It is clear to me that the shutdown of the federal government and the nation’s near default is nothing more than the desperation of a fearful white political minority that sees its relevance in its rear view mirror and a new majority of color on the road ahead. The evidence is not just in the psychotic behavior of Tea Party conservatives on Capitol Hill, or the crackpots that pledge allegiance to these zealots; it is also evident in the many fissures in communities across our country, including mine, where many whites are exhibiting paranoia as they struggle to come to terms with the impending end of their entitlement. To be sure, there are good white folks, as a Black generation of yesteryear would describe them, but too many either fear being racial outcasts among their own to take on the zealots or are struggling with their own understanding of a changed status in America.
Racism is truly a sickness and the United States has been ill for some time. The patient has been sick since the ink dried in 1776 in Philadelphia but periodically she goes into remission, but without fail, there are periodic flare ups that reveal the chronic nature of the disease. There has been an outbreak in Congress the last several weeks as Republicans in the House, mostly white males in leadership, took turns race baiting and doing their best George Wallace imitation. Not to be outdone, the bigot brigade descended on the nation’s capital, led by the queen of dunces herself, Sarah Palin, and put their racism on full display so the world could see their ignorance. Then there was the poster child for white resentment standing in front of the White House waving a Confederate flag in an almost wistful way, longing for the good old days when the only good n*gg*r was a dead n*gg*r and the only Blacks in the White House were shining shoes. Yes, it seems there is a warped sentimentality in some quarters of white America that is driving these folks over the edge.
It must be a scary thought to many whites that by the nation’s 250th birthday the progeny of slaves and brown immigrants will be America’s new majority. Part of the fear is driven by paranoia, the fear that the role reversal will also translate into their being subjected to the same maltreatment heaped upon African-Americans for centuries. There is also the pure political reality that their reign of unbridled power is coming to a close as Blacks, Latinos and immigrants; and Asians and non-Christians in political leadership recalibrate the existing spoils. For the most part, corporate America is nonplussed since Blacks represent a trillion dollar consumer market. Big business might hold onto its biases and their white majority Boards but they are not going to let anything get in the way of their dollar.
For African-Americans self-marginalization is also a sign of illness; not weakness but the psychological damage that has been inflicted by centuries of indignities and oppression that has nearly destroyed our will to survive. It is seen in the raw anger of street violence, fueled by decades of being emasculated and the absence of opportunity, but increasingly strident and vicious in its wrath upon its own. There is a resignation among too many Blacks, an almost surrender that is fueling the bravado of white extremists. As Black silence has set in, hate rhetoric, gun purchases and outward defiance is on the upswing. And don’t fool yourself. This is not really about our first African-American President, though his very appearance triggers some sort of irrational reaction among many whites. No, this is about all of us, Blacks and Latinos, the quickly approaching majority that has triggered a ‘last stand’ mentality among many whites before it all comes crashing down.
We really do need to bring back the blackness, the era of fearlessness, boldness and courage in the face of Jim Crow. It is time to embrace our uniquely Black power as citizens and consumers, and shed the timidity that has fueled the madness in Washington DC and communities across the nation. We need not wait for the sand to be kicked in our face because there won’t be any left on the beach at this rate. It is time to return to the stridency of an era when Black was beautiful and we embraced each other with “Sister” and “Brother” and our culture uplifted us and we protected it and did not demean it. It is time for a reconciliation of the spirit, a reconnection to what works for us and the ceasing of adulation and material worship rooted in exploitation.
The dispossessed of America – African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and the poor – are uniquely qualified to be the foundation of a new America. I have always believed that American Indians and African-Americans are the moral conduits to a new America because we have experienced suffering unlike whites, including white immigrants, that is rooted in our unique experience as oppressed peoples in the United States. We constitute the reflection America does not want to see in the mirror; people who have been marginalized by the very institutions that claim title to democratic principles and who have steadfastly upheld those principles despite every attempt to eradicate us from this land. Our sheer survival is a statement of divine magnitude that suggests our continued existence points to our purpose – to transform this country into what it claimed to be in that room in Philadelphia 237 years ago.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.