This is not how I expected to kick off this new year.
I’m not writing as a journalist or a critic, not at this moment. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m an American. A Black man watching my country in the tightening and desperate grasp of other citizens who mean harm, who are not protesting for anything other than a desire to flaunt the extent of their privilege. I am not alone watching these events. The world is watching.
The world has watched such sorry situations in the past. Citizens saw police attack peaceful protesters with water fired from high-powered hoses and attack dogs, officers with billy clubs beating marchers on bridges and city streets.
We’ve seen video footage of multiple police officers surround and beat Black men senseless, fire multiple shots at defenseless Black bodies, choke the life out of Black bodies with batons and knees. We all, every cognizant person of legal age, have these images available to us on our phones, tablets, computers, and smart screens.
But the situation is now dire because insurrectionists, led by a President and certain members of a political party, have stormed the Capitol as Congress sought to conduct the ceremonial business of certifying the count of the Electoral College and recognizing the will of the people. And again, we’re watching it happen.
This is not White House Down (with a Black President at the helm) or Olympus Has Fallen (the first installment of an ongoing franchise). This is not Nat Turner or John Brown projected on the big screen. Cable news has multiple split-screens of action going on at once, like Mike Figgis time-coding the story of us that first time. Images have appeared of random agitators dishonoring the inner-most chambers with their very presence.
I also am watching largely angry white folks acting out without consequence and I am wondering what the scene would have looked like if these folks had been Black or brown, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities. In the case of possible Black and brown people running wild in Congress, the halls would have waves of blood rising higher and higher for days.
I think it might be better to consider what I would rather see right now.
What fantasy would make me happy, grant me some sense of safety and security that I have probably never truly experienced before as a citizen of this country? Would it feel good to see white bodies littering the steps of the Capitol?
That’s what some of these folks imagine Black people want. We’re the dangerous ones, the wild animalistic pack that need to be beaten down and tamed. We’re the ones who, as teenagers, rape women in parks and deserve the death penalty, right? We would, without question, want to do harm and worse to others, those who haven’t given us basic consideration as human beings.
There’s an internal struggle in me, as these thoughts and images flood my consciousness. Do I want to see white folks treated the way Black people have been mistreated? Would that restore some sense of order?
The truth is a complicated thing, an ever-changing mood like a face with a slapped cheek whiplashed as the other cheek gets pummeled by an oppressive fist. Back and forth, until beaten to a bloody and ugly pulp. That is the truth.
That’s the one that makes no sense. How to reconcile a moment of insurrection that is not just a moment or a lifetime or generations of injustice? The Constitution, the beloved document of the nation, had inequality and injustice sewn into its very DNA. The land we profess to love and stand beside has been nurtured with the blood, the actual life blood of folks who weren’t considered citizens, whose descendants, like me, still question the nature of our relationship with this abusive country.
Does America love me? Has America ever shown love, on any screen, for folks on the lower frequencies? Does America want reconciliation with me and my forefathers?
I like to believe that every day I live and walk outside my door into the world, I represent some measure of truth and reconciliation. I’m still here. I am the truth the country doesn’t want to acknowledge. I am the reconciliation of past and present. The future is unknown, potentially devoid of both truth and reconciliation.