Sometimes, I really do seriously think about leaving this place. America, that is. I look around at the mess that we have all collectively made of it, and I wonder if it can ever be improved upon in any real and permanent way. Sometimes, I think that it can’t.
But where would I go? I ask myself. In typical American fashion, I never became fluent in a foreign language when I was younger. I can barely remember anything from the seven years of French I took, from middle school to my sophomore year in college. I know a little about a few other countries and their cultures–France, Australia, Brazil, Cuba, South Africa–but not enough to navigate anyplace other than here effectively.
And, anyway, I don’t want to live in France. After the terrorist attack last year, “President François Hollande imposed [a] raft of supposedly temporary security measures within hours of the attacks, while the country was reeling from the bloodbath.”
According to Time Magazine, these new rules “allowed police to raid houses across the country for the first time during nighttime hours, and with little judicial oversight; place suspects under house arrest for months; ban street demonstrations; and monitor millions of people’s communications.”
I don’t need to move across an ocean to witness a government let its Islamophobia get the better of it when Trump will be in office in a month.
I don’t want to live in Australia, either. Apparently, anti-black bigotry is as common a problem there as it is here in America, and there is not even a public conversation in which blacks can articulate their issues and experiences to a wide audience, not that a large percentage of white Australians seem interested in listening anyhow.
Racism is a problem in Brazil, too. Afro-Brazilians make up 53% of the population, but they are still subject to the same sort of unjustified police brutality that blacks experience in the US. Among other things.
Castro made the topic of racism taboo on political stage in Cuba by declaring that the Revolution had ended it with desegregation and socialized medicine and education; however, political leadership in Cuba, which is two-thirds black and black biracial, is 70% white. There is a racial economic divide in Cuba as tourism has led to the whitewashing of hotel and restaurant staffs, and the government has granted more economic support to white small business owners, who are more likely than blacks to have connections to the government or business connections outside of Cuba.
And, despite Trevor Noah’s rhapsodizing about the improved race relations in South Africa post-apartheid, Geoffrey York reported, in The Globe and The Mail, in 2015:
Twenty years after the death of apartheid, there are signs that racism is mounting a comeback – if it ever went away. In Cape Town, there are widespread reports that some restaurants and landlords discriminate against blacks, refusing to let them book tables or rent houses. The prejudice has become so blatant that one resident has gone onto Facebook to post a list of non-discriminatory restaurants, so that blacks know where to take their business.
In several notorious cases in comfortable middle-class suburbs, blacks were violently attacked by white residents who falsely accused them of being prostitutes or criminals. At least 16 such cases of racial violence have occurred recently in the Western Cape alone, according to one local court.
For their part, some whites see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination, because of South Africa’s policies of affirmative action and black economic empowerment. Some claim they are victims of a “white genocide” because of the large number of murders of white farmers – although studies have found that the murders are mostly motivated by robbery, rather than racial hatred.
Some whites have even tried to rewrite history. One of the country’s most famous Afrikaner singers, Steve Hofmeyr, triggered a storm of outrage recently when he tweeted that “blacks were the architects of apartheid.”
A lot of my commenters over the last few days have wanted to know why I am so critical of black leaders when so many of them were so incredibly courageous and accomplished so many amazing things for us–their offspring.
My answer is that I am not necessarily critical of them; I am really just trying my hardest to think up a method or collection of methods to improve the condition of black people in America.
I am reflecting backward on what has worked (or has not) so I can extrapolate what might work for us next or now.
Because I don’t really want to leave this country. Obviously. This country is my home. My ancestors earned my right to exist here just like the bellicose, bewigged forefathers of my fellow white citizens earned theirs.
Plus, there is nowhere I can go where my black skin and/or American origins will not have a negative or complicating effect on how I am treated.
Even in Africa, ethnic diversity and tribalism make it extremely difficult for blacks to get along with each other, and imperialism has made many Africans every bit as westernized as American blacks are, as demonstrated by their willingness to be corrupt, violent, and oppressive in leadership.
So I cannot flee the burdens of my blackness there. Or anywhere.
I cannot flee my blackness itself. That is the bottom-line here. I cannot flee my blackness, and I don’t want to flee my blackness or, again, my country, despite how consistently and catastrophically it fails my people.
And, if I stay here, I cannot flee my fear for my future; I cannot flee the flaws and failures of our government; and I cannot flee the tragic knowledge that for all our heroes did for us, there is still so much left for us to do.
And I am so angry. I feel trapped by my allegiance not to Trump’s America, but my America.
Morrison wrote, “I am Beloved, and she is mine.” Well, I am America, and it is mine, just as much as anyone else’s. I want it on terms that are not just survivable or livable, but in which I can be whole, safe, and happy.
So I will not flee from working through my own thoughts and ideas of how to obtain those terms. I feel that is my duty as a black person and writer and feminist and teacher. I will not flee from sharing any thoughts or ideas I think might be helpful or allow me to connect with other people searching, like me, for something meaningful to do in response to our history and White America’s hatred.
I will not flee from venturing into miry philosophical or intellectual territory or unpopular territory or contentious territory, if it can get me to a more useful set of thoughts and ideas.
I will not flee from dialogue, no matter how heated, with other inspired, passionate, and thinking black people about how we can get to better psychical, communal, and economic spaces.
Hopefully, I will get to participate, in a massive group of us, in a movement that makes all those iconized black men and women of prior movements tip their hats to us from Heaven.
Hopefully. One of these days.