Friday, September 18, 2020

A tale of two Americas

Thinking back for as long as I can remember, I lived in an area of repression.  Someone always seemed to have their foot on the neck of my mother, father, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  And yet as a child my world consisted of playing freeze tag, football, Hide and Go Seek and Mother May I.  I was blissfully unaware of the weight that the adults in my life had to carry.

As a child, I remember the lessons that I was taught in school.  I learned so much about the history of our country.  I did not learn about the slavery era, Jim Crow era and Mass Incarceration which led to recidivism in elementary school.

This is where the difference between the two America’s began.  The two America’s are reflected in the thoughts and actions of white people.  I say this not with hatred but with facts; and it is within these facts that make the average white person uncomfortable when the topic of overt racism begins.

Our country has a core belief that all men were created equal in the eyes of God.  This core belief has been taught to every child in this country.  We were taught to believe the sayings of our forefathers and what was written in the constitution that pertained to everyone regardless of the color of their skin.

In reality, the constitution was only designed for white people; and when they (or their political constituents) refer to “the good ole days” it conjures up images of drive in movies, bobby socks, malt shakes and roller skating waitresses in drive up restaurants.

For people of color, the good ole days were never good.  It brings about images of repression, injustice, segregation, and neighborhoods which are “the ghetto.”

The experience between people of color and white people is as different as night and day.  The same can be said for the understanding of the relationship between the police and white/black people.

While most white people can enjoy a civil relationship with the institution that vows to protect all of us;  POC don’t enjoy the same type of relations.  And it is within these relationships (or lack thereof) that the Black Lives Matter movement was born.  To truly understand the Black Lives Movement, you may have to be a person of color because it is nestled within the lack of understanding with the police that persons of color view them with suspicion; the same way that the police view most persons of color; particularly black and brown men.

It is only during the year of 2019 that the protests began…the only difference being that other people began to recognize that there was truly a problem.  People of color have always known that there was a problem as they were the recipients of unfair policies and practices.

white and black happy birthday signage

Currently, we live in two Americas with two sets of rules…and those rules are mostly contingent upon race. Most of us fall in between those practices and as a result, we may be completely blind to someone else’s rights being violated.  Unfortunately, many people play the role of the ostrich’s head in the sand and are of the opinion that if they are not directly impacted by the discriminatory behavior, then there is no need to care.  This is a small version of what we call."

person holding fan of U.S. dollars banknote

“Tribalism.”  What’s even worse is that we have people that are willing to be manipulated because they have been willingly conditioned to believe that anyone that doesn’t believe as they do are the enemy and should be treated as such.  All you have to do is take a look at what we have allowed ourselves to become.  We used to be a people that allowed for someone else’s viewpoints and beliefs.  We used to be a people that placed value on what our neighbors had to say.

But we are not that way now.

We are living in a time of confusion. We are living in chaos and misinformation.  We are living in the age of technology where you can get the latest update to any public (and sometimes private) situation with the click of a mouse.  And that is what makes the tale of two Americas so stark.  Injustices can be accessed on any laptop, notebook, or iPhone.  We can see in vibrant living color who was wronged and who was responsible for inflicting that wrong.

We can no longer allow ourselves to be our own proverbial ostrich.  What is right for one group of people has to be right for all; just as what is deemed wrong in our society has to be wrong for all and not a just viewpoint; and certainly not because the judgment is left up to someone who deems himself to be judge, jury and executioner.

In order for our democracy to work, we cannot have one group in charged of what we all need and want.  It must work for everyone.

We cannot afford to have the constitution negated to assume the beliefs of others.  We have to understand and respect the rights of all.  And lastly, we cannot afford for any groups of people to be left behind because this is what makes America great.  We cannot believe that we have never been great until now.

It is time that what we say and want to matter.  We need to understand that the voting power of POC matter and is not weighed over the voting power of white people.  The voting power of all races matter.

There are indeed two Americas; and if that exists, we will always have problems.  All of the ideologies and viewpoints need to be taken into consideration.  All beliefs need to be taken into consideration and combined so that all races feel as if they have been heard. It needs to be reflected in what our elected officials bring to the table.

