Since the founding of America, our nation’s leaders — those perched along the upper tier of the power pyramid — have held fast to an ideology where racial differences define who we are and determine the levels and limits of both the opportunities and obstacles that we can inevitably expect. The color of one’s skin — Black or white — has been the essential factor that allows for a society replete with double standards, double-pronged sentencing structures and diametrically-opposed doorways and windows through which we’re “allowed” to enter in the search for personal achievement and financial and educational success.
This has always been the American way, even if from time to time, society has attempted to conceal its true colors and innermost beliefs by donning ankle-length cloaks, putting on colorful coats or escaping behind hoods of white where only their eyes could be seen.
As a little boy, I remember a jingle I’d say while playing with the neighborhood kids after school, uttered in jocular, sing-song fashion which I would later realize served as a means of indoctrinating children of color into “Racism American Style.”
It went this way: “If you’re white, you’re right, if you’re brown, you’re down, but if you’re Black, get back.” It was just something to say, I then assumed. But as I began to spread my wings and stepped out into the world, I learned that despite flowing phrases like “liberty and justice for all” which we repeated for our teachers every morning, being African American limited my access to the “American Dream” — a dream more reflective of a never-ending nightmare than a destination worth pursuing.
In the wake of multiple mass shootings now commonplace in the U.S., I fear that proposals more radical in content and therefore more effective in stemming the troubling tide by closing loopholes for gun shoppers and providing more substantive deterrents for those whose hatred of “the other” may lead them to both plan and implement acts of mass destruction, remain light years away from becoming the law of the land.
America must be willing to revoke rules and mores that have long invoked supremacy for some while oppression for others. Until then, if Bob, Mitch or Mikey pulls the trigger, their actions will undoubtedly be attributed to mental illness, unfortunate distortions in the brain or their flawed but understandable “fear of a Black (or brown) planet.”
But should the triggerman answer to names like named Roscoe, Roberto or Raheem, his future is certain — a quick execution and an epitaph confirming him as subhuman — a black- or brown-skinned “beast” — a threat to the status quo. In other words, he and others within his community must either be eliminated or extricated before more of their kind can successfully “infest” our hallowed land of red, white and blue.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we already know how to end the wave of mass shootings in America — a tsunami given license by today’s political pontificators — allowed to grow in size and becoming potentially more dangerous with every passing day. Leaders more concerned with “self” instead of the welfare of their constituents have lived under the veil of denial for so long that it has become comfortable, familiar and normative. We need real leaders today, willing to step out into the unknown and bring peace to a troubled nation — emboldened and unafraid to risk it all for all.
Let’s stop pretending. We know how to end domestic terrorism and derail the madness that lurks around the corner. We know America, influenced albeit indirectly or inadvertently by the current Administration, now finds itself locked in a war waged by white-skinned males desperate to maintain their place seat at the top — a position where, undeniably, “membership has its privileges.”
How long, I cannot say. But there will come a day of reckoning when childhood jingles that support notions of “white being right” will ring hollow in our ears — rhetoric finally debunked and erased from our collective memories. But then, who would we be? Would we still be America? And can we endure the change that’s going to come?