"Slavery was so long ago, can't we just move on?"
In all honestly, I promise, so many of us yearn to be free from those past atrocities, but leaden chains do bind, burdening us until we acknowledge all that we carry. Slavery was never the soul (sic) method of dehumanization, just one weapon in supremacy's vast arsenal. Dynamics of hierarchy never die, they just morph into something different.
Voter suppression — gerrymandering ourselves into the unrecognizable — mirrors the three-fifths compromise. A systemized breaking down, bargaining over representation. The origin of a pernicious myth that people can somehow be less than whole. School-to-prison pipelines leading to mass incarceration. A warehousing in public and private holdings built to subsidize corporations that profit from the labor inside, reminiscent of servitude and sharecropping. Segregated schools haunt us like George Wallace's words "segregation now, segregation forever." A de facto system persists, though Brown v. Board of Education made it de jure illegal. Pseudoscience underneath stop and frisk, the war on drugs, thugs and super-predators placates. A justification of debunked theories — eugenics, craniometry and higher "pain tolerance" — masquerade as legitimate, creating hyper-criminalization.
Countless deceased. In streets — Mike, Freddie, Rekia. From cars — Philando and Sandra. On playgrounds — Tamir. Inside (often redlined) homes — Atatiana and Botham... Gross and deadly mischaracterizations. Till. The Central Park Five. Kidd, Hinton, McMillian... Lists so long, multiple columns couldn't recreate them.
Lynching. Charlottesville. Confederate flags, memorabilia, statutes and rhetoric. Contorted overreaches of constitutional interpretation for free speech and bearing arms, producing the need for "Hatewatch."
Constant vigilance is constricting, how can we ever thrive if we can barely breathe?
Also consider the seemingly less malignant but ultimately damaging complicity of tears, fragility and savior complexes. "You're so insert adjective here 'exotic, articulate, smart.'" "I'm not racist but..." "I don't see color." "I don't care if you're black, white, red, purple or polkadot." "Can I touch your hair?" Tokenizing.
Supremacy's yolk permeates everything in endless iterations. Insidious. Infectious. Illusory. Whether state-sanctioned or merely tolerated, individual prejudice (implicit or otherwise) and systemic policies and practices all operate in service to one master.
Divest. Devalue. Devastate. Disenfranchise. Dehumanize. Disempower. Dilute. Destroy.
We can never get over that which is unceasing.
Black history is not a month, or a monolith, it's simply a choice: Stay mired in false narratives of greatness or grow. If open to learning, shame is unrequited/necessary/productive. In this space, we are a collective, learning to exercise true shared responsibility and agency. And admiration of genuine greatness, flourishing despite all the above, is welcome here. #BlackExcellence, resilience and magic does exist in lists so long...
Alvin Ailey, Arie, Adichi, Ali, Angelou, August, Angela Davis and allies Liuzzo, Drs. Maucione and DiAngelo. Baldwin and bell. Black Twitter. Booker T. Crenshaw, Chisholm, Cullors, Camesha and Chad Little. Dessalines, DuVernay, David Boone and Dr. Jeanne Baynes. Our Ellas — Baker and Fitzgerald. Fred Hampton, Fannie Lou and Frederick Douglass. Guy and Ginger. Harry Belafonte, Hendrix and Henrietta. Ida B., Jesmyn Ward and James McBride. Kendrick, King, Killer Mike, Kehndi, and Dr. Kellie Carter-Jackson. Laverne Cox & Lorde. E. Murphy, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Mandela, Michelle Alexander and Marsha P. Johnson. Nipsy Hussle and Nicole. Omari. Pastor Shon and Porter, the Billy. Queen B and Quincys. Robinson (42). Ms. Scott, the Shakurs (Tupac and Assata), #SayHerName, Shantelle, Stevie, Stevenson's EJI and Sojourner Truth, Ta-Nehisi, Tubman & Toni. Usain. V. Williams, also Sandy, Whitehead, Walker(s) and W.E.B. DuBois. X (Malcom). Young Thug, M.A, Jezzy and Zora.
We are living history — socialized, shaped, influenced and impacted — only when we lift every voice, in recognition rather than repression, do we stand a chance of moving on, together. ♦
Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.