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Black Lives Matter: At the Crossroads

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

Now the political education of the masses is seen to be a historic necessity.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

What you inherit, what you receive from a world that you did not fashion but that will do it's best to fashion you, is at once beautiful and repellent.

Stephen Greenblatt, New Yorker, 2017

Before May 25, 2020, America could and did turn its attention from the COVID-19 pandemic to the re-opening of cities and states. The tally of victims of the pandemic in the US revealed that the nation's black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations were being hit the hardest. Families, neighborhoods, and reservations saw a steady stream of victim after victim fall ill and die from the virus.

Pockets of white America took note and wondered, why they had to stay at home? What's the problem? Many took to the streets, carrying AR-15s and demanding a right to exercise their freedom. Seemingly oblivious to the deaths the virus left in its path among communities of color, these white Americans spoke of the necessity for hair cuts and for bar hopping. For the return to normal.

On May 25, 2020, something changed in America; however, the change didn't occur without the surfacing of a video capturing that old normal way some Americans were so eager to return to. In the video, there's a black man, George Floyd, and a white police officer. It's Floyd, face to one side, flat on the ground, and it's the officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee squarely situated on Floyd's neck. It's been more than two weeks now, and the America in a hurry to return to the norm, the great old days, has had to take a step back so the rest of us can finally weep openly. For many of us, nine minutes is long, yet not nearly as long as the over 400 years we have endured the normal. And that normal has always included a white knee on our necks.

We had to lose a life in so horrible a manner in order for America to look at us. Here us in pain. Look at what we experience, in board daylight, and in the long night of your American dream. Here us scream. Call out a collective, "I can't breathe." Look at what is done to black Americans when white America calls for safety and law and order. Look. Listen to when white America bows to the work of law enforcement in maintaining law and order. Watch us in anguish waste away in jails and prisons built to destroy our spirit. Listen to that narrative of our physical death ringing out in a hail of bullets penetrating our collective bodies. Because no one black life is alone if all black lives matter to us.

But that's not what the American narrative of violence wants Americans to believe. It's much preferred that we believe ourselves to be isolated, one from the other, and from those who have opened their eyes to see and think. I'm one of those Americans calling for the defunding of police departments throughout this country. I watched the way Freddie Gray was manhandled so that his neck snapped between two unconcerned police officers who dragged him to their patrol car.

Worse, is that no one was there in uniform for Freddie! No other human being was there for Freddie to show empathy. It was as if he were among "the enemy," somewhere in combat, somewhere on a battlefield. Alone with people who don't recognize his humanity.

The same for Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice.

Before this string of unarmed blacks killed by police, there were the lynching trees. A black woman, a black man, a teenager, alone in the center of a mob of "combatants." Black Americans have paid enough while America confiscates all the resources, all the land, the labor, only to manifest a bloody road that no one can truly live on, let alone, breathe on.

It's not just that black Americans are at a crossroad. America had come to the fork in the road, where "make America great again' is nothing more than a desire to revive familiar banners that reads, "A dead Indian is a good Indian," "For Whites Only," and "Mexicans are rapist."

What else is it that has been passed on to the four officers standing around George Floyd? What have they learned from their upbringing about the value of black lives? What did the officer who fired on Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend know, except that the man firing in self-defense and the woman beside him asleep were black?

It's the first lesson of a young school-age white child is to become American and a white American at that! All others are un-Americanwhat makes America not so great!

We are at a crossroads and perhaps we have to drag America with us. To turn back or continue forward on the path that guarantees our destruction is to insist in remaining at the center of a maddening storm. With the demise of the historically oppressed in American, the ideas of democracy and justice will crumble.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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