Thursday, April 18, 2019

Our Love Affair with the Constitution

I've grown weary and tired of the Trump era.  Watching this fiasco of a presidency has worn me down.  Like many of you, I have sat on the sidelines watching in silent (and perhaps not so silent) horror as Trump has taken a sledgehammer to our democracy.  He has thumbed his nose at the constitution and boldly defied the norms and dignity of the office that he currently holds.

He has lied to the American people repeatedly, and then when asked about those lies, he lies again.
He has weaponized the constitution, using the laws to protect himself when those very laws were put in place to protect the person who is supposed to uphold the laws of this land.

We know this.

However, this isn't about him.  This is about us.  We need to ask ourselves what we need.  We need to understand that what is currently in place isn't working for us.  We see it clearly.  The massive tax cuts that was supposed to bring more wealth into our homes has failed to bring fourth the fruits that were promised.

We have a choice to make because (and I saw this to my husband all the time) life is about choices.  We chose the current occupant of the White House.  Well, some of us did.  But we can right our wrongs and chose again.

In many ways, what has happened to us as a people has happened to me personally.  Through each relationship that I found myself in has taught me what I wanted and didn't want.  It taught me what I had the right to expect as well as not expect.  It taught me that you had to give in order to get; and that sometimes it wasn't always about getting.  In fact, it was more about giving just as long as I knew who I was giving to because there are people that will take from you without returning a thing.

Our current state of political affairs is in chaos; but like most relationships, you are due a do-over.  You can change things.  You can change your state of mind and go into life, single and happy; learning from your past mistakes and moving forward until you meet someone else that will hopefully give you what you need.  They may or they may  not.

But you have a choice:  If they do, Bravo!  But it they don't...what do you do?  You lick your wounds and start again.

We have that choice...right now; to lick our wounds and start again!

We have the golden opportunity to declare what we want as an American people.  We can say that we want better than what our forefathers declared, because equality under the constitution was written for all, but not meant for all.  It was subject to interpretation.  So lets get it right this time and discern it correctly.  Let's apply the words in the constitution to every living, breathing man in the United States.

We have to keep our eyes on the prize.  We have to listen to the candidates that are in the Democratic party.  Hopefully, they will put forth the correct message.  They will speak to the people by being for the people.

We need to ensure that 2020 will be a time of true prosperity for the middle class, and that everyone is included in that definition.

We have to be something that has been lost these past two years.

We have to be for ourselves and the constitution.  We cannot afford to be simply against Trump!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Land of the Free

I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment this morning when the thought crossed my mind of just how great the United States is.  I don’t know what made me think of this.  Perhaps it was the words of Meghan McCain when she eulogized her father stating in a direct rebuke of Donald Trump that “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”

And to a certain degree, she was correct.

But in my thinking of the greatness of this nation, I realized that although many have fought and died for this country, this is not the land of the free.  It is not the land where opportunities are equal for everyone.  And it is most certainly not the land where immigrants are welcome even though this nation was built upon the backs of those said immigrants.

This country is, and perhaps has always been the land of equal opportunity for a few; and if you were a woman or a person of color, your opportunity was limited.  It has always been this way…we just don’t talk about it.

It wasn’t until I saw the image of Donald and Melania Trump standing proudly with their hands over their hearts paying homage to the American flag that I suddenly began to realize that this simple gesture offended me.  It wasn’t because the gesture was being made by a man that didn’t understand the constitution of this great land.  And it wasn’t because this same man used that gesture as a weapon to attack the people that chose to kneel in protest to citizens of this same country being killed for belonging to a demographic that didn’t fit the ideology of mainstream America.  It wasn’t even because I didn’t agree with or subscribe to the meaning of the flag.  I know what it stands for and I respect that meaning.

The truth is that this country is great for a few, and the few that it is great for is divided into categories of those that chose to acknowledge that their majority has it easier than those that don’t look like them.  And then there are those that will never acknowledge this and instead will elect to keep things status quo.
It has always been this way. But it took the rise of Donald Trump to bring this to the surface.  There is a large portion of this country that want to keep the opportunities to excel and succeed difficult for minorities and immigrants.  They want to be assured that their population will always remain on top and get the first fruits of the land.  And I say this not as a complaint or a gripe, but rather as a simple statement of fact.

There are millions of white people that want to keep this land great as long as the greatness is kept for themselves.  The rise of a Donald Trump could not have happened without this thought process being in place because he represents what they have been thinking all along.  He has been known for telling it like is which is code for saying what they didn’t have the courage to say but now feel emboldened to act upon.
The nation has now been split as a result of this.  Political parties that used to differ in governing policies have now been pitted against one another, each being designated as the formidable foe.  The issue of race has been brought to the surface with those of us pitted against one another.  And this was caused by a man that believes that everyone must have an enemy.  There is no such thing as people working together for the common good.  He has exacerbated the worst in us in the guise of patriotism, something that I’ve said all along.
This land can be as great as we profess it to be although sadly, it will take so much more for us to achieve the level of greatness that we all hold dear.

The divisiveness that separates not just political parties, but the American people is symptomatic of a greater problem that needs to be addressed before we can move forward as a nation.
We need to realize that for generations, one denomination of the American people has deemed themselves as being better than, greater than and more deserving of the greatness that this land has to offer.

