O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free”)
Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes, 1935
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Black Lives v. Any Other Lives
Although it has been said so many times, this season certainly warrants this clarification: There are no hierarchies in the value of lives – all lives are, in fact, important and all lives MATTER. Most importantly, though – in this season of terror, of seemingly grossly toxic levels of white privilege, and of outright hypocrisy – BLACK LIVES MATTER and our nation needs to focus on the tragic levels of multi-generational trauma imposed upon the black community through economic, social, and political machinations. Calling out culturally hegemonic, socially normative dynamics is not anti-white; to interpret speaking up as anti-white is to accept a false dichotomy imposed upon us by those who refuse to acknowledge that status quo no longer sustainable. Calling out the hypocrisy is slapping the oppressor in the face and letting them know that their ways can no longer stand. Moreover, the problem within a society shaped so profoundly by capitalist values is that most every challenge is seen through the zero-sum lens. There are winners and there are losers; there are the haves and the have nots. And within the realm of race, blackness remains conceptually the polar opposite of whiteness in the minds of many that leaves the concept of whiteness open to political manipulation due to radicalization.
Radicalization is a process which includes rejection of any reason other than that which supports the belief system of a cultural group. Think for a moment about 2nd Amendment gun culture. Why does owning a gun often equate to a predominantly white culture which includes varying degrees of defiance of governmental authority? In its milder form, I argue radicalization describes the dynamic of Dan Kahan’s Politically Motivated Reasoning Paradigm. PMRP goes to the core of why people make decisions positing that people seek to protect their social positions and their status notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary. In this context, responding to Black Lives Matter with Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter sends a clear message that anyone who states the latter does not at all acknowledge the depth of the former. Not to mention, what of the Black Lives that are in Blue uniforms? When radicalization permeates group dynamics, then intergroup dynamics are made all the more challenging. If ALL lives matter, then why are Black ones quickly discarded within the justice system? Why are contacts between law enforcement and the black community so quick to escalate to lethal force? No human being in America in the 21st century should be compelled to repeatedly assert their right to exist yet this is where, as a nation, we stand today.
Zero-sum rationalization kills. Racism kills. Ignorance kills. Silence kills. Inaction kills.
Black Lives Matter…period.
There’s disagreement and then there’s wanton cruelty.
There is a wanton cruelty to questioning the patriotism of a woman who served in the military, was tragically wounded – losing both legs – and, continues to serve this country by becoming a US Senator. Tucker Carlson’s criticism of Sen. Tammy Duckworth is, in my opinion, what happens when the notion of service to this country is no longer democratized. Fewer and fewer Americans, as a measure of total population, ever serve in the military now. Carlson’s perspective, like many of his proponents, embrace American Exceptionalism which exists predominantly within a white male frame of reference and is doggedly resistant to a democratized, equitable image of America. More often than not they have lived a life of privileged access to wealth and power which was largely unearned but insidiously craft a “working Joe” image filled with victimhood that forms the basis of their toxicity. That he should, at all, have such a dismissive opinion toward anyone who served goes beyond an affront; Carlson’s portrayal of Sen. Duckworth’s patriotism reinforces the dynamics within my soldier-athlete archetype. The archetype predominantly contrasts white and black masculinity within a white frame of reference to create ideal images and supporting body of language and reasoning which, they feel, entitles them to act with wanton disregard to alternate lived experiences. The phrase, America, love it or leave it,” lives within this framework; unless, the person in question acts in accordance with white male culture, their failure to do so warrants unbridled disrespect. Political disagreements should not equate to wanton cruelty which diminishes the sacrifice and service – even the humanity – of another person. I have said before, veterans – all veterans – stood on the line for rights and freedoms of all and not just for the privileged few.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Senator Tammy Duckworth!