Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to Jim Meadows of SAGE New Orleans. It is reprinted here with his and the author’s permission.
When asked if I’m ok, I usually give the short answer. “I’m ok,” I typically reply. Here is the long answer.
For me, what is troubling is not knowing whom to trust. Pre-Trump, I thought white attitudes were limited to benign neglect. Once I was called the “n” word by a guy in the Marigny. We were casually conversing and out of the blue, he called me the “n” word. After the shock wore off, I didn’t think much of it. An apparent provocateur, I concluded trying to provoke a hostile reaction from me.
The complaints of racism by family, friends and co-workers were exaggerated, I thought. Boy, was I wrong.
I was fine until DT’s election. After Trump’s election, I became “woke”. The images of those alt-right men marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, VA, were seared in my mind. There were hundreds of them. Wow! I thought there are people out there who really hate us and don’t want me and my family here. And now they’re emboldened by DT’s election.
Then DT appointed Jeff Sessions, a southern Republican known for his racist decisions as Alabama’s Attorney General and support of Confederate “ideals”.
Then Steve Bannon was appointed.
With Don Trump in office, I feared for my friends and family. I feared that things would regress back to segregation and Jim Crow days. For a time, I could not sleep without flashbacks and nightmares about Jim Crow lynchings and the Redemption Era and the Tulsa, Oklahoma, massacre. Images of Emmett Till’s savagely beaten body, once submerged in my subconscious, became conscious.
I have a nephew who looks just like Trayvon Martin. He is college-educated but does not trust the police at all. Could he be next? Once in New Orleans, he was stopped by police, driving while black. The police officer had his gun drawn because my nephew didn’t stop right away. Fortunately, he did not resist, and it ended well, this time. I fear not so much for myself, thinking (perhaps foolishly), that this gray hair might offer some degree of protection. Rather, I fear for the younger black men in my life.
These days, I am relieved. Relief came after attending a recent protest march for George Floyd. There were black people and white people and men and women and straight and gay people and young and old. (More young whites participated than blacks) My faith in American people and values have been cautiously restored with the outpouring of support. Many people are sick and tired of black lives being destroyed whether thru mass incarceration, health disparities or murder, and are realizing that police brutality and systemic racism are American problems, not just African American problems.
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