THE RESIDUE OF REJECTION — BEING BLACK IN AMERICA
If you’re struggling to understand why Black Lives Matter, read on…
For those struggling to understand why the Black community is so upset that many white people (particularly those in positions of authority and leadership) won’t acknowledge that Black Lives Matter, this article is for you.
Before I share my observations, I will make a case for the importance of wisdom, ignorance, empathy, curiosity, and creativity.
It should be noted that I understand I hit the birth lottery by being born white in America. It should also be noted that I can’t speak to what it actually means to be a Black man in America, but I can speak to what it means to be both a man and a Father in America and I think that alone qualifies me to write this article on this Father’s Day in the year 2020.
I’m not an expert but I’m insatiably curious. And because I believe curiosity is a superpower, I’ll take being curious over being an expert any day.
I came to this conclusion by studying what many of the great philosophers, scientists, mystics, and spiritual teachers have said about themselves over the period of thousands of years.
The overwhelming majority of the great thinkers of the world have been for the most part humble. I believe they have also been empathetic. Even those strong in their own opinion would listen to and debate the merits of dissenting opinions.
Phrases such as the following have created the foundation for a place of discussion about what plagues the world as we have come to know it today.
“All I know is that I know nothing” is a phrase often attributed to Socrates but was most likely shared by Plato in an account about what he believed Socrates said. The phrase is also known as the Socratic paradox. The importance of this phrase could easily be lost in trying to determine its accuracy.
Understanding that life holds both gits and lessons, we can appreciate the gift of the words and be curious about the lesson. If one is willing to begin with the understanding that we don’t know what we don’t know, then we can begin the conversation from a place of curiosity instead.
All wisdom begins with wondering…
Knowledge is derived by dialogue and learning occurs when we become willing to learn about something that differs from our understanding of it. Knowledge builds upon itself and the truth is discovered through experimentation and curiosity.
The truth comes from asking “what if” questions and by remaining open to what’s discovered, not what’s expected. Bias is what happens when we look for results that match our beliefs, or preconceived ideas.
Being open to new possibilities is what has allowed us to grow as a species. “What if” questions have led to countless societal advances such as flight, wireless communication, and the internet.
Curiosity is a superpower. Judgement destroys both curiosity and possibility.
“Be curious, not judgmental.” -Walt Whitman
What I have discovered by being insatiably curious, is that minds like Einstein’s realized the power of both curiosity and imagination. Einstein gave credit to his own success by describing his willingness to stay with a problem just a little longer than the next scientist. He’s often credited as saying “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I stay with the problems longer.”
He is also often quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And in context, the phrase makes perfect sense too. Einstein was noted as saying “at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason” which led to his now famous statement about creative work in science.
It should be noted that Einstein also said, “The greatest scientists are artists as well.” Einstein’s insight came from intuition and inspiration not from logic or mathematics. It doesn’t mean he didn’t use them to prove his ideas, he did. It’s just not where his inspiration came from.
It is at this juncture of Inspiration and Curiosity that my mind and the mind of Einstein meet. I have no real interest in physics other than a healthy respect and fascination for the inner connectedness of it. I am not and have no interest in ever becoming a mathematician or a physicist. I am however, as I stated earlier, insatiably curious.
It is my insatiable curiosity that compelled me to write this article today. I have stood by over the last several weeks, months, and years in my “white silence” and I can simply be silent no more.
I have a voice and because of this gift, I have been called to do my own small part to raise awareness for the plight of the Black American. No one reached out and asked me to say something. No, instead, the still small voice within welled up and demanded I take action by trying to empathetically shed some light on the dark history of our past and the ensuing silence that has permeated the fabric of our great flag and our country.
In order to understand something, we must at least make space for empathy. We don’t even have to be empathetic; we must merely create the space. This article is an attempt to at least create the space for a conversation to begin…
I write about societal matters of intrigue and importance. I consider myself to be a conscious conversationalist open to the ideas of others both conservative and progressive if they are based in the humanity of our species.
I’m not interested in debating opinions or the rightness or wrongness of things as they are, but instead hope to discuss things as they might possibly be. I am both hopeful and pragmatic.
I believe if we give ourselves permission to become serious, we might just discover we are all more alike than we are different.
For example, I believe every Black father wants the same fundamental things for his children and family that every white father does. And when I say fundamentals, I mean the chance to actually grow up in America with the opportunity for a good education free from violence and oppression, enough food in the pantry or refrigerator to make sure the basic needs of his family are being met, and the understanding that when his children leave the safety of their home to venture out into the world, they will return home unharmed and better for having experienced life outside their own neighborhood.
Unfortunately, this is not our present reality. That does not mean it is not possible as a future reality. The systemic racism and poverty that is a stain on our society was not created by accident. It was created to keep an entire segment of our society in its place below the rest of white society. It was created with purpose and intention and the creation of this oppressive ideal is available for all to see in the history of our country. It is in the books, and the stories, and the movies, and the videos, and it has been hiding in plain sight for years for everyone to see. It has been hiding in the only place it was safe.
I will use an analogy to describe what I will call white blindness. It is the same analogy many psychologists, coaches, and counselors use to help their clients see the truth.
The truth is often the place we must start if we are interested in making real and lasting changes in our lives. If we are interested in change, we must at least know where we are to begin the process.
