The chickens have come home to roost.
What goes around comes around.
You reap what you sow.
These are the most common colloquialisms to describe what this country is going through. Everything that is happening in this country, in this moment in time, the summer of 2020, what does it mean? This is what I know.
It means you had it coming. In spades.
This country was born in rioting and looting, and that irony is not lost on me. It was built on theft, murder, and slavery. The cornerstones of this great nation, the very bedrock on which it was built, was the pain and suffering of Native and African Americans.
Too often the plight of Native Americans is overlooked. The White fathers of this country committed genocide, threw the survivors paltry crumbs and broke damn near every treaty made to them in the process. As a Gay Black man it’s not my place to elaborate on their misery, it’s not my story to tell.
But the pain and suffering of Black people in this country?
Now THAT I can speak to.
Over four hundred years of oppression. That’s the length of time, the timeline from slavery to Jim Crow, through segregation, and finally to civil rights. Rights that were fought for, bled for, rights that we died for. Rights that have been continually ground down, corroded and eroded, from the moment they were granted.
America is having a very Karmic moment.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of four policemen was the last straw. His death was the tinder, the spark that set this whole damn thing off: nationwide civil unrest with the backdrop of a deadly pandemic, a pandemic that, thus far, has disproportionately affected people of color.
White folk have been killing Black folk for the crime of being Black for a long, long time. For decades the police have taken up the time-honored tradition of Black bloody murder all under the guise of “law and order”. For every illustration, photo, film and videophone footage documenting the atrocious acts of violence against people of color, there are thousands upon thousands of more instances that have gone unseen; acts of Murder never properly addressed or held accountable.
Police brutality in all its forms is a pox, a cancer upon this land. It is a virus from which Black and Brown people have no cure. But make no mistake; your racist militarized police are how the system kills us quick.
There are so many ways you kill us slow.
Daily interpersonal interactions run the gamut from potential minefields rife with racist micro-aggressions at one end of the spectrum, to life-threatening confrontations where the police are weaponized at the other.
Every single aspect of society whether it is the government or private corporate institutions has a hand in keeping us down. They’ve done this for centuries. The consequences can have dire effects and it’s not hyperbole to say that those effects can be deadly.
Systemic racism affects where we live; the schools we attend; access to jobs; the lack of proper nutrition; how we apply for loans; who has access to credit; the lack of adequate healthcare; the ability to vote and the theft and suppression of that vote; these issues don’t work against us independently, instead they work in tandem.
Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean drinking water and Black residents are being poisoned, exacerbating the effects of just being poor. These poor Black people like so many others throughout the country don’t have access to decent healthcare. The result? Illnesses that go undiagnosed and untreated, bringing unnecessary pain and at its worst early and preventable death.
I’d love to say that Flint Michigan is an isolated incident. It is not. There are hundreds of Flints in the United States happening right now. There were hundreds of Flints in the United States in every decade of this country’s existence. This isn’t anything new. This shit’s been going on for a minute… A Long Ass Minute.
There are so many ways you kill us slow.
I am a strong proponent of Medicare for All. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic 27 million people have lost their health insurance. You’d think in a time where there are over 100,000 dead bodies and counting, this proposal would seem less controversial. No matter whether you’re a conservative, a neo-liberal centrist or a progressive democratic socialist, with so many suffering, with so many questions of when there will be a vaccine and who can afford it, you’d think this is an idea whose time had come.
Not so fast.
There’s a dirty little secret when it comes to government social programs. It’s been around for ages, and it goes like this: Some White folks really ain’t big on social programs that have the potential of lifting people up; especially People of Color. We’ve seen this play out with affordable housing; we’ve seen this play out with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]. How DARE Black and Brown folk get any kind of assistance. They haven’t earned it; they’re a drain on taxpayer dollars. Let those lazy muthafuckers pull themselves up by their bootstraps and git ‘er done like we do. Now the crazy thing is that there are more poor White people in this country than any other demographic. These programs could really help the poorest of you. But no, Donald Trump wants to CUT SNAP programs.
In the middle of a pandemic. With Great Depression levels of unemployment.
Meanwhile you have Governor Andrew Cuomo making a field hospital in the middle of Central Park to fight the onslaught of cases of Covid19 in New York, the city that I love like no other. Such a testament! Such a valiant heroic response to such a horrific crisis!
But wait. Not so fast.
