Lost in Translation
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Are those in the struggle truly aware that real atonement comes with a major price tag--living a day in our skin and decisively, lifting their feet off of our necks?
In the wake of the most inhumane murders of our time, people from all walks of life have gone to great extremes to embrace blacks and ostensibly, the emerging black movement. Here in my hometown, our newfound friends are tripping over each other, ever so anxious to accommodate, appease, and over compensate for the improprieties of a justice system gone rogue.
Those friendly foes who once believed African Americans were out of control, have since endorsed a new creed, "Live and let live." They’ve even gone out of their way to bridal untamed tongues, avoiding anything that might offend the sensibilities of blacks.
On many occasions, I have witnessed some of our fair weather friends walking up to pure strangers. Well before bidding them “good morning” or asking their names, they've boldly struck up conversations about matters in which black people hold little or no interest. When these overdramatic gestures are rejected, there's this bruised, affronted look of bewilderment, broken spirits, and woundedness.
While I am certain hurt feelings and bruised egos were never the intent, I imagine there is no small measure of good-natured African Americans rushing to console our white allies, some of whom were once instigators of our predicament.
I sense these overzealous reactions are all a part of some underlying theme which paints all African Americans with one broad brush. It does not matter that our sir names are "Smith" or "Jones" or that our opinions, values, and belief systems are diverse. Neither does it seem to matter that we might be mixed with some other race.
In the eyes of our suddenly compassionate friends, we bare that one common denominator which suddenly predisposes us all to the unsolicited pity and by all means, releases white America of its guilt.
This saga is about a fresh reality—at least for whites—that every black man, women, boy or girl could end up like Antwon Rose, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, or Rayshard Brooks. Perchance, it stems from a realism that the privileged among us have finally comprehended that African Americans were not exaggerating about the target on their backs or that, "Doing anything while black" subjected them to lethal force.
Instantly, I find myself needing to set the record straight. I am George Floyd but then again, I am not George Floyd. While I identify with Ahmaud Arbery, I also have my own identity. As much as I regret not personally knowing these honorable martyrs and do realize our causes are inextricably bound, I am a whole, different person—shorter than George Floyd, a tad bit lighter than Ahmaud Arbery, and probably not as compassionate as Breonna Taylor.
Those genuinely aspiring to coddle African Americans would do well to know that not all black people are cut from the same cloth.
But this editorial is not just about our individualities or an identity crisis or the transformation of white-powered ideologies. It is about re-visiting that dark period of time when a counterfeit promissory note was handed to black America by white America.
Twitter and Square are commemorating Juneteenth as a corporate holiday and CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are no longer holding the hair weave hostage.
Joining the ranks, Quaker has decided to make Aunt Jemima and its racial epithets, a thing of the past. But still no talk of re-instating Colin Kaepernick, no movement towards removing confederate-based names from 10 military installations, or elevating blacks to chief executive roles.
No doubt, white America is joining a global movement for all sorts of reasons—guilt, publicity; a desire to effect change; a need to atone; a firm belief in equal rights. Some of its gestures are altruistic while others are self-serving. Still, others are just a lost cause. Whatsoever the case, many in black America are poised to forgive and forget while extending an olive branch.
But as much as black America seeks to convey gratitude, unconditional trust, and return the love, one cannot help but wonder if we are not setting ourselves up for an imminent letdown. That is to say, another bounced check. To be precise, we risk allowing a larger, more overt message to become lost in translation and the acceptance of such bland initiatives to come back and haunt us. Alas, we are not on high alert for the mere sense of betrayal.
Already, on the eve of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, et.al., another unarmed black man has been shot in Atlanta; two California black men have been found hanging from a noose; a recently retired Houston police have gone on a blisteringly racist rant; and, Major Travis Tate of Oklahoma has announced, “We are not killing enough black people.”
White America is vast with corridors and crevasses, nooks and crannies, and boroughs where racism runs deep. The approach to rooting out systemic racism need be no less caustic and the prongs of actual resolutions no less penetrating.
Unmistakably, it is high time America accord African Americans all the rights they are due. Meaning, the respect deserving of contributing members of this society—the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This entails entitlements of human dignity, and equities in fair housing, criminal justice, healthcare, employment, our earned reparations, our "forty acres and a mule."
Woefully, the aforementioned basic human rights and entitlements must now surrender to the protection of our lives. In a sense, another bad check marked "non-sufficient funds" has been returned from the nation's great vault of opportunity denying our demands of freedom and social justice.
We live in a nation where African Americans scarcely represent 13%, while the number of blacks unjustifiably murdered has set the US population a new high. Dare we pin our hopes to self-serving declarations, weak gestures, and bland deeds—reinstatement of hair products, elimination of confederate flags, the tumbling down of statutes, and condemned racial stereotypes—at the risk of being wiped clean from the human race.