11/7/20: The date I reclaimed the American flag

When I looked at TV coverage of election celebrations from Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, and my city of Washington, DC, I saw liberals and Democrats waving the American flag. BIPOC, LGBTQ, people whose T-shirts and buttons proudly proclaimed who they were and what they valued, people who had been demeaned and insulted, bullied, and dismissed. People who looked like me, people who shared my views and my hopes.

For me, the American flag had been co-opted by right-wing America, the far-right-wing. The flag-wavers who I usually saw weren’t simply those who called themselves conservative, but people whose views of what America should be involved taking away their fellow Americans’ rights. They insulted, maligned, minimized, and marginalized anyone whose opinions, skin color, religious beliefs, or families differed from their own. They waved that flag with aggression and superiority. The symbols that represented them—especially the American flag—couldn’t represent me.

So, I noticed them… people I can identify with… as they raised and waved that flag,  a symbol I had become doubtful would ever represent what I—and they—believed in.

The announcement that Joe Biden was president-elect and Kamala Harris was vice president-elect was met with shouts, cheers,  horn honking, and … flag waving as people celebrated the end of four long years of hatred, lies, and national disgrace. They celebrated the election of a man of integrity who pronounced he would reclaim the soul of America, a man with vision, a leader for all Americans. They celebrated the first Black vice president and the first woman, and even the first second gentleman. They were joyful, smiling, dancing, high-fiving, and proudly waving our flag. I noticed. I felt the same way — a new lightness and relief at reclaiming America and the American flag as my symbol, a symbol of my country,  a country that isn’t perfect, but one whose days ahead now seem hopeful.

We can make America great… it can live up to its ideals. The president-elect encapsulated America in one word: Possibilities.

Yes.

Getting to the Truth is …

Exhausting.

Like the rest of the country, I have just been through an impeachment, the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary, and the Nevada Democratic debate. I thought these events would offer glimmers of hope for my country, an America I perceive as mired in racial hatred and inequity.

Ultimately, none of them did.

With evidence of the president’s coercion of a foreign government to uncover potentially compromising information on a political challenger, I thought our elected officials would do the right thing.

They didn’t.

They fiercely supported the president. While his racist behaviors predominate in why I want him removed from office or defeated, they aren’t the only reason. I fully believe, and there is much to suggest, that Trump is moving America to fascism. Think 1930s Germany.

The impeachment didn’t give me my hoped-for solution. In fact, soon after that, Trump thumbed his nose at black America at the State of the Union when he celebrated Rush Limbaugh, a radio commentator known for his racist remarks, by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.

puzzle-1152792_1920On the heels of that travesty, the Iowa caucus occurred. I still don’t fully understand why the Iowa caucus is so important. I know it indicates who the country will support, but why Iowa? Iowa is not representative of the country. 90.7% of the state’s population is white as compared to 76.5% nationally. And to add insult to injury, if you have been convicted of a felony in Iowa, you can’t vote for the rest of your life. 26% of the state’s prison population is black even though only 4% of the state’s population is black. Iowa’s views don’t represent me or a lot of America that looks like me.

Then, we went on to New Hampshire, another disproportionately white state where the field of Democratic presidential candidates narrowed to Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden.

Have you looked at their records on racial equity/racial justice? I think most people don’t have the time and/or policy acumen to review all the public statements and votes to come up with some indication of the candidates’ racial justice sensitivity and record. Fortunately, the Center for Urban and Racial Equity has done that for us.

The Center ranked Trump F, Biden F, Klobuchar C, Sanders B+, Buttigieg B+, and Warren A-. While Bloomberg wasn’t in that field of candidates, his visibility has been rising; so, let’s add him to the list. The Center ranked him F.

If you are non-black or not a person of color, you may have the luxury of only considering the candidates’ records on issues like access to health care, climate change, educational reform, etc., the issues that on the surface shape America. That is part of white privilege. But hidden behind/underneath all those issues is the fundamental matter of racial justice.

Bernie Sanders often seems to conflate economic inequality with racial inequity. They are not the same. For most of his life (certainly the majority of his adult life), he has lived in Vermont, the whitest state in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That is not an indictment against him, but the reality is he has had to work harder than most to even have a connection to a black person. And we understand how vital proximity is to true understanding.

Residents of South Bend have commented that Buttigieg displayed significant insensitivity following a police shooting of an African American man, and he wrongfully equates prejudice against gay people with discrimination against African Americans.

A news report just came out in February that Amy Klobuchar may have played a significant part in wrongfully convicting a then 16-year-old African American for murder. Is that true? I will have to keep looking for news coverage on this or wonder if it’s being buried by news outlets who don’t see this as a significant story.

Joe Biden’s stumbling over questions of race has revealed a man who believes he has a lens for racial inequity, but who doesn’t. He must, for example, be reminded racists have always worn suits.

Earning the highest score is Elizabeth Warren. As has become her catchphrase, she has a plan for that, a strategy for addressing racial inequity that spans issues as varied as economic parity, maternal mortality, and housing, for example. It all sounds good, but even with Warren, I am on edge as I wait to hear the racial negatives that may still hide in her closet.

Until the Nevada debate, many political pundits were suggesting only Michael Bloomberg could defeat Donald Trump. Who knows where they stand now after that public bloodletting, but if he becomes the Democratic candidate despite proudly, and loudly, promoting “stop and frisk” policies directed against black and brown people, this will be the presidential matchup: Racial score of F against racial score of F.

Good lord.

We cannot let that be our choice.

Every president has had to deal with issues of racial equity on some level for decades. As you’re considering your choice for president, I urge you not to minimize their racial sensitivity and understanding. Which of the current pool of candidates is best equipped to do so as he or she also faces a myriad of other issues?

I have been a lifelong Democrat, and will support the Democratic candidate whoever it is, but must I hold my nose to do so? Must I settle for a candidate who has no or only minimal knowledge or understanding of the oppression that has been, and continues to be, the norm for black and brown people?

Am I going to have to settle for a candidate who has been an oppressor?

I am exhausted by the level of vigilance necessary to reveal their racial pasts, to discern their true beliefs in all they say and do or don’t say or don’t do. I read and read the backgrounds of the candidates. I listen to the comments about what this one did ten years ago, ten months ago or just 10 days ago.

I always have another step to take to get to the truth, the complete picture, the truth for black people. It’s exhausting, but …

I will not stop being a truth seeker. What about you?

 

P.S. — I do believe that people can change through a very deliberate process that takes time and intentionality. If you are supporting a candidate with a low racial score, is he or she willing to take that racial equity learning journey?

Note: Your vote on Tuesday, March 3 — Super Tuesday — will make a difference in determining the Democratic candidate. I urge you to vote.