Asheville, North Carolina’s City Council voted to approve reparations two weeks ago to help salve the oozing wound of decades of slavery, racism and discrimination in their city.
It’s time for all of America to get on with doing the same.
But only if we are truly looking for something that will make a difference in America … Only if we really want to turn the key that will unlock us from our original sin … Only if we really want to live in a just, civil society where the playing field isn’t tilted 90 degrees against millions of our citizens … Only if we finally, once and for all realize that nothing gets us to higher, more righteous ground faster than Lady Liberty paying her astronomical debt, and investing in African-Americans.
Look, I type this through new, tired eyes. Admittedly, my road toward supporting reparations has been an all-too predictably slow and messy one, fraught with casual disregard.
I like to consider myself one of these enlightened, old, white guys, who has spent a privileged life, mostly on the right side of this never-ending battle for equality.
My mother wept big tears when Martin Luther King was murdered, and took the time to explain to me why.
My mother wept more big tears just two months later when Bobby Kennedy was murdered, and took the time to explain to me why.
I was 8 years old and processing these things as any white kid living in the Jersey suburbs would: This is the world I live in and ridiculously awful stuff happens — stuff that wrecks my mom. I’ll try to be careful to make sure no awful stuff happens to me, or to other important, nice people so my mom doesn’t have to cry anymore. Now, can I go outside and play?
Which, come to think of it, is instructive as we consider how 8-year-olds of today are processing this burning mess in America brought to you by the lifetime arsonist in the White House. It’s the only world they know and impossible to compare to anything they never lived through. My recommendation, grownups? Just keep hugging your kids though your tears. That’s the stuff that really counts and what they’ll always remember.
So here I was a man of enlightenment in the days after cops lynched George Floyd right, smack in the heart of America where everybody could see it.
Up until that point, I thought the police violence to African-Americans was over the top sometimes, but didn’t really give it more than the occasional passing sympathetic thought. There were so many other awful things that I was trying to wrap my brain around.
George Floyd’s murder drastically shuffled my priorities. It sickened me to the core and got me thinking.
In the days that followed Floyd’s lynching, the protests started in earnest. Good.
Me? I love protesting. Every time I get into the streets with my fellow Americans I feel better about myself and my country. Sitting on my entitled ass while the earth quaked and burped had as much to do with the mess we were in as anything.
Then some protestors started lighting stuff on fire and breaking things. In mere seconds my thoughts went to this: “Oh no, if you do that, you’ll lose support of white people.”
Yeah … I know. I hate myself that I reflexively went there. I am embarrassed admitting it to you now. But we’re being honest here, right white people? We know ourselves all too well. Or maybe we don’t want to really know ourselves at all. Either way, we always land at the default point where we will be deciding the rules, not you!
This time, though, I called out my bias. I unlocked a closed door and went back to really thinking. I landed here: Let it burn if it has to. Let it all burn, because we know once the fire goes out, so too does the cause. Both metaphorically and physically we have seen this happen time and time again through our history …
Go forward and elect an Obama … go 180 degrees backward and elect a Trump.
For decades, white people have kicked, screamed, beaten, burned, lynched and conducted themselves in myriad horrific ways before grudgingly “giving” black people what was rightfully already theirs.
You want to own property? Well, OK, but there will be limits.
You want the right to vote? OK, but only if we can make it as hard on you to do that as possible.
You want the right to good schools? Forget it. Our tax dollars need to go to tanks we’ll never use. National security don’t you know. Don’t you want to be safe?
You want the right to drink out of that water fountain? Well, OK, but I’m not sure what was wrong with your water fountain.
You want the right to sit where you want to on a bus? Well, OK, if you are going to make a big deal about it, we suppose so.
You want the right to good jobs? There is no right to that. Go back to your crummy schools …
John Lewis died two Saturdays ago and is the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. I have seen no greater man in my lifetime …
The very least I can do to honor his legacy is to finally help get us the hell over that bridge toward reparations.