Understand something. It is the year 2007. Where we joke about, “Where is my flying car? My monorail? The 3.5 jet-packs per family we were promised?”, mocking the progress we were supposed to have made, based on futurists predictions.
It is the year 2007. And as much as we may try to think otherwise, we live in a country where White teenagers will still fight over who can, and who can not sit under a fucking tree during recess at school, based on the color of their skin. For all the crowing about the “browning of America”, and how the kids are un-learning the racism inculcated in the American fabric, this incident should give every one of us pause.
Pause because it speaks to the reality of what we're actually confronting here.
If these kids...these supposedly, rapidly blind-to-color kids will fight over a scraggly patch of grass, don't stand here and try to tell me that their fathers and mothers—the generation presently in control of this country—aren't actively fighting Black folks' inclusion in the more important arenas of participation in the American mosaic.
Do not look me in the face from my TV, and tell me from your visit to New Orleans Mr. President, that Kanye West—crazy as he is—was wrong. The carnival that is American Idol, where “Ohmigosh! Look at all those talented Black people doing so well—aren't they doing so well?” isn't enough of an anesthetic to numb me to the constant, pounding ache that is the reality of not being Black in America—but rather, what dealing with the perceptions from others about one's being Black in America does to you.
Jena brings it all sickeningly home. Teens. Kids. Decades at least, removed from the last picnic/lynching to take place in their neck of the woods, by so-called decent people, somehow knew, in their stupid little turf battle, just what mega-trope, what ultimate nullifier to go to to let those wandering n*ggers know that they meant business about keeping one's place. And then, when those Black kids defiantly said “Better check your calendar, motherfuckers. It is the year 2007!”, those Black teens saw the second wave, the real shock troops—those silly, turf-crazed White kids' parents, jump up with the old-school, authority smackdown all too familiar Post -Reconstruction, to uppity/not-having-it Black folks.
We can sing “kum-ba-ya” til our throats sound like Miles Davis after a bender of Sloe Drano Fizzes, but at the sick core of America, racism still infirms this country's aspiration to greatness.
I use the word “infirms”, loosely. Because the pat analogies about America's racial “sickness” are so very, very flawed. Racism in America isn't a wound,—as so many describe it. No. Wounds heal. And it isn't a cancer—because you can remove a cancer, should you catch it early enough, or if not—at least bomb it with enough countering toxicity where you can seriously impede its progress.
Racism in America is neither of these things—a wound, or a cancer.
It is quite simply...akin to a living, festering parasite that feasts on the very soul of the country, and what makes it work. It's a vicious tapeworm. Picked up long ago, and living there, deep in the American belly...it's very guts, in fact. Not killing, mind you...but in there nonetheless, all slimy and sickening, so intwined with what makes this place simply exist, that it's supremely difficult to remove.
And the host knows it's there. Knows it slows and sickens it with every step forward. But in the end...does nothing about it...because the effort to remove the parasite is “just too great”.
“Time will take care of it.”
And besides...the “host” figures, “How bad can it be? I'm alive.”
The host can “get by”. Never mind how his guts are fouled and slowly failing. As long as he can get up, and go about his business reasonably well, fuck it—it's a price he's willing to live with.
The willingness to pooh-pooh racism, and shuck off dealing with it pro-actively is like that walking around, going about your business, with that insidious parasite inside of you—sapping your strength, leeching off your nutrients, benignly weakening you from within. You can go about for quite a while with a tapeworm in you. Years, in fact.
But a side effect of having that kind of parasite in you, is that it is a thing unto itself. And it grows. And grows. And grows, until it sometimes spreads past the digestive tract, laying its eggs (for it does reproduce) in muscle, bone, and yes...the central nervous system.
I miss Lower Manhattanite. I have no idea where he disappeared to, but I wish he was still writing, just as I wish Steve Gilliard were still here to write about how two years after a black man became President, people can defend yet another dimwitted Texas governor, this one with a demonstrable history of, if not outright racism, certainly a tin ear and a tin heart for what that fraught word means. I'm just a middle-aged white Jewish woman from Jersey. I can empathize what it must be like to be black and accomplished and yet know that somewhere in Texas, there may STILL be a rock that has "N----rhead" painted on it that belongs to a man who still possibly could succeed that black man we elected just three short years ago. But it would be presumptuous for me to say I KNOW. And so I won't. But if Lower Manhattanite is still out there, I hope he starts writing again, because we need his voice.