Let’s not praise Cuomo’s leadership too quickly. Since 2003, sixteen hospitals have closed across the boroughs and Manhattan, all under the stewardship of Cuomo. For almost two decades before Coronavirus struck, New York’s poor, and people of color have disproportionately and negatively been affected by the loss of these hospitals. In addition, Governor Cuomo wants to cut $2.5 billion a year from the state’s Medicaid budget. Again, and let’s all say this together in unison…
In the middle of a pandemic.
All across this great land, these scenarios play out over and over. It doesn’t really matter who’s in charge, Republicans or Democrats. Oh rest assured that the Republicans are now the official party of racists, but Democrats are not my friends. The Republican Party is the literal knee on the back of my Black neck. Democrats are the cops who watch. Both parties it seems are willing to let their own White constituents suffer right along with people of color. But make no mistake, Black and Brown, devoid of generational wealth, bearing the brunt of theft and of systemic racism, be it sanctioned by the government or by corporate institutions, are the ones that are gonna catch it the worst. As we ALWAYS have.
These are the ways you kill us slow.
The state of America, the perpetual state it’s always been in reminds me of an old parable. Y’all remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? It goes like this:
A scorpion, which can’t swim, asks a frog to carry it across a pond on the frog’s back. The frog’s not feeling it. He hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog contemplates the sensible logic and agrees to carry the scorpion. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. With his last dying breath the frog asks, “why have you done this? You’ve killed us both!” to which the scorpion replies, “This is my nature, this is who I am, what did you think was going to happen?”
And there you have it. For me personally, this distills the very essence of what America truly is. A country divided. A people divided. A people willing to let everything die rather than fight for a future where everyone prospers. And the wrongdoing is both deliberate and passive. Its malfeasance permeates every aspect of American life.
But you know what? I don’t think the parable of the Scorpion and the Frog is the whole story. I think we came into it in the middle. In the beginning I can envision a deal was made. In my mind I can see it play out like this: A snake comes up to the scorpion, and states” On my side of the pond there is more food, both for you and your family. My venom is strong, much stronger than your sting, but there is only one of me. But the frogs on your side of the pond… they want my food, and I am unwilling to share for they are too many. Too many for me and too many for you and your family. So this is what I propose. Invite a frog with you to my side of the pond, sting him in transit. It will be a lesson to all other frogs to stay away from my food. Our food. Yes, you will die, but your family will reap the benefits. Refuse? And I will kill you where you stand and offer another scorpion the deal I have made with you. Choose carefully.”
White working class America, poor White America, Destitute White America, you’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked and fooled. You’ve fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Your father fell for it; his father fell for it, and his father before him. President Lyndon B. Johnson said it best “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
White America, your fragility is showing, as its always has. You’ve never, ever run a fair race. And while you’ve won most, you haven’t won them all. Incredibly, miraculously, those of us with more melanin in our skin sometimes cross the finish line first. Disgruntled, you blame your misfortunes on The Black Man, The Asian Man, The Mexican man, The Puerto Rican Man; the list of ethnic immigrants goes on and on.
Don’t blame that shit on us.
We weren’t the ones who stole your jobs; your livelihood; your precious way of life. We weren’t the ones who shipped your jobs overseas. We didn’t replace you with a robot, an algorithm, an A.I. program. Oh no, blame that on the richest of YOU; the millionaires, the billionaires and soon to be trillionaires. Throughout the ages you were always their cannon fodder, their sacrificial lambs. And you allowed yourselves to be lured with the promise that you too could aspire, to ascend. An entire class of “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” perpetually reinforcing a system designed to keep us, the Black and Brown folks, as the lowest caste, as your scapegoats; but meanwhile providing no true pathway to a better life for yourselves. Suckers, the whole lot of you.
Now you’ve ushered in a new Gilded Age of Robber Barons, and these thieves have bought your politicians for money akin to pennies on the dollar for someone like you or me. And it was a win, win, win situation. In league with these corporate cabals, the politicians have made themselves rich, screwing you gullible white people, while feeding you the narrative that your problems could all be blamed on the Black man, the Brown man, and on “identity politics”.
Here you are wasting energy fighting the removal of the statues of Confederate traitors when you haven’t had a collective raise since the 1970’s. Here you are fighting the battle for White superiority, while the richest among you steals your children’s future with the approval, permission and blessing of your own American government.