If we can put that into place, we can see that what works for the rich also works for the poor.  We need to make room at the proverbial table for everyone.  This in and of itself will help

Americans feel as if no one has been left behind…and better yet, it will calm the viewpoints on both sides of the aisle.

~ J.L. Whitehead


Friday, July 3, 2020

How to get through the era of COV-19 and keep your sanity

We thought that we would have gotten through this epidemic by now.  We thought that wearing a mask would have passed by now.  It didn’t.  As I write this, there are (1) 2.74 Million confirmed cases of COV-19 in the United States.  844 K cases have recovered.  As of today, 130 K deaths have occurred in this country because of a virus that we do not know that much about.  Personally, I have been sporting a mask whenever I leave my home.  I do not go out that often but when I do, I always have a mask.  Right now, there are at least five masks in the back seat of my car.

There is nothing wrong with wearing a mask despite the inconvenient factor that accompanies the idea of going to the store, market of pharmacy.  And right now, this is our life…like it or not.

The hard part would be to get your entire family to wear a mask that is designed to protect others in addition to yourself.  Despite all of this, we as Americans are powering through this epidemic.  We are doing what we need to do to reduce the spread of COV-19.  And it truly is about not spreading it to others’, which includes social gatherings in bars, restaurants or in any venue that can house at least 10 people.

This is about not spreading the virus that has claimed so many American lives.  We need to show who we are as the American People and put an end to spreading a disease that initially seems so simple.
I had a medical procedure recently and I had to get tested for the virus.  My results came back negative and I was able to have the procedure.  But admittedly, I do not always cover my nose with the mask because it makes it difficult to breathe.  I try to catch my breath when I lift the mask off of my face for a moment just to breathe normally…and although I may be exposing myself (and others) to the possibility of becoming infected, I have to catch that breath before going into the store.

So how can you get through this outbreak and keep your sanity?  Believe it or not, surround yourself with immediate family and enjoy the times that you share.  Obviously, if you can work from home, you do your work fairly and log on and off when you’re supposed to.
 You are probably already ordering from restaurants to support the workers and feed your family.  Go to the market and get groceries that will last you a few days so that you can plan your menu for your family.  Select days that you can cook for your family and enjoy the time that you have together.
And here’s the most important thing…you now have the ability to do some of the things that you put off doing because you didn’t have the time to get them done.

I have found more time to write.  I spend some time in prayer and I count my blessings.  I realize that some of you cannot work from home and you may be facing issues and circumstances that are larger than I can cover in this article.

We are going through several epidemics in addition to the COV-19. We have racial unrest like we’ve never seen before.  White people may feel like they are under attack because people of color are protesting the murder of people of color by the police.  I assure you; it is not about that.  Fairness hopefully will come for everyone.  Hopefully, we will see the beauty in diversity in which everyone can have a place at the table.  Obviously, there will be some that will disagree with this and I do not have an answer for them.  Keeping things status quo will not help everyone.

But what will work for us is wearing a mask when we go outdoors and when you are out, practice social distancing even if you are going to the store.

As much as we may want to go to the gym, bar or restaurant, until they have a cure, err on the side of caution and don’t go to the event.

Everything that I am saying I am sure you’ve heard before.  But it bears repeating.  Save yourself the headache and stay indoors.

~ J.L. Whitehead


Sunday, May 31, 2020

Who will we be after the coronavirus pandemic is over?

I’ve seen so many commercials emanating what the essence of the American spirit looks like.  I’ve seen images of major company’s displaying their generosity to the American public by providing everything from much needed food to supplies to facial masks needed for the survival of the citizens of this country; which gives me pause as to who we are as well as what we hope to be once we come out of this global pandemic.

Who will we be when we come out on the other side of this illness?  Will we have learned anything at all especially when it comes to the respect of life after a disease that has killed over 1) 106,000 people in this country alone: 370,000 souls worldwide? 
I am constantly reminded of our new normal in the news cycles, the commercials that we take in as well as the people that we see on the street.  Everyone has on a mask that they hope will protect them from the coronavirus.

