by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Do you remember the first two years of the Obama administration? He was passing legislation. Our representatives were working overtime to produce bills that would help the American people. Then Ted Kennedy died and the voters of Massachusetts elected a Playgirl centerfold, Republican Scott Brown, to replace him—empowering Mitch McConnell to use the filibuster to halt action in the Senate.
Then, even action in the House ground to a virtual halt as the Tea Party energized the GOP after the 2010 midterm election.
Sure, the Tea Party was based on a lie, but that’s beside the point. The point is that progress stopped. Obama and the Democrats were playing defense instead of offense. They couldn’t get anything meaningful passed. Gun Control? Nope. Police reform. Nope. Voting rights. Nope. Doesn’t this seem familiar? Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra famously said.
It seems to me that we can cry that Republicans will not play ball. We can cry that they will not negotiate honestly. Even that they’ll cheat and lie. We know that for a fact.
Remember, when Obama was going to work with the GOP to fix the annual budget crisis, he agreed to make huge spending cuts to get the budget process out of the Republican crazy machine. And every time Obama got close to a deal, the GOP moved the goalposts and decided that they wanted more. After months, the negotiations broke down when Obama decided that there really wasn’t any middle ground that the GOP would take.
And who was blamed by the media and in the public mind? Obama! Because the GOP constantly repeated the 2010 version of the Big Lie, that “the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate.”
So, we can sit in the corner and cry that the GOP will not play nice, or we can do something about it.
Summer of Activism
We cannot play with one hand tied behind our backs anymore. We are not getting the things done that we need to get done. We must move this country forward on several fronts. It’s time for all of these national progressive groups that we get emails from every week (it seems like almost every day) to come together.
They are all pushing one or two agendas. Now, they need them to come together for a few really big causes. Let’s say that we can agree that the most pressing items on the progressive agenda are Judicial and Election Reform, Gun Control, and Infrastructure.
Now, we need to brainstorm. How do we get these things done? No more handwringing. We need action. We need grassroots action.
Should we March? Should we march in nontraditional cities like Boston, Atlanta, and Charlotte? Will that bring about change? Will marching force the GOP into bending? Do we need to write letters? Do we need to call the offices of our representatives? Would that work? Do we need to hold a sit-in at their offices? Do we need a social media campaign? What will move them?
We are going to have roll up our sleeves and make some hard decisions. Are we going to worry about hurting the GOP’s feelings? Or are we going to focus on helping the American people?
We have to get serious about the filibuster. We cannot have a bipartisan investigation into the January 6 insurrection because of the filibuster? Come on. How is this in the best interest of America?
Of course, it’s not! It’s only in the interest of the GOP and the former president. Well, if the Republicans are worried about embarrassing the former president, then maybe the former president should not have been doing the things he, and they, are embarrassed about—like encouraging an armed insurrection. Come on. We need a real, complete, honest, unbiased investigation like the 9-11 commission.
Our job has to be to fundamentally remake the government so that our government works for us. This is the change that we need.
May 30, 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. For those who have not read about the Tulsa massacre, basically a Black man, Dick Rowland, (age 19) was accused of touching a White woman, Sarah Page (age 17). Touching. Not raping. Not groping. Not stabbing and definitely not killing her.
For the offense of touching (called assault), the Black man was jailed. A White mob formed outside of the jail and demanded the release of the Black man so that they could hang him. Blacks, armed Blacks, surrounded the courthouse and stood their ground. So, the White mob decided to head to a softer target, Greenwood.
Greenwood was the prosperous Black area of Tulsa, known as Black Wall Street. The White mob burned Greenwood to the ground. The White mob had airplanes drop incendiary devices on Greenwood. In 1921 they napalmed Greenwood!!
They shot and killed scores of Blacks. No one really knows how many. There are no records. It is thought that there are mass graves but again there are no formal accounts. The Black newspapers that documented the slaughter are long gone. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers have written well-researched articles on this American nightmare.
Although this was beyond tragic, what makes it worse is that Sarah Page officially recanted her story. She was never assaulted. When Dick Rowland was released from jail, he fled Tulsa and disappeared from history.
Same old, same old
Violence against Blacks and other communities of color is not new, nor is it relegated to the South. The violence happened everywhere in the US. In 1863, Detroit blacks were burned out. In 1877, a labor rally turned against Asian immigrants, who were burned out and some were killed. The famed Texas Rangers killed 15 men and boys of Mexican decent in cold blood. They were not armed. The Rangers simply rounded them up and shot them—and then they drove the rest of the Hispanic community out of Presidio County, Texas in 1918.
But it was the Summer of 1919 that really targeted the black community. This was just after World War I. Thousands of veterans were back from the war and they had nothing. No jobs. No housing. No benefits. Nothing.
Violence against Blacks did not start in Corbin, Kentucky, birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but Corbin is a typical example. A White guy was beaten and robbed by two men. He did not actually get a look at his attackers, but the word spread that he was attacked by two Black men. Blacks were singled out and shot. The black community was driven out of town. Their houses were given to poor Whites. The town enacted Sundown laws which stated that no Black person could be in town after 5 p.m.
Many cities adopted these Sundown laws. Black communities were singled out and destroyed. From East St. Louis, to Chicago, to Washington, DC and elsewhere, Blacks were shot and hanged for being Black. The violence was led by the KKK and former WWI vets.
The tip of the iceberg
Sadly, there is more. A lot more… I have not even mentioned the all-out war we—Americans, mostly White—had with the Native Americans. I really cannot do justice to our over 300 years of lies, deceit, and murder of Native Americans in a short newspaper column.
I’m not typing this to make anyone feel bad. We must be informed. We must understand the truth.
The truth is not nearly as complicated, or as simple, as some people pretend. I was having a discussion about race with a White friend when he said that Blacks couldn’t get ahead because they (we) lacked ambition. He was misinformed. He was also confused … prejudiced … self-deluding … and maybe racist. But he is a friend, so I consider him misinformed.
The simple truth is that the system is rigged against Americans of color. From the very beginning, from the arrival of the first enslaved people in 1619 to the enactment of the “3/5 clause” of the Constitution, to today’s voter suppression laws being passed in states north and south, east and west across the country, the system has always been rigged. The day that the truth is too much for us to handle is the day that the United States is truly sunk.
The United States is a great nation. We need to start acting like it. We need to embrace the good. We must reject hate and violence. We need to help the poor (better wages, universal healthcare), and we need to make life a little easier for the middle class (affordable colleges, student loan forgiveness, affordable home loans, safe communities with good schools teaching the truth).
Finally, more mass shootings.
I really could write about mass shootings every month. This is sad and tragic. Still Congress is sitting on their hands. We need thoughtful gun control which includes real background checks. We need a huge gun buyback program. We need to have all guns registered with the federal government. Gun owners must be responsible for whatever happens with their guns. This is minimum. This is about saving lives. American lives.
This is serious.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here, as well as assertions of facts, are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Urban News.