That is how you spend your precious political capital, preserving the sanctity of your “legacy”, a legacy that, in truth, wasn’t really yours. Only the extremely wealthy benefited from free slave labor. As you continue the fantasy of “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” in the present so to do you project the fantasy that your poor ass barefoot ancestors had a bigger stake than they really did. The only thing going for them then was that… at least they weren’t slaves.
Here you are fighting over the rights over an unborn fetus when the average cost of having a baby can be $3500 to $10,000, with birth Aftercare costs potentially ballooning up to $30,000. White birthrates are dropping and there are a lot of reasons for that. Chief among them is cost. You literally can’t afford a new life, a new life that has become a luxury item. You think a college educated “Karen” can afford or would even want the child? Not with 100 grand worth of student loans she don’t!
And the cherry on top is you’re willing to indiscriminately kill Black and Brown children for the lack of the same prenatal care which you yourself can barely afford. And yet you’ll proceed to murder those Black babies out on the streets when they’re scant years older. Yeah, you’re pro-life all right.
What’s truly obscene is that over the years so many bills that were introduced to help with childcare couldn’t pass, because heaven forbid if there were laws on the books to make it easier to start a family for YOU, when those same laws would be in place to help Black and Brown babies too. And God knows… you can’t have that.
Republicans have doubled down on the narrative that all that is wrong with the world was the fault of those Black and Brown while beholden to their billionaire masters. But those across the aisle were bought and paid for as well. Democrats suck on the same tit of power from the rich. Democrats tout a tent that is inclusive, where all are welcome. That is a lie. Democrats demand Black and Brown fealty but offer no respite from the storm. Their commitment to the working class, the poor and especially People of Color is a diatribe of platitudes and broken promises. They present an illusion of change but nothing ever does. At least not for Black People. Democrats have mastered identity politics that in no way threatens the true economic status quo.
I’m grateful for my big fat Gay marriage but what’s the point of a marriage if I can’t afford it? And why do I feel this is an elaborate shell game? As the rights of some groups ascend, others fall further behind. Black people are still dying. We’re still dying quick at the hands of weaponized police. We’re still being killed slowly by the systemic racism perpetuated by both political parties.
I want to drive home the fact that racial inequality goes hand in hand with economic disparity. You middle class and working class white people don’t have it as bad as Black folk, but even with 400 years generational wealth theft you’re losing ground, because the theft didn’t end with us. The richest of your kind are robbing your Asses blind in broad daylight. And have been doing so for forty years. Lyndon B. Johnson was right.
This theft culminated in the housing crisis, the Great Recession of 2008. Foreclosures left and right, massive unemployment. It was bad, and as always, Black folk caught it the worst. There were no life savings for us draw upon, no safety net, hundreds of years of overt and passive denial made sure of that. And so we suffered: But we didn’t suffer alone, y’all suffered too!
The first Black president Barack Obama was elected in the midst of the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. And just like a Neo-Liberal dressed in Progressive’s clothing he came to the rescue. He bailed out Wall Street but not Main Street. No White owned bank was ever prosecuted for their part in the 2008 financial crisis. The Chinese-American immigrant Thomas Sung founder of the Abacus Federal Savings Bank wasn’t so lucky.
Funny how things like that work out.
Meanwhile Bumblefuck USA was cursing this Negro president with the Muslim sounding name for not helping them, forgetting all the while he was bought and paid for by the same billionaire robber barons that sold your White Asses out decades before.
And while Obama crowed about a “post racial” society Black people continued to suffer. We suffered financially; many of us would never recover from the recession of ’08. We also suffered a Blacklash. Racism was rising in this country, exacerbated by the fact that even the White middle class was beginning to crumble.
The police in this country were born from thugs and criminals and those committed to the protection of the most valuable property of the time. And that property was slaves. So it makes sense that the instrument of this Blacklash would come in the form of the police. Who can say if police brutality and murder by cop against People of Color actually increased. But now visual proof of such violence is easily accessible to everyone thanks to the power of a cell phone, along with the interconnectivity of social media on the Internet.
Thus the hashtag for our fallen brothers and sisters, and our children to police violence was born in Obama’s “post racial” America. Is it any wonder the civil rights group Black Lives Matter came to prominence in the shadow of America’s first Black President? I’m going to keep it real, I initially questioned the reason for its existence. Seriously? Really? Has the bar sunk so low that we have to get White folk and their police to acknowledge our very existence? Our humanity? Is the currency of our lives worth so little?
Since our Black asses ain’t working for free no more…apparently NOT.