But I wonder if we’ve truly learned a much-needed lesson from all of this.  As front-line responders continue to put their lives on the line and fight for those of us that can’t, I am amazed, and I take my hat off to you.  My younger brother is a police officer in Delaware.  He along with many others continue to fight against crime and illness regardless of the provisions they have in place at the moment.

Will we remember those that have fallen in the name of what is right and decent?  Will their lives continue to matter long after this pandemic is over even as their families continue to grieve their passing because of their unselfish sacrifice?

Or will we go back to being a divided people?  I wonder if we are more comfortable hating one another for one reason manufactured in our imaginations because we need someone to blame for our misfortunes. Slowly but surely, the middle class is being erased much to the dismay of everyone around us.  The blame does not rest on everyone and everything with the exceptions of where the blame rightfully belongs.

We have the choice to come out better and truly being our brother’s keeper because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  It doesn’t matter how you make a difference as long as you do.  Every contribution is appreciated.  Every hour donated to help our neighbors who probably never thought they would need the type of assistance provided is one filled with gratitude.

More importantly, (and no one is talking about this now) is that we are seeing the slow erosion of the middle class.  The middle class never thought for a moment that they would need the type of assistance that they are getting.  In the meantime, the wealthy don’t experience any of the hardships that the poor and middle class have had to endure.  No one is talking about that.

Although the manufacturing of the corona virus was not Donald Trump’s creation, the reaction before the virus washed up on American shores is.

So, who will we be after this pandemic?

We argue, fight and agree to disagree; but we’ll always be at odds with one another. The reason for this difference is not because we don’t understand where we are as a people.  We understand where we are all too well.  One of the main problems with that that thought process is that we don’t believe it.

There are two America’s that exist…not one.  There is an America for people of color, and there is an America for whites.  The moment we understand this, the better off we’ll be.  We’ll be able to address the issue of race in this country without the anger that is deeply hidden on both sides.

 We need to come to grips with the fact that we have always been divided as a country.  The division didn’t just come about because of Donald Trump.  He is a symptom, not a cause. If you look at our history (and I hate to say this) but people of color have never been welcomed in this land unless we were to assume the role of being subservient to white people.  White people need to own how they feel.  They also need to own why because it’s that thought process that caused many people so much pain.

However, whenever this topic is brought up, it’s often in an accusatory tone in which white people will react with the look that all people have come to know.  Anger runs deep when one race mistreats another.  But the reality is that white people need to own what has happened in the past so that we can move forward as a people.
"There are two America’s that exist…not one.  There is an America for people of color, and there is an America for whites.  The moment we understand this, the better off we’ll be.  We’ll be able to address the issue of race in this country without the anger that is deeply hidden on both sides." - J.L. Whitehead
 Part of the problem is that most white people are acutely aware of what has been done.  In their minds, two things are going on.  One is that they personally should not be held responsible for any mistreatment of people of color in the past because in their mind, they haven’t personally violated the rights of anyone.  The second is that even though the average white claims to not see color, you see it all the time.

But who will we be once the coronavirus scare is over?  Will white people respond with understanding or more hatred?  I’m not sure because the two America’s that I described is so deeply entrenched in our DNA and yet we don’t acknowledge or respond to it.

We live under a flag that is supposed to cover all of us; but it doesn’t.  

People of color should not have to hold rallies, marches or violent confrontations to show that they are Americans.  Nor should they be the only ones shown by the media as being responsible for looting the businesses that the owners painstakingly built.  But when America is divided so that one group of people get the benefit of the doubt or presumed innocence before a guilty sentence is just as bad as someone who’s not guilty but is automatically deemed guilty before they’re taken into custody.
We can choose to be what we say we are and stand up for what we believe.  We can come out of the coronavirus epidemic by being a little bit kinder to strangers regardless of race in addition to the neighbors they know.

We can be better…but it starts with believing and instituting that belief system in their everyday lives.  We can choose to embrace our differences like we did during the pandemic.  Or we can go back to hating one another.  The choice is yours.  What will you do?

A tale of two Americas

Thinking back for as long as I can remember, I lived in an area of repression.  Someone always seemed to have their foot on the neck of my...