We have for so many years pretended that a problem doesn’t exist, we have developed what might be described as an immunity to the problem. We have created immunity with white privilege and color blindness.
Color blindness is a form of white blindness. It happens when we refuse to look at an issue from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. It happens when we say, “it’s not my problem.” It happens when we “turn a blind eye” to what we know is still going on in America and pretend everything is “fine” the same way we answer a question about how we are doing during the current crisis facing the world right now. A friend asks how you are, and you say “fine.”
Saying we’re fine when we’re not is the same thing we do when we pretend, we don’t have a problem in this country, a problem that was not of our making, but a problem we inherited, nonetheless.
The systemic racism of our country goes back hundreds of years and there are many in our society unfortunately who wish things had never changed. If you are one of them, I do not hate you, I pity you instead. You are stuck in the past and the only outcome for you is your own ignorance and unfortunately you will probably have to wallow in it until you are gone from this planet.
This article wasn’t written for you…
I took the time to write this article to address those who might come to the place of empathy and look into your own soul and ask the hard questions about how we move forward together to make this country not great again, but truly great for the first time.
Considering all that exists in this beautiful United States of America, it is no wonder that even though we have all of our challenges, there are still hundreds of people literally risking death just for the opportunity to get into our country every single day. A great question to ask is why?
Why would people risk their lives to get into a country with a history of oppression? It’s simple really, as bad as our history is, it’s leaps and bounds above what exists in most other countries, at least as it relates to freedom. As it relates to freedom, there is no other country in the world like America.
This is the same freedom that was promised to Black Americans decades ago, that is only just now once again coming to the surface because of the recent death of an unarmed Black man caught on tape for the world to see. If you believe racism isn’t rampant in our country and across the world, then you might ask yourself why there are protests not just in America, but across the globe?
The residue of rejection is like the residue of vomit in a thick shag carpet. You can clean it up and it looks fine on the surface, but the stench of it remains and the stain will never go away.
That is the stain of racism. That is the stain that Black Americans have finally decided they will no longer tolerate, and it is the stain that has kept our great nation divided for long enough.
The time has come now for us to finally come together, to stand together, side by side, black and white, just like the keys on a piano. Can you imagine a piano without black keys? I can’t. And just like I can’t imagine a piano without black keys, I can no longer imagine an America without Black men standing next to white men with equal importance just as the keys of the piano are equally important to the sound that is music.
The time has come now for us to say no more. The time has come now for us to stand up, stand together, and stand up for one another so that together we can make America truly Great for the first time. It’s time to sing a new song!
We can start by singing an old song, My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring!
And if you doubt any of what I have offered so far, you should know there was also an Abolitionist’s version of this song written in 1843, by A. G. Duncan that demonstrates just how far we’ve come and just how far we have yet to go…
Our time has come now…
The influential voices of my earliest years were silenced forever the same way thousands of other voices have been silenced across America over the years. They were murdered.
In the first decade of my life, three of the greatest voices of that time were silenced. On November 22, 1963 the first voice was silenced. On April 4, 1968 the second voice was silenced. And just to make sure the Dream that had been building and growing across the land would be crushed forever, the third voice was silenced on June 6, 1968. It’s time for the silence to stop!
Our time has come now…
I’m not suggesting some grand conspiracy. I’m simply stating dates and facts. I will leave the conspiracy conversation to the theorists and the speculators. It should be noted however that the leadership of our country at the time (60’s) was moving in the right direction to bring about the change our great nation so desperately needed. This change was not popular with many of the people in power who were threatened by the idea of equality. This change has been slow and at times almost imperceptible over the last 5 decades. Its time has finally come…
Our time has come now…
On May 25, 2020, a date which will live in infamy, America watched the culmination of hundreds of years of oppression come to a sudden and traumatic conclusion as George Floyd gasped for breath in the video that captured a now fired and officially charged Minneapolis Police Officer kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes while George pleaded for his very life and other officers stood by and watched.
And in the civil unrest that naturally unfolded after this horrific incident, the leader of our nation was absent. And as the peaceful protests grew as they naturally should in a country built on a promise of freedom and justice for all, instead of providing leadership for the country, our leader instead employed jack-boot tactics reminiscent of the the Nazi oppressive regime that silenced millions…
Our time has come now…
Peaceful protesters outside the Whitehouse, exercising their constitutional rights, were suddenly and deliberately attacked by forces of the government. The entire incident was captured on video and as the world watched, the movement grew… Demonstrations began in other countries across the globe in solidarity with the protesters in America.
No one is claiming George Floyd was a saint. What both they and I and we are claiming though, is that he was a human being and that’s all that matters.
The hope that once existed in this great country, the dream of an America “deeply rooted in the American Dream, the dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” that dream, a dream delayed but not forgotten, has been reborn… It’s a shame it has taken so long and it’s a shame it had to come at such a costly price…
Our time has come now…
To end the rhetoric of those that would have us be divided and fighting amongst ourselves instead of standing strong and playing together the way Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once envisioned for his children. The same way the ebony and ivory keys of the piano are played to create music that moves the soul, so can we come together as a country united in a Dream delayed, but not forgotten…
Our time has come now… Won’t you join me?
Written by Bobby Kountz for ALL the Father’s in America on this Father’s Day, June 21, 2020. It has been suggested that Hope is not a strategy, I submit in this case, it is… Let the healing begin…