Thursday, February 20, 2020

Who are we?


Who have we become?  I keep asking myself this question repeatedly.  Who are we as a people?  What do we stand for?  That question revolves through my mind daily.  Things that don’t make sense are becoming an un-welcomed reality.

I never thought that I would see the day when we would have an avowed racist in the White House.  Nor did I ever see the day when millions of people would follow him almost as if he were a cult leader.  It has become increasingly difficult for me to turn on the news at any given time without hearing something that Trump has either said, done or had people do on his behalf.  

My heart breaks for the men, women and children that are still locked up in cages along our border.  It upsets me that millions of people think that this is okay because this is just a result of “their” president keeping one of his many promises.

But I keep coming back to my original question.  Who are we and what have we become?  What do we stand for?  Do we really stand for the end of the American democracy and the rule of law as we know it?  The very thought makes my head spin because what I am seeing before me…what we all are seeing before our very eyes is a man who is hell bent on getting rid of our democracy and replacing it with autocratic behavior.  He has made himself judge, jury and executioner and no one will stand up to him.

But who are we?  Have we really fallen into the depths of devaluing our fellow human beings in the guise of keeping America safe?  Has compassion given way to greed?  After all, many people say quietly to themselves that they long for the “good ole days.”  They say this not realizing or caring that the “good ole days” were only good for white people.  The good ole days were identified as being dominated by white people in general and white men in particular. But the good ole days were only good for a few at the expense of others.

White people in general are up in arms about too many brown people coming to this country.  Indeed, the president has made the proclamation that our country is full and is turning away people that are fleeing their own country.  He sees the black and browning of our country and is doing everything that he can to stop it.  To some, this is a good thing because it comes at a time when “white” America believes that they are under siege.  They see equality as oppression not realizing that you will not be any less white because someone of color moves into the house next door.  Your children will not be any less white if they play and associate with children of color.

It is time for the foolishness to stop because white people must learn that they are living in a fallacy that never was.  Pride in your heritage is okay.  Being Italian, Irish, Dutch or German is perfectly fine.  Being white has been the reason why many people have died in this country.  Crosses have been burned on the lawns of many persons of color because of whiteness.  Men, women and children have died because of whiteness.  And now, today whiteness is the cause of people being locked in cages under insufferable conditions.  Women have been raped and children have been separated from their families due to policies administered by white people.

And I am personally tired of white people telling people of color that if things are so horrible here, go back to where you came from.  They say this not realizing that where I come from is Newark, New Jersey…that last I heard was one of fifty states in this country.

With all that being said, maybe the election of Donald Trump really is a sign of who we are as a people.  Because you see Donald Trump has ripped the bandage off a nation that carefully hid their racism.  When it became politically incorrect to be an outward racist, racism went into hiding and no one talked about it even though it was in the minds of white America across the country.

We still cling to racist policies that keep white people in power…and today, white people are not willing or ready to give up that power.  The power is in repression and ignorance.  We see it every day in the things that the president does and says…and he does it for no other reason than because he can.  He doesn’t adhere to the norms of our democracy or constitution the way that past presidents have done.  He never did and probably never will.  And yet, his name is still spoken in hushed tones among members of his party.  Some like him, many loathe him and some downright hate him.

But he while he’s in office, they are getting what they want from him administratively if not politically.  They walk lock step with him because deep down, they are afraid of the ostracism they would experience if they were to speak truth to power.  They will defend their right to the power that they hold because they know that if they separate themselves from Trump, they will lose everything including their livelihood.

So, at least for the moment, we have a president who will do as he wishes when he wishes.  He will weaponize the DOJ to do his bidding.  Ideologies and policies that we would have never thought to be considered normal are now being normalized…which some can say is the slow dismantling of democracy as we know it to be.

Do not be surprised of Donald Trump thinks of a way where he can remain in office and thus in power forever.  As ominous as that sounds, please understand that if we don’t stop the bickering and fighting between the two parties; if we don’t stand for something in addition to making Trump a one term president, our nation will be pitched in to more chaos that we can imagine.

So, I come back to my original question: who are we and what do we want to be?

~ J.L. Whitehead