When in the course of a conversation with an old and dear friend, not necessarily a heated conversation but lukewarm, when you ask that friend days after the insurrection on January 6th 2021, if Hitler was a racist, and they unexpectedly begin to hem and haw, and they respond, ‘Well I wasn’t around then….’ For a moment your mind explodes and all you see are nuclear bomb testing images, past to present, of your friendship being obliterated by that statement. I mean there is only one answer to that question. So in the moment you say to yourself, “Yes I know you weren’t born around then, we were born in the same year, wait what the fuck, it’s a simple question?” Suddenly you go off on them, as I think most people would, and then that said friend hangs up on you, one begins to ask yourself about the friendship and the person, but even more consequential you begin to question yourself. Was I too harsh, should I call the friend back and apologize, am I too woke, too Black, too Proud? For the record I do not think I was too harsh and as of this post I have not called to apologize, and this may have cost me a friendship decades in the making. However, I should lay down some context.
My friend and I are from different races, as a matter of fact he believes that race is a human construction and truly doesn’t exist. The evidence from science has told us as much, and of which I completely agree, scientifically there may not be race but there is definitely racism and racists. For example if the two of us were running down the street in anywhere USA, chasing a bus perhaps, and my friend was in front of me, I could guarantee you that some person who looked up and saw this would think, look at that Black guy chasing that white guy. The bus and context would be completely ignored. That’s just the way it is. Try telling a policeman what a perpetrator looks like with out mentioning race.
I wish that I could say that my race had nothing to do with my American experience, but that would be a lie. Race may not exist scientifically it definitely does socially and culturally and wherever I’ve lived in America, I’ve been affected by it. These are just a tiny sample of the ones that stick out as a child from places I lived.
New York: My mom riding with me on the subway, there is another single mom with a baby the baby is crying. A white man yells out, “Tell that Nigger baby to shut the fuck up.” My mom told the man to do the same, what struck me were all the Black brother’s who said nothing, as my mom Afro and all cursed him out. The cops came to the car a made me, my mother and the other woman with the crying infant get off the subway to catch another car not the asshole who told the Nigger baby to shut up. I must have been about five or six.
Mississippi: I was visiting the paternal side of my family, I must have been about ten. At this time the schools were still segregated , way after the act and I spent a summer there , went to the town library in Lexington, Mississippi and I was questioned for checking out a book that the white librarian didn’t think that I could read. Now going back to my mother, there was something imperative in our house, you read. She used to teach me how to read using the “Tao Te Ching,” the Feng English version with all the beautiful black and white pictures. I loved and love those pictures. We often carried that book on the subway, anyway she began teaching me how to read at 3. So by the time I was ten, reading was more than fundamental. Back to the white librarian who thought I was too young to read “Franny and Zoey”, my mother always assigned summer reading. I laughed sarcastically at the librarian who thought that book was over my head, luckily my cousins were with me and they told me to read to the librarian. I read to her and she turned red.
Los Angeles: Instead of going into a laundry list of racist encounters and circumstances, let us just say I came up during the height of the crack epidemic.
Now back to my friend, there are some similarities that my friend and I have, we were both born in the same year, we both had single moms, we both have an affinity of knowledge, books, music, movies and politics. And yes, some of those interests mirrored each other if not met at the same point. Of course there are differences as well. My friend’s parents never had to give him the “talk”, his mother was never stopped by an FBI agent whom thought she was Angela Davis, (for the record I’m not 100% sure this story is true, but my mother repeated it often) my friend was never called nigger or niggah, as far as I know. If so it was never used on him the way the word are/were used on me. He unlike I wasn’t required by both of my parents to read about, and have an interest in Black History. My friend has never written poetry about Black people as I have nor has he thought about the plight of Black people as much as I have. Nor should he have, I have never asked him to do any of that, and that may have been a disservice to our relationship. I should have educated him better, not as teacher but as a friend. Even if he has the luxury of thinking that race truly doesn’t exist. I made a mistake during the term of the Obama administration as many of us did, and let my guard down. Did I mention my friend is white?
Now enters Donald J. Trump. For the most part I lived on the West coast, with my maternal Grandmother but my mom lived in New York. And i would visit her as much as possible, so I felt and thought of myself as bi-coastal, well at least my mom made me feel that way. Trump was on the periphery when I was in New York, until he wasn’t. I don’t remember if I was living with my mother in New York at the time or visiting her but she was livid about the Central Park five case. She was insistent that they were innocent, worried that that could have been me and my friends. My mom had a tendency to think every Black person was innocent even if they were guilty, her thought process was a product of racism. Regardless if she was right about the Central Park Five, or what she thought about Donald J. Trump and the ad he took out in the paper against them. She felt that he, Trump was consistent and a part of the overall white racist power structure. She often pointed out to me that, “White people will try to destroy you, without even knowing you.” And that that trait was unique to the American white man especially. So early on before he ran for president did I think Trump was racist? Hell yeah! The willingness to destroy lives without even knowing them. Then years later not apologizing, it was almost as if Trump was saying well they were Black and Brown men, so they must have done something wrong. Between the Central Park Five then and the non apology to them later, I thought everyone would see the same racist and racism inherent in Trump. But NBC decided to give him a T.V. show, “The Apprentice.” I wasn’t really interested, in the show or the fact that his name started to pop-up in rap songs that I listened to or friends listened to. I mean I caught a couple of episodes of the Apprentice but I didn’t watch it religiously, he was there in the background, and I didn’t understand how any true Hip-Hop artist could praise the accuser of the Central Park Five. In 2003 the Central Park Five sued, by then my mother had passed but so many lessons she had insisted that I learn were still with me. For context my mother was much more radical in her thinking than I ever was but after January 6th, 2021 I’m beginning to think that her thinking then wasn’t radical it was protective. Protective of her being, her people, and her son/sun. I will leave all of that for another post. Back to Trump in the background, as I kept up with the Central Park Five case and Trump’s ascendence in the public eye, along came Trump University. By now my friend and I had been friends for almost ten years if not more, we had many experiences together none of them had ever challenged our friendship. Again Trump was a blip on our collective radar, but my friend and I talked about the Apprentice, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump U. I thought at the time that neither of us could take him seriously.