We must address the fact that the only thing that separates us is the color of our skin and that we believe that it is in that color what determines the level of success that we should have.
There are those of us who will say that this isn’t true; that if there are people of color that have achieved an astronomical level of success then they never would have achieved this without the opportunities in this land being given to them.

I am not saying that immigrants and people of color could never achieve a level of success that is often attained by our white counter parts.  What I am saying is that the playing field has not been level for everyone regardless of race, religious affiliation or ethnicity.  This land has often been declared a place where everyone could excel if they put their minds to it.

But the realty of this doesn’t ring true.  African Americans have only had their civil rights for fifty years.  Women have only had the right to vote for ninety.  Up until that point, this land was not equal for all and to a degree still isn’t.

We must first admit that this land has been a white man’s world; and to be damned with the needs of everyone else.  And while there are people of color in various positions of authority, it isn’t at the level that guarantees that every single person of color has the advantage of those doors opening.
Until we address this, we will always have the problems that we have been battling with for generations.  


We have never experienced a time in history where we have been more polarized.  We have never seen the rise of the ideology of white supremacy since the fifties and sixties.

And maybe history is repeating itself in that white people will fight to keep their self-imposed superior status as it has been in the fifties.

Or maybe we are seeing the last gasp of what was, and the door is being opened, albeit slowly, to the wonders and possibility of a truly diverse society…a society where everyone gets an equal share of the proverbial pie.  A pie that everyone should have enjoyed an equal slice of to begin with.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Now I understand why...

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few days now.  Sometimes, I like to let an idea stew in my mind before I say anything about it.  I’ve been watching the documentary, “Surviving R Kelly.”  I listened intently as the commentators took me through the series of events that led to the heartbreak and abuse of several women of color.  And as I listened to the associates of the artist as well as members of his family, something jumped out at me.  The idea hit me so hard that I recoiled in my seat.  It helped me understand what is going on in mind of the average Trump supporter.

If anyone is familiar with R-Kelly and the story that surrounds him; it is alleged that he is a pedophile.  It is said that he had sex on multiple occasions with under aged women of color…and yet, his popularity has not been diminished in the least because of those actions.  Despite the allegations against him, people continue to not only buy his music; they still lift him up as a person whose musical talents supersedes his behind the scenes proclivities.  He is still held in high regard which isn’t as surprising as I once thought was.

There is a certain amount of tribalism that comes with persons that we deem as having a viable talent.  We believe that because of the individual’s gift, they are deserving of our adoration and praise.  We will overlook their past misdeeds with an ease that is incredulous to some and unbelievable to others.   Despite the allegations against R-Kelly, he is still considered to be a beacon of inspiration to some within the African American community.  The allegations have not hurt his record sales.  More importantly, he is held up as a shining example of what is good and decent.  In many ways, he is regarded as a role model despite what he is to have allegedly done.

It is in the same way that Trump Supporters love and trust the POTUS despite the things that he is to have said and done allegedly.  I say allegedly because like R-Kelly, the allegations have not been proven against Donald Trump.  The jury is still out on these two celebrities although they both may have been judged by the court of public opinion.
 We tend to do this with our African American celebrities.  We don’t want to see them fall from grace.  But black artists are held to a different standard than white celebrities simply because of race.  Trump’s popularity has stayed steady for the last two years.  His base…thirty-three percent of the country, still support him.  They attend his rallies and hold firm to their support for the president.

On the morning of June 13, 1994, OJ Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her companion, Ron Goldman.  I remember that morning because I was in the bank cashing my check speaking with a teller.  I told her that even though OJ was found innocent, I believed that he was guilty.  In my mind, there was something about the evidence presented that didn’t add up.  Something was out of sorts and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  

 I still can’t.

The elderly black woman that was standing behind me became furious with me.  She said “How dare you say such a thing.  OJ was innocent and you have no right to say anything different!”

My response to her was just as swift.

“M’am, with all due respect, I am entitled to my opinion and this conversation didn’t include you anyway!”
I don’t remember the details of our exchange, but I recall clearly that she was furious with me, not just because of what I thought…it was because the court case had been divided on racial lines, and I had picked the wrong side.  Her anger was more about the perception that I had gone against my own kind and less about the outcome of the trial.

It was the tribalism that affected us then and it is that same tribalism that is coming into play now.
Trump supporters have lifted this man up to a level that to most of us may be undeserving.  He has not earned the office that he currently occupies; and many of them don’t care.  They don’t care that he lies.  They don’t care that he brings out the very worst in our elected officials.  They don’t care that he has brought out the very worst in themselves.  They have blind loyalty.  It is the same type of loyalty that keeps them tethered to him no matter what he does or what allegations are levied against him.

It is the same loyalty that those African Americans have for R’Kelly.  It is the same type of loyalty that this elderly woman had for OJ Simpson all those years ago.  It is blind and it does not adhere to logic.

People believe what they want to believe.  Even more so, people believe what they need to believe.  

 It’s scary.

But this may explain why with everything crumbling around Donald Trump, people still hold onto the image of him being their shining light.

It is the reason why people still hold onto their support for R’Kelly.  And yes, it is the same reason why people hold on to their support for OJ Simpson…although time has eroded that particular circumstance.

But I digress, this isn’t about Trump supporters or R’Kelly supporters.

It is about an observation.  It is about Tribalism.

And now I truly understand what it means.

~J.L. Whitehead