Nearly every other day since that dreadful day, May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was murdered, I’ve been bombarded with calls from all over our country reaching out to me, asking how I was doing and if I was all right. A vast majority of my Caucasian friends expressed what I believed to be a heartfelt concern over a convenient American policy trend that has been tolerated and celebrated for far too long. When my friends asked me how I was doing and how I felt about what happened, I merely responded, “This isn’t new, nothing new.”
The year 2020 marks for me and people fascinated with history 401 years since the first 19 or so Africans reached the then-maritime military stronghold, Point Comfort, Virginia, roughly 38 miles away from Jamestown. Before leaving the shores of Western African nations, many slaves were baptized into the Christian faith, a noted sign of exemption from the brutal treatment associated with early chattel African slavery in the United States. These few were merged with nearly 1,000 English indentured servants already living in the colony.
From day one, the maltreatment of this awful institution of slavery was brutal, dehumanizing, and ungodly. For conscious black people, the problem is not so much that the barbaric treatment happened, but instead, it was and is still justified. Today, this abuse is perpetrated under clever disguises such as the uncontested Thirteenth Amendment, Nixon’s War on Drugs, which was later replicated by Ronald Reagan with his call for mass incarceration, which was later strictly enforced by Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.
For more than 400 years, our nation–on both sides of our two-party dominated system–has created and continues to create policies that target, limit, and persecute people of color. These inequities alone should be sufficient for people of color to seriously rethink their loyalties to the Bald Eagle–you know, that beautiful bird with a seven-foot wingspan, who flies north and then south, with a Republican wing on its right side and a Democratic wing on its left, flying seasonally to different directions, yet is mysteriously the same bird. Somehow, we’ve been brainwashed into believing that this bird is two different animals: a donkey and an elephant.
The Past Versus the Present
Most intelligent minds would agree that one would be hard-pressed to find authentic media outlets today (CNN, MSNBC, FOX), meaning those that represent the truth and nothing but the truth. Very few exist. For example, that which the news has broadcasted within the past month has been largely focused on riots, hate, division, and a bleak outlook on reconciliation between the races. The majority of Americans agree that there is overwhelming evidence that racism is alive and growing in our country and that bad policing needs to be altogether eradicated. However, the often-forgotten truth is that not all white people think the same about bigotry, hate, and racial superiority.
Unfortunately, the news media does not show those images and narratives of people of varying races getting along and combating racism in worthwhile, yet less outwardly demonstrative ways; those stories don’t sell. The news rarely covers stories about people of different ethnic groups living amongst each other, enjoying extracurricular activities, and learning together. Most of us are wise enough not to expect the media to bring us together, as in doing so, they lose their ratings and become nonexistent. Since media perception will not help us, the job of reconciliation and healing lies solely on us. It is our job to come up with solutions that will address the present racial crisis we are in and project to the future as to how we can ensure that we will never retread these same roads.
Our first step forward is that we must understand that, contrary to popular opinion, Black people do not live in the past. So many people erroneously believe that African Americans tend to mention African enslavement, the struggles of the civil rights era, and disproportionate treatment of Black Americans in relationship to white treatment far too much, that they should let go of the subject altogether. The truth is that of all ethnic groups living in America; Black people are the only ones who fail to continually demand our government to implement policies to ensure that unfavorable treatment, mass incarcerations, and targeting communities of color come to an end.
Anti-Semitism is a word that aptly describes hostile behavior and prejudicial treatment against people of Jewish descent. That word alone sends a clear message to Americans and much of the world that, as a people, Jews will not tolerate the proliferation of hate, bigotry, and isolation based on societal ignorance and false judgments about their people and faith. Black people have no such word for our defense. It doesn’t exist. Instead, when maltreatment happens based on historical attitudes of hatred toward African Americans, we are forced to have hope in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or possibly a prosecutor with a moral conscience. For most African Americans, not only is racism a very active part of our present reality, the infrastructure of our legal system supports, not defends, maltreatment. The first step toward healing is to admit and own that these injustices still exist today.
After that admission, our next step is to evaluate the reasons behind why these inequities fester. Just think about it from an economic viewpoint. More than 200,000 small businesses were forced to close because of our world health crisis. Several thousand large corporations were on the brink of failure long before our health crisis started, and they were slated to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. All of them had one obvious thing in common: they were closing because they became unprofitable. In the same manner, racism exists and thrives because the nature and practice of it benefits someone; otherwise, it would disappear.
The Two-Party System—Beneficiaries of Systemic Racism
But who does it benefit? It benefits the system that oversees it, as both the Democratic and Republican parties are the only ones who create the laws and policies that govern, reward, or punish behavior. Speaking solely for my country, the United States of America, racism is a construct of what makes America the nation that it is. Long before the George Floyd incident, new settlers were banned from owning property in Europe, arriving on the American shores with an insatiable appetite for Indian land. That appetite led to thousands of slaughters and a Trail of Tears, which has since never been honestly or intentionally dealt with.
Restoring property that was stolen from the Natives to erect palatial casinos is not reparations for lives lost and a permanent disruption of a functional, cultural status. We must be willing to understand that unless the past is properly dealt with, it translates into our present experience with ease. So, let’s recap for all who desire to experience change and racial harmony. First, admit that with regards to racial abusiveness, African Americans are not living in the past but rather dealing with systemic injustices, often daily. We know that hate is a condition of the heart and is expressed most often from a moral position.
However, when parties such as my former party, the Democratic party, create atmospheres and opportunities to promote division while hiding behind the pretense of encouraging justice for all, it only exacerbates the tension and the problem. Both leading parties, Democrats and Republicans, must have the courage to admit how this problem has become so uncontrollable and how both parties benefited by the confusion at the people’s expense.
To move toward change and reconciliation, African Americans must clarify exactly what it means and what it looks like when Black lives really matter. While everyone has the right to march and peacefully protest, marching and protesting are simply not enough, and more often than not, they’re ineffective in producing lasting and effective change. Real changes come with clear instructions and demands on what it looks like when Black lives matter economically: quality education in urban schools, affordable higher education options, safe communities, and access to above-standard housing and jobs. When those and many more demands create new policies, then healing will begin.
One of our prophets in the African American community, comedian Dave Chappelle, in his Netflix special “8:46” resplendently dissected the fine elements of “blackness” and racial profiling in America, using George Floyd’s murder as his motif. With his extreme intellect, wit, and frequent use of expletives, he taught that with regards to our present racial crisis, “The streets will speak for themselves whether I’m alive or dead.” In his finale, he warned all Americans, “This is the last stronghold for civil discourse. After this shit, it’s rata tat tat tat tat.” Is the question, do we have the ability to change? I think not. The question is, will we?
Aaron Lewis is an educator, humanitarian, publisher and ghostwriter. Lewis was the 2019 Libertarian candidate for mayor for the City of Hartford, CT.