I’m trying to understand the simple cruelty behind the entrenched tribalism in the United States. I just finished “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith and I am still reeling. His book is a recollection of his visits, pilgrimages really, to significant locations of Slave keeping and the transactions relating to Enslavement. I wept after reading the accounts, especially the memories of his grandparents’ childhoods in the American South.
The putrid visage of hate and willful denial of the horror of slavery and its business dealings become front and center in my mind’s eye and I cannot will myself to turn away. Smith requires we look and examine in gritty detail the monstrous dealings of our collective past.
It leaves me in wonder. I am white (duh). I know these people. Although I assumed I grew up buffered from racism, I experienced the shadow of it as it passed by. I would hear the slight aside, see the sneer, the cruel nose wrinkle as the efficiency of mannerism disregarded and dismissed the “other”. My experience as a white person by definition was outside the understanding of how intrinsically racist our country is.
From safely inside of my tribe, spending time in the Deep South, I do understand all too well the unfettered hatred levied unto those the whites did not understand or viewed as the other. And once the other was demeaned and neutered, contempt was delivered unto those they disrespected.
But what oh what is the cure?
We cannot go on like this, anymore than the COVID-19 deniers can elude the virus. Racism must stop. It is much like COVID-19. It will kill us if we do not eradicate it.
Those of us Americans of European descent need to look at this grotesque past. Acknowledge it and do our best to heal the wounding caused by those who came before us. At least to stop more injury. Places of unjust incarceration, police brutality, housing ghettos need to change.
North Phillie, the Florida Panhandle, Angola, my god the list is endless. Black bodies piled up like cordwood. What are we thinking? The legacy of the Trump administration, giving voice to a grievance based in entitlement and fear, is a profoundly clear reflection of our racist past and present. It need not be our future. We can change. We can begin again as a nation, work towards equity and kindness.