Over the past year, more than one member of my immediate family has been a victim of racial discrimination, and it ended with me when I clicked on my author website, the weekend of Martin Luther King’s holiday. Instead of seeing the book trailer I purchased, I see the IKEA monkey with the song “Dust in the Wind” playing the in background. That video is offensive because African Americans are often referred to as monkeys.
Coincidence? Possibly. But I have a hard time believing that because I had to ask myself, why this weekend of all weekends? And, was someone offended by my Afrocentric science fiction novel for young adults? After all, science fiction has been a literary genre reserved for White and Jewish male authors.
But that incident was like a single grain of sand on a crowded beach. My grandson was profiled by the police in California in August of 2016 when he made the mistake of going through the garbage where he was living temporarily to retrieve something he didn’t intend to throw away. That simple act resulted in the SWAT team, with military armament, arriving at his girlfriend’s grandmother’s house.
The entire block was cordoned off as the helicopters hovered in search of a 23 year old black man and his friend, who had already made their way to the beach. To make matters worse, the officers saw movement in the house and were about to enter, when they finally contacted the home owner by phone at work. She told them it was the dog moving about, but she was more fearful for her temporary boarder. My grandson’s only reaction was “It was a good thing we weren’t there. Because we would have been another hashtag on Black Lives Matter”.
The night following the presidential election, my daughter, who lives in Denver, took my youngest grandson with her to the grocery store. My grandson was one year old at the time. As she crossed the road to enter the store, she noticed two white women sitting in a parked car, and they appeared to be upset about something because one was crying. My daughter crossed in front of them when the driver revved her engine, and looked at my daughter like she had no right to cross the road when and where she chose.
My daughter turned to look back at her to make sure the woman saw her and my grandson, who she was holding in her arms. The driver rolled down her window and yelled out, “What’s the matter with you people. You act like we owe you something!” My daughter chose to ignore her because she didn’t want to get into an altercation with the women while she was holding the baby. That was when the passenger jumped out of the car, ran up on my daughter, got in her face and screamed “What the fuck is wrong with you, you black bitch?” My daughter pulled my grandson closer to her, because she was afraid the woman would hurt them both.
Thank the Lord for the noble. Because a white man stepped in between the two of them and asked the white woman, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” My daughter’s reaction? She couldn’t thank that white man enough. She was afraid. Not for herself, because she’s a scrapper, but for her son. She says she still tries not to imagine what would have happened had the unidentified white man not interceded. Especially considering there were a lot more people who stood by and watched the whole incident transpire, but chose not to get involved.
Once again the ugly menace of racial discrimination, known well among this country’s black communities, raises its ugly head. This spectre has been ever present in the history of this country. But since the election of Donald Trump as president, it has gotten worse. As a matter of fact, many African Americans would argue that what we are experiencing now is no better than the prior Jim Crow era in many aspects.
For instance, when the opioid epidemic grew in rural White America recently, the country rallied around the push to eliminate opioid addiction and to rehabilitate addicts, rather than imprison them. But where was this outcry and show of support for those suffering from opioid addiction in the 1980s, when the Black communities were reeling from the epidemic?
Is it possible that those travails that are prevalent in the white communities are seen as more pressing or more consequential than those in the African American communities? I would argue yes. And this time I don’t need to support my premise with articles that come to the same conclusion.
America is divided. Economically, ethnically, racially, and in so many other ways. What’s far too familiar about all this is White America’s outcry that African Americans are trying to take their jobs and their livelihoods. As Star Trek’s Spock would say, “Statistically, Captain, that would be impossible.” Unlike Detroit, which is 82% African American, Denver is only 15% African American. And even though African Americans in Denver have one of the highest rates of college graduates in this country, we still struggle to get that which is rightfully ours. Equal opportunity, without fear of reprisal or harassment.