These were hard years for me and mine. The ramifications of this recession were visceral and personal. But with the uprising of the Occupy Wall Street Movement I felt, at least from an economic standpoint, the working class stiff, even a Black one like me, might see progressive change.
Not so fast.
Someone near and dear to me simply stated,” things aren’t bad enough. People aren’t desperate enough.” Even in this horrible economic downturn people are too complacent, too apathetic. I considered his words and thought, what does that even look like? How much worse can things get?
A decade later I’d have my answer.
I’d never thought I would miss a Neo-Liberal Centrist African American Democratic President, but here I am… yearning for fucking Barry.
We now have a fascist racist in the White House. Progressives and Liberal centrists alike knew he was going to be bad. He exceeded every expectation. He is an agent of chaos and the culmination and personification of White victimhood. He’s also pushed the very concept of White Male Heterosexual Exceptionalism back by one hundred years. To be fair, he did lose the popular vote. Let’s state for the record most Americans did not vote for Donald J. Trump. But he won through the Electoral College, a system with its own racist origins, initially designed to empower southern white voters. How fitting.
How racist is Donald Trump? As if you didn’t already know from both his rhetoric and actions spanning his entire adult life? Rest assured he would proceed to remind you as President. We ain’t got time to run down every racist act this dude has done in office, so I’m just gonna hit you with his greatest hits: The Muslim ban; Family separations at the Mexican/U.S. border and subsequent long term internment; Inflammatory statements made in response to and supportive of the white supremacists march in Charlottesville. And my personal favorite: The ongoing battle with Black NFL players led by Colin Kaepernick denouncing the indiscriminate killing by the police of the Black and Brown population.
So it’s been three and a half years of fuckery by this dude, with each incident, with each violation of norms being more outrageous than the last; culminating with the bribing/extortion of a foreign power for dirt on a political opponent. So of course he gets impeached. And of course the racist Republicans, being the neutered sycophants that they are, stood behind their Racist-in-Chief and refused to remove him from office.
But at the onset of 2020 Donald J. Trump would find himself up against something he couldn’t bluster through, couldn’t bully, belittle, or lie his way out of, couldn’t throw someone else under the bus for.
The Coronavirus also known, as Covid-19, is a highly infectious virus that primarily attacks a person’s respiratory system but is known to negatively affect other parts of the body as well. In three months Covid-19 has shut the world down. As of this writing there are 6.8 million confirmed cases worldwide. As of this writing there are over 100,000 thousand deaths in the United States, and counting. America’s economy, the only thing Trump could claim was working for both him and his fellow billionaires lies in ruins. Current unemployment levels rival those of the Great Depression.
In short, things are bad: Really, Really Bad. But, are they bad enough? The overall consensus is that the Trump administration downplayed the severity of the virus, pushed misinformation, and refused any responsibility for his response to the pandemic. The Trump administration did not cause the Coronavirus, but their actions long before the pandemic surfaced would have deadly consequences. The administration’s lack of action during the pandemic would also have deadly consequences.
While many of us sheltered in place, safe at home, the most vulnerable and underpaid were rebranded as “essential workers”. Five months ago these workers weren’t considered worth even a living wage, they still aren’t. But now they’re the on the front lines dying to get food to your table, dying to transport you to your destination, dying to clean up your trash, dying to slaughter your meat, and dying to save your lives. And many of these “essential workers” are Black and Brown people.
As of this writing over 100,000 people have died from Covid-19, and a disproportionate number are People of color. Why you ask? Systemic racism. This racism spans decades where Black people had little or no agency. And let me be clear, this is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
Black people have a very complicated history with doctors. You’ve experimented on us, treating us worse than animals. You’ve given us syphilis. You’ve stolen our cells without our consent to mass-produce life saving drugs. You’ve downplayed how we perceive pain. You’ve ignored the effects of centuries of suffering, centuries of stress, centuries of trauma. Just having healthcare is an important step in our survival. Now imagine SOME of us having not only limited access, but also not trusting doctors. Because, in our collective consciousness, like so many other aspects of everyday life White people take for granted, we’re constantly reminded of the sins of the past, the not-so-distant past, and what y’all did to us yesterday.
Fast-forward to now and consider the other major side effect of the Coronavirus. The economy. In 1928 it took two years to reach the levels of unemployment that we’ve achieved in three months. Stop. Pause. And let that sink in. Ladies and gentlemen we’re are officially experiencing a NEW GREAT DEPRESSION.
