“Everything must change
Nothing stays the same
Everyone will change
No one stays the same
… The young become the old
And mysteries do unfold
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged”
Written by Benard Ighner
And this is the hope that we have for America. Change. That hope that poet Alexander Pope says springs eternal. And sometimes hope is all you have.
How long has America marginalized its’ minority populations? How long has it built walls and placed hurdles in the path to equality and the American dream? How long has it torn down our accomplishments and failed to give credit where credit was due? For many of us America has been a shapeshifter between a dream and a nightmare, hope, and despair which has left a high body count of civilian casualties.
America built her wealth on the backs of the Africans she enslaved, paying reparations only to certain slaveholders for their loss of “property” following the Emancipation Proclamation. But she refuses to entertain the thought of paying reparations to the actual descendants of slaves while continuing to pass their ill-gained wealth down from generation to generation while embracing a dine-and-dash mentality when it comes to African Americans.
She freed her enslaved people only to place them into custody for violating Black Codes creating the money-making prison industrial system, placing them back into the market of free labor, creating only the illusion of freedom.
She justified the genocide of the Native Americans who proliferated this nation with their presence all in the name of progress and creating a civilized nation and kidnapped their children placing them into indoctrination camps posing as schools to strip away their cultural identities.
She exploited the labor force of the Mexicans and restructured the borders making them the invaders and illegal aliens, falsely accusing them of taking jobs from “good white folks” when in reality, they were jobs that no one else was willing to do.
She violently destroyed the Black Wall Streets and murdered the inhabitants and had the audacity to turn and ask, “Why can’t you people succeed?”
She embraced and defended white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation and justified and rationalized over 4,000 lynchings of Black folks and boldly announced these events from the pulpits of their churches as family picnic gatherings. Photos with the dead bodies and souvenir body parts were sold to the happy attendees dressed in their Sunday best church clothes.
I wonder if they framed those photos and hung them on the walls of their homes next to paintings of their “white Jesus.”
She abused and misused the Chinese to build the railroads and hoarded the Japanese Americans into concentration camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
America has a split personality, showing herself in one way to those she classifies as “white” and another to marginalized non-whites. And yet, all are expected to show their love for her, saluting her flag and singing her praises, and donning a uniform to fight her enemies abroad, risking life and limb for her glory, only to return to a nation that continued to hate them and even strung them from the end of a rope for daring to wear the uniform on the same American soil they defended. Glory, glory, hallelujah; her alternative truth is marching on.
And now we’re supposed to embrace some sort of selective amnesia and forget her sins while elevating her good deeds as if to nominate her for sainthood. St. America, the home of the brave and land of the free, of thee I sing.
Is it a mystery why many of us have mixed emotions regarding who she is? As Maya Angelo would say, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Are we wrong to harbor the human emotion of anger? Is that not a natural response? Perhaps “righteous indignation” is more palatable. Or how about we just flatly call it “being human.” But no, human is what we were NOT supposed to be, therefore, there has been no room to express legitimate human emotions, and the “angry Black man,” and “angry Black woman,” have been both demonized and feared. And we have a history of being punished one way or another for showing these human emotions, so we swallow them until they turn on us creating numerous health problems, which we also ignore.
But Jesse reminds us to keep hope alive. And that, we must do! That hope has helped us to survive against the odds. And that survival is one of our greatest testimonies. No, we are not “victims” and have refused to stay in victim mode. We are overcomers who have been “victimized” by a system of racism/white supremacy which continues to raise its ugly head.
Hope is found in all of us, (regardless of skin color), who seek to be the best humans we can be; coming together and supporting each other and standing together to overcome the inhumane treatment of all human beings. We must be intelligent enough to see beyond the curtain of Oz and realize that as a nation we have been hoodwinked into turning on each other based upon a host of asinine superficialities, for the purpose of keeping the rich and powerful, rich and powerful.
As Martin Niemöller so brilliantly puts it in his poem, “First They Came”:
First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I can hear Sam Cook singing his song of inspiration and hope, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gon’ come.”
By Tobias Houpe