Like I said, I let my guard down after the election and during the presidency of Barack H. Obama. I, like many felt and thought that there would be some semblances of a post racial America. I was fucking wrong, and some of you were as well. There were many reasons that I would have never voted for Donald J. Trump nor put him in a rap song, I’m not a rapper but if I were, how could I praise the wealth of a man who did what he did to the Central Park Five. For me there was a direct correlation from the Central Park Five, to Birtherism, to separating babies at the border. So when I saw Dave Chappell on SNL saying. “let’s give Trump a chance.” I was like no, no, Negro I won’t be doing that, and for the most part I had thought my friend wouldn’t either.
Now this post would never end if I went into even the slightest details the conversations my friend and I had about the Trump presidency before January 6th, 2021, but the majority of the phrases or words were, unbelievable, amazing, ridiculous, and what the fuck. My mistake was thinking that he was seeing all of this through the same political lens that I was, which in most cases we were but I was wearing bifocals and I saw it through the political lens and the racial lens. To me all of Trump’s policies and genuflections were inherently racist in context or subtext. Again it would take too long for me to go into detail about the conversations we had, however there were times when my friend would say, “I don’t think it of he was being racist,” and the conversation would get heated and I would back down to keep the civility or maybe even comfort him. I was wrong for doing that. Once he even implied that the media was being too harsh on Trump, I thought to myself what the fuck is in the water in Tennessee. I’m not sure where he is now but at the time I was in Los Angeles and my friend was in Tennessee.
On January 6th, 2021 or the day after I called my friend, both of us were stunned at what happened at and in the Capitol. We began to talk about it, at some point he had mentioned that he was watching MSNBC and Joy Reid had Nicole Hannah Jones on, creator of the 1619 project, and the issue of race came up, between these two Black women, and my friend said that, “It was too early to talk about race.” I thought what the fuck, this is the perfect time to talk about race. In my head I was like the Black Panthers never stormed the Capitol, Malcolm X and the Black Muslim’s never stormed the Capitol, Martin Luther King, Jr. never stormed the Capitol, MLK went there or close to it and gave a speech about a fucking “Dream” and these mostly white male men felt entitled enough to desecrate a building built by slaves and it’s too fucking early to talk about race. I thought about all of that at once, but I didn’t state it and if I had stated anything it was tepid to say the least. However I got off the phone more angry at myself than I was at him, again I had my bifocals on. I was looking at both the political aspect and the racial one. The truth is that I have always had my bifocals on but I had decided to pretend that I didn’t. Four days after January 6th, 2021 on January 10th, 2021 I got a news alert that Bill Belichick the coach of the New England Patriots refused the Medal of Freedom, from Donald J. Trump and I was proud of Mr. Belichick for turning it down. Now I am not completely sure of Belichick’s motives for turning it down, but I am somewhat sure of Donald J. Trump’s, motive to offer the Medal of Freedom to Mr. Belichick, the offer was a cynical move to say the least and a racist one to say the most. Cynical because four days after a riot on the Capitol, Trump wanted a dog a pony show for one of, “The whitest football teams in America,” not my words. When I read the news I called my friend excited about the news. I believe that he and I were both raw from the prior conversation and the unfolding information about the Capitol attack. In a blur there was a conversation about who is and who was racist, it even came up that I myself could be seen as a racist. I agreed, but I saw my racism as a defense of my people, not as an exploitation of or a denial of the capability of any other race. Then came my question,’……do you think Hitler was a racist?” As said at the beginning of this piece my friend was hesitant with his answer, and said, “Well, I wasn’t born at that time….” No fucking shit, I know you weren’t born at that time. ‘Stop it, just stop it,….you’ve read the books that I have, seen the documentaries, just stop it.’ He hung up on me. I failed to mention that somewhere he had said that there were more lynching of white people than there were of Black people, in the conversation. I failed to mention the differentiation between a hanging and a lynching.(Watch for my next post.)
I believe to this day that I failed my friend when it came to the issue of race, but I didn’t think that I failed him to the point where he could not definitively say that Hitler was a racist and so is Donald J. Trump, I mean yes he wasn’t there during Hitler’s time be he is now.
I’m not sure how many Black friends have lost white friends during and in the aftermath of the Trump presidency, my guess is a quite a few. Even