Justice is blind – think about that as an image for a moment. The institution created to dispense justice, maintain civil order, protect the interests of the people – all people – bears the likeness of a blind woman holding a set of scales. In this post-holiday musing, let’s take the notion a step further, bringing a bit of color to the proceedings. What if the blindfold covering the eyes of the great mistress of justice was an American flag?
It makes sense, using a folded symbol of the country, wrapped over itself multiple times to insure that the blindness of justice is as complete as possible. And while we’re at it, how about making sure that the color most visible after careful and ordered creasing, is the darkest, the blue?
It is all about the blues, right? Blues people versus the blue line of defense, the army of peace and justice, girded in blue.
Whenever I think about the patriotic fervor that overtakes us on National holidays, I reflect upon my own feelings about flag and country. I suppose I do so even more now, in the midst of an election cycle, a never-ending nightmare of a tale, with a presumed nominee who has been so out-spoken about turning away would-be immigrants and people from the Middle East, brandishing his presumed privilege as a white male American to build walls and put his “undesirables” on swift boats pointed as far away from our shores as possible.
But I wonder, what is it about this son of Scottish immigrants, a fairly recent American himself, that makes him the arbiter of who is, or can be, American? How American is he?
If we’re going to engage in a pissing match over qualifications for being considered “American,” well, Mr. Trump, I think I’ve got you beat by a long shot. My grandmother’s grandfather was the first freedman in our line, a line which, I’m sure goes even further back than that, but let’s just start there, for argument’s sake, shall we. That takes my family claim to this “American” brand back several generations.
Over a hundred years under the blind rule of justice.
I’m returning to justice, that irritating ideal, because we love to speak of blindness from the perspective of color-blindness, as in, that is the only way we can make sure everyone gets treated equally, but after all this time, can’t we just admit that argument is complete bullshit.
How about recognizing that being American and a believer in truth and justice, and truly invested in fairness, is to admit that blindness if a failing, a decided lacking in perception? I believe that, as a black American, it would be far better to see, to use our eyes and all of our critical faculties to accept this inherent “American” failing. I see it and in speaking of it now, I do not believe that somehow this makes me any less American. In fact, it makes me a better (albeit still imperfect) American and human to accept responsibility.
I am the American, the ultimate American – the kind that exists in some alternative comic book universe, the put-upon hero always risking life and limb for others, while accepting the scorn of the public because it is the right thing to do.
What makes me dare to claim to be heroic?
I am a college graduate. A husband and stepfather of two daughters. A man moving gracefully into middle age with an active mind and an open heart, but oh that heart, it bears the weight of a healthy cynicism, because it comes in a body that has been constantly mis-represented and mis-understood.
My body does not look college educated to the casual passerby. My body does not look like a husband and stepfather, even in the presence of my wife and stepdaughters. My body has been at the business end of a policeman’s gun for no reason, potentially moments away from being rendered a lifeless body. My body has endured the assault of a drunk, belligerent white woman who felt the need to tell me that I had no right to be in the same bar as her. My body stared in rage as her equally drunk boyfriend tried to defend her outburst with an apology that barely scratched the surface of his own guilt.
My body is the real symbol of America. The red, white and blues. The stars from getting beat upside the head and heart. The bars confining a body and mind.
That is why it is sad and frustrating to hear not just the Trumps of the world bellowing on in the aftermath of recent racial strife, the empty condolences of politicians, and most importantly, the reminders of privileged liberals/progressives who endeavor to remind us of how much the world has changed. Privileged folks always sing this refrain, but never consider the idea that nothing has changed for them, so how can they understand or appreciate whether or not things have truly changed for others less privileged?
I am privileged. To be alive after the situations I mentioned. To be the man that I am, coming from where I’m from. But I can guarantee that no white man of comparable age, stature, and circumstance would want the kind of privilege that I’m living with. No way is he trading his privilege for mine, because the world hasn’t changed that much, has it?
Open your eyes, America…