Apology to my African-American brother
today at 8:00 am
I thought long and hard about writing this post. How do I justify or authenticate an exhortation that cries out for indignation and protest against the racial violence that consumes our country when I am writing this from my plush condo overlooking the lake?
And then it comes to me. That is the point of it, the desperate need to speak out from a vantage point that is not a makeshift desk in a four-flat in Englewood!
I take up the cause because I represent all of us with open-hearts, yet faint of heart, taking refuge behind the justifiable concerns of our rational minds: I don’t have the credentials; nobody is going to listen to me anyway; what good will come out of it compared to the risk of some troglodyte MAGA fanatic insulting my lineage, citing my membership in a deep state conspiracy of Jews and dybbuks and accusing me of running a child pornography ring out of a pizza shop.
Better to keep quiet.
Yes, we sympathize with the broken-hearted mothers wearing Black Lives Matter tee-shirts; we feel for the generations of children with second rate educations and stunted opportunities; we are appalled by violence in marginalized neighborhoods and the despair that seeps into the lives of millions of families struggling to survive income inequities, food deserts, health discrepancies and a continuing, unrelenting Jim Crow mindset still pervasive in America.
But better to keep quiet.
Of course we admire the exemplars who decried bigotry and advocated with their lives in behalf of equality and diversity and brotherhood, but really, isn’t it a bit far-fetched to think we’re going to trade in our manicured lawns and expensive condominiums for a rehab in Garfield Park or North Lawndale.
If we speak out, the foul comments aroused on Twitter will be sickening; it will be a shitstorm of insults and threats.
But the start of this week has headlined more disturbing events, final straws that compel me to speak out. I ask you; how can we keep quiet any longer?
Coronavirus is devastating African American communities. CDC data reveals that one third of COVID-19 infections and deaths nationwide have affected black Americans, although blacks represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population. The environments where most live, the jobs they have, the prevalence of health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and the lack of adequate medical treatment have created a toxic storm of severe illness and death.
The shooting death in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery has added another entry to the list of unjustified murders of black men by white vigilantes or police officers; rest in peace Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner.
The election of a rabid Trump fanboy to union president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, an often-suspended and currently sidelined cop with 35 complaints against him for personnel violations. Imagine the dismay in the black community to have this officer heading up the police union, even as he is under investigation by the department on allegations related to the 2018 march protesting police violence.
So I ask again, what can we white people do?
Do our homework!
Acknowledge the true history of the continent’s colonial origins which exterminated 33,000,000 indigenous peoples in the name of God, Gold and Glory.
Reexamine your benign schoolboy education that glossed over the heinous wrong of slavery with ballads about the Boll Weevil sung by Uncle Remis.
Reject out of hand the insidiousness of “polygenism” the pseudoscientific ideas about race that distorted the collective American subconscious with the bullshit theory of supposed black inferiority. Such pernicious thought exists today despite the advent of modern DNA science, which has shown humans share about 99.9 percent of their DNA with each other, and outward physical characteristics such as hair texture and skin color, about which racists have long obsessed, occupy just a tiny portion of the human genome.
Stop being quiet. Stop being indifferent. Look deep inside and see our own potential for racism… and recognize it as the bleeding, original sin of our country that has been allowed to fester.
Do your homework.
Stream “13th” on Netflix, a 2016 documentary by director Ava DuVernay that explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States.”
Ditto the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” a 2016 film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript.
Ditto “Where to invade next,” a documentary by Roger Moore which cites the mass incarceration of African-Americans for petty drug crimes, slavery in a new guise, he suggests, backed up with unsettling newscast images of black people being savagely abused by white police officers.
Read the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Guaranteed Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection” – nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Respectfully, I ask for forgiveness and submit this poem as a small offering of atonement:
Apology to my African-American brother
Some of my best friends are black.
Hold the snickers and ‘woke’ guy jokes.
I’ve been to wakes and weddings
And blessed am I
To have the colors scrubbed
Blind to the third eye.
Not wholly erased;
How can they be!
The stories my friends have shared
Make me want to strip the white
Off my privileged pale hide.
When you tell me the tales of horror
The words go through my ears
And travel into my body
Penetrating deep into my heart.
Swallowing me whole.
And I am not me
Listening to you.
I am you.
I am Black.
And I start to shutter with the fear
That now is mine.
Chained to the wall
In the basement of Comiskey Park
By a Chicago policeman
Who serves and protects
Dinner in a loop restaurant.
You the lone black man in the room.
Stares burning a hole our heads.
“What are you looking at? I mutter,
Knowing all too well.
Inspired by and dedicated to:
Lily, the gentle presence in my childhood who taught me that kindness and patience and the sweetest of dispositions have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
Marion, the Salutatorian of my high school class who taught me that intelligence and perseverance have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
Rufus, my teammate on the high school track team who taught me that humor and adaptability and team spirit have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
Barnsie, my army bunkmate and comrade in arms who taught me that forbearance, resilience, and humility have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
John, basketball icon, groundbreaking first Black head coach in professional basketball, inventor of the fast break and my partner, mentor, father figure who taught me that patience, competence, and character have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
Jolyn, my client, businesswomen and assertive female entrepreneur who taught me that trust, gratitude, and civility have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.
And especially, Brian, my brother of the soul, brilliant life coach and family patriarch who teaches me daily that courage, redemption, forgiveness, and love in all its purity have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.