Actually, This IS the America You’ve Always Lived in

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image from The New Yorker

Guest Post by Nate Mezmer

We are not in “the end of days.” Nor are we anywhere near “the mountain top.

For everyone that’s “shocked” by “what’s been happening lately”, I feel you, but nah. This is par for the course. For Black folks, America has always been a hazardous navigation with racist cops and water-cannons, bigoted institutions and poor legal representation. For most of our history you couldn’t even play on the course if you were “colored” (pretty sure we still have plenty of “country clubs” like that ). Today, the tee is still set about a hundred yards back with more than sandtraps lying in wait.

Somebody call Bagger Vance for advice!

America is a deeply wounded vessel. As Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson has put it, “our country is like a really old house. I love old houses. I’ve always lived in old houses. But old houses need a lot of work. And the work is never done. And just when you think you’ve finished one renovation, it’s time to do something else. Something else has gone wrong.” So when the storm comes and once again floods the basement in our old house, we have to go into the basement and deal with the damage. If we choose to ignore what’s down there, it will only fester, and we will sleep in that denial at our own peril. Much like a person that represses the memory of abuse.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin

Think about a person who was molested as a child. Or someone that was hurt very badly in an abusive relationship. How long does it take to “get over it”? Many of us struggle with these afflictions and never overcome them. The pain is too much to bear so we turn to anger, addiction, violence, fear, and self-hate. Even when we exorcise such demons it takes years of personal development, therapy, and self-love. Still the wounds remain. That in a sense is the History of this country. But in this case it’s 400 years of people of color being systematically harassed, profiled, targeted, beaten, battered, brutalized, demonized, institutionalized, lynched, raped, and killed. Then after all of that, White America in a generic sense turns around and says to Black America, “get over it.” If your sister or mother were raped or beaten, would you say to “get over it,” or dismiss their pain because “that was a long time ago.” That’s a very cold and loveless way of living and that’s exactly how America has been functioning for generations.

image from The Root

As Dr. Cornel West explains to his “vanilla brothers and sisters” that “walk with him” and tell him that they have transcended racism:

“And I say to them, I’m a Jesus-loving, free, black man, and I’ve tried to be so for 55 years, and I’m 62 now, and when I look in the depths of my soul I see white supremacy because I grew up in America. And if there’s white supremacy in me, my hunch is you’ve got some work to do too.”

Indeed, the sickness of White Supremacy inflicts all of us. In many ways, White America is the most deeply poisoned. Falsely made to believe that we are above other human beings because of skin color, hair texture, or facial features. Even those of us White folk who are “woke” must admit that we are infected. From when we are very little we are all brainwashed by a society that’s constructed on the lies of racial supremacy. This type of evil is insidious and eats away at everything it touches. We can work to exorcise it from us but if we pretend that it is totally expelled we are foolishly unprepared for its return from remission. Because even as we move forward with renewed strength it’s lessons reflect in the rear view where objects are always closer than they appear.

This is on full display when Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted out of context and his death falsely remembered as some sort’ve strange Civil Rights victory that happened “a long time ago.” Yet, his assassination (at 39) certainly did not bring about an end to oppression, nor was it that long ago, either. Many of our parents were young adults when it happened. My mom had just turned 18. This is the world we were born into. I grew up with Rodney King being beaten by White cops that got off. I remember the Live footage of the riots that ensued. Sadly, Eric Garner’s life being snatched from his lungs by that thug cop Daniel Pantaleo was not something out of the ordinary. It was simply caught on film. Like Walter Scott shot in the back. Or Alton Sterling shot in the chest. Infinitely more incidents were not caught on tape, like Sandra Bland (found dead in her cell) or Freddie Gray (dead in the back of a police van). In most of these cases the killers were never brought to justice.

Note: As of the today, Daniel Pantaleo is still employed by the NYPD, reportedly making $120,000 per year working a desk job.

image from Wired

These are just a few glaring examples of how the system continues to work. There’s thousands of other examples that do not receive front page attention but are just as devastating. Like the hundreds of thousands of souls who remain caged behind bars, many tortured daily in solitary confinement, over-sentenced in the 80s and 90s for non-violent crimes. #TheNewJimCrow.

“Slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison/ if you think I am bullshitting then read the 13th amendment.” – Killer Mike

This is what these confederate statues represent. This is what “Make America Great Again” stands for. President Agent Orange (as Busta Rhymes called 45) and Steve Bannon have simply remixed the Good Ol’ Boys hazard flag and put it more neatly on a red hat. It’s a not so subtle dog whistle. BUT THIS IS NOT NEW. This is not “Donald *rump’s America.” This is America. In 1991, Bill Clinton also announced that he was going to “Make America Great Again.” As a Democratic president he pushed racist policies of discrimination to appear “tough on crime.” Reagan did the same. There’s an obvious pattern here. Pretending otherwise is insanity. Face the hard truth: Our country, and it’s systems, have been built on a history of racial oppression and terror. Hopefully we have begun to understand that these wounds are not going to heal just because we elect a Black president. White Supremacy is a much too elaborate and clever system that’s been re-designed and re-engineered over generations to fool White people into believing that they should choose people of color as the enemy instead of face their own demons. Certainly, it is built to facilitate division so that the ruling elites continue to keep working-class and poor whites from rising up with black and brown. It’s also built to keep Middle Class Whites comfortable with our privilege, perhaps disturbed by acts of overt Racism but in denial of our latent participation, and thus not ready to take up the cause of becoming a true ally in the fight for Justice.

But that’s a lot to think about. Why stress on all of that? When instead you can have a beer (or take some pills) and watch Football. Your favorite player is black and for now he stands obedient for the anthem just like you.


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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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