America's Ugly Race Matters: This Is Exactly Who We Are, But We Can Change

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Cori Bush--this is how we make change. Photo: Wikimedia/Craig Currie

One of the prevailing sentiments heard often throughout the Trump presidency was, “This is not who we are”. I’ve heard those words spoken by politicians, political pundits and celebrities. The fact that the behavior of many Americans in their support of Trump came as a surprise to some is the very definition of “White Privilege”. For some, the plight of African Americans was just background noise. They didn’t see racism as still being an issue. Even as brutal killings of unarmed African Americans occurred many people claimed the police were only "doing their job."

Then came Charlottesville and Trump’s reaction to it. They heard the President of the United States define the types of immigrants deemed desirable to the US such as immigrants from Norway, versus the ones from “shithole” countries like Haiti, El Salvador and a variety of African nations. After the brutal murder of George Floyd, choked to death by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis with his knee, Trump retweeted a post from former Fox News host Glenn Beck that quoted African American Trump loyalist, Candace Owens saying, “the fact that (Floyd) has been held up as a martyr sickens me”. Lastly, the nation saw the National Guard called out on peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors so that Trump could have a photo-op with a bible upside down.

]Those are just a few of the events that awakened a sleeping America to the plight of their fellow Americans of color. Also, to their horror, many of their neighbors were not only okay with these events and the president’s reaction to them, they openly endorsed his points of view. Suddenly, America was confronted with militia groups, QAnon and a small glimpse into what is meant by “systemic racism”.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to most African Americans. Trump was saying the things out loud that White people had been taught to suppress. While Blacks always clearly saw what Whites may have viewed as subtle racism, Trump turned up the volume to full blast, allowing some to openly embrace their racism.

Even while so-called left leaning networks like MSNBC and CNN railed against Trump and the actions of some of his supporters, they usually refrained from identifying race as the dominant motivation of Trump supporters. Instead, we heard about the “legitimate grievances” of the White middle class. We heard pundits tell us that White women would save
the day. Nobody wanted to acknowledge the elephant in the room because America; right-wing or left-wing, Republican or Democrat, religious or agnostic, has never been able to reconcile its racist foundation. We’d rather break every mirror than see the reflection of our racist past and present.

Moving forward, we now have an opportunity for significant change. Trump brought the country’s condition into focus, adding clarity for those who could not or would not previously see the pervasive racism. Getting Trump out of office was just the first step. We must now ensure that Joe Biden repays his debt to us. To his credit, he has acknowledged African American’s role in putting him into office. Now we must keep the pressure on to ensure it doesn’t take another four years for his next acknowledgement—it must translate into concrete gains.

Another clear takeaway from this past Nov. 3 is that we must now focus the energy that we used to take to the streets of America in protest, to make change in our cities, counties and municipalities. More than presidential elections, the votes that influence our daily world the most are for sheriffs, judges, county clerks, state representatives and other local officials.

Local elections are not determined by an electoral college. If you don’t believe in the power of the ballot, talk to the folks in Ferguson, Missouri. After Michael Brown’s murder at the hands of a Ferguson police officer, local activists took over the Ferguson City Council which now is composed of four Black members and three White members.

The Council is presided over by the Honorable Ella M. Jones, a Black woman. Additionally, Black Lives Matters activist Cori Bush unseated a 20-year incumbent and became the first Black Congresswoman in Missouri history. Now that we’re all clear on who’s who, take a second to celebrate, then get to work.

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