance.
Only 16 years ago, Ku Klux Klan members brutalized a young African-American man named Michael Donald then lynched him. Only three years ago in broad daylight and on camera, a police officer choked to death Eric Garner, an African American, after Garner had broken up a fight. One year ago, Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church and slaughtered 9 African American parishioners. He said, "Negroes have lower IQs, lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior."
The president of the United States of America said that he will no longer accommodate Haitians and Africans who are in this country legally via TPS, because they come from "shithole countries." But, he would gladly welcome white people "from Norway."
From my childhood growing up in a town largely bordering African American communities of East Orange and Newark, NJ to my adult life in Asbury Park, NJ and now Los Angeles, I have had a front row seat to myriad incidents of overt racism.
There are those in my own extended family who have clearly drawn a line between the preservation of white privilege and the continuation of African American suppression. My grandfather sat about the Thanksgiving dinner table eager to discuss the "niggers" who were ruining his Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood, all the while knowing that my mother was a staunch civil rights advocate. My wife's Aunt asked me "How I could trust a black guy [Obama] running the country." My wife's father recently told me that he saw "blacks take over jobs from whites" at the company that formerly employed him for decades. When I challenged him to substantiate, he rose from his chair, pointed a finger in my face, veins in his neck bulging, and proclaimed, "I'm telling you these goddamned niggers are to blame!" My wife, also a staunch supporter of civil rights, grew up with this, staggered through this, loathes this.
Is it any small wonder that Trump pushed such vitriol during the anniversary of the Haitian earthquake..., during the monthly celebration of MLK? Do we really believe Trump is not fully aware of what he says and when he says it? Do we just dismiss him as lost on the path toward dementia? A brief tour of his family history reveals all we need to know.
Donald Trump is not just a racist; he is a white supremacist, a Nazi in a blue Brooks Brothers suit who occupies the highest office in the land. 63,000,000 Americans voted for this. That says a lot about America, the land of the free and home of the brave, only 150 years removed from our greatest disgrace.
How much more can African Americans - all people of color - endure. America built its foundation from the bones of murdered Native Americans and stolen African populations. Six years after the Confederacy signed surrender terms, 500 white men entered Chinatown in Los Angeles, robbed and tortured 20 hardworking Chinese immigrants, then lynched them. An end to race-based savagery was nowhere in sight.
In color theory, "Black and white are not colors because they do not have specific wavelengths. Instead, white light contains all wavelengths of visible light. Black, on the other hand, is the absence of visible light." Is this how we arrived at our hatred? That white is light and black is darkness?
Being broken does not equate being beaten. If Washington DC, especially its Grand Old Party of privileged Capitol Hill white men and women, refuse to say, "Donald Trump is a racist," the balance of Americans can. And even though the cowardice of sycophantic folks on Capitol Hill will continue to aid, abet, and preserve the remainder of the term for a white supremacist, sexist, misogynist, classist, beginning November 8 of this year and ending November 3, 2020 Americans can tell them all that their wavelengths of visible light are going dark.