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


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