The economic pain felt throughout this country is affecting everyone. But we’re all in this together, right? I’m not so sure… CEO’s, corporate owners and shareholders, the suits on Wall Street, they were the ones who truly recovered from the recession of ’08; the rest of us… not so much. And as always, with no liquidity, no credit, no equity, no savings, people of color are suffering the worst.
People cannot pay their rent or their mortgages. People cannot pay their car notes, their student loans, and their credit cards. People cannot pay for food. But have no fear! Republicans and Democrats in a miraculous moment of Wonder Twin powered bipartisanship gave the American people… wait for it… a single payment of $1200. There you go Americans! Go make that shit work while we lawmakers collectively pat ourselves on the back and go on a well-deserved recess. Have things gotten bad enough yet?
No Universal Basic Income, UBI. No rent/mortgage moratoriums. No freeze on credit card debt. No halting of student loans. And don’t forget, 27 million newly unemployed Americans JUST lost their employer provided health insurance.
In the middle of a pandemic!
Let me get my popcorn, because this shit is about to pop off.
All the while racism just kept chugging along, pandemic be damned, like it’s always done. Giving cops license to keep killing Black people. And so we kept on dying. So many whose names we don’t know, so many names we can’t remember them all. But there are three from just these past few weeks that we do remember: Ahmaud Arbery. Brianna Taylor.
And finally…George Floyd.
Now I’m going to be honest. I KNEW there were going to be protests during this pandemic. I just miscalculated the catalyst. I figured there were going to be riots over looming evictions. Foreclosures. Car repossessions. People starving. Who knows? As of this writing in June of 2020, Summer is just getting started. That all might still happen.
“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But once you’ve robbed a man of everything, he is no longer in your power — he is free again.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
And there you have it. Are things bad enough yet?
Black people are sick and tired. We’re done. We’re willing to risk infection in the middle of pandemic because we no longer have anything to lose. You kill us by the bullet. You kill us by denying us opportunities. You kill us fast. You kill us slow. But you keep killing us.
And we’re DONE.
America is having a very Karmic moment. The chickens have come home to roost.
What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. You, the scorpion, could have honestly accepted the help of the frog, together we could have vanquished the snake and built a better world for all. You made a different choice. People of Color have suffered indignities both perverse and obscene at your hands for hundreds of years. Now it’s time for a change.
And we’re going to get it.
How can I be so sure? Because Covid-19 is like a cleansing fire. It has exposed every sordid, misbegotten, putrid and puss filled boil of a wound that represents America’s failures. These failures are the social contracts that have been broken. Over and over again. Collectively you’d acknowledge the wrongdoing, shrug your shoulders and carry on about your business. As if nothing ever happened. Rinse and repeat. But things are too dire now. And Black people, Brown people and all the allies that support us have said, “Enough is enough.”
I think back to the conversation I had a decade ago and Yes, things are bad enough now. Now you White folks are getting just a taste of our pain.
This is a reckoning that’s taken the entirety of my lifetime to see. And to be honest I didn’t expect this level of outrage until well after I was dead. And as always, Black folks have provided the blueprint. We’re showing you how to do it. Again. You’re welcome America. You want UBI? March for it. You want rent/mortgage moratoriums? March for it. You want your credit card debt and your credit scores frozen? March for it. You want your student loan debt halted? March for it.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”- Nelson Mandela
I love the terms “slow walk” and “incremental change”; insipid pabulum for conservatives and centrists alike. It only took three months to learn what social distancing is. Three months to learn that wearing a mask is essential. Three months for the world to change completely. After the death of George Floyd it only took two weeks of protesting for the Minneapolis city counsel members to vow to dismantle the police. To James Baldwin’s passionate plea, “How much longer must I wait… for your progress?” Not long now brother. Not long at all.
Because radical, positive systematic change that uplifts person and community shouldn’t have to take forever.
Senator Ernest Chambers, Kimberly Jones, and Tamika Mallory spiritually powered this missive. THANK YOU all from the bottom of my heart. Your strength, conviction, and passion for the lives and betterment of Black people are an inspiration. Also, if there’s only ONE person to follow on Twitter please make it Bree Newsome Bass!
Lastly, I like to write, but my true passion is illustration and digital painting. The day Trump became president, I became radicalized; the work you see embedded within this article are the expressions of that radicalization. If you like what you’ve read and like to help me be a little LESS poor than I already am, please buy a T-shirt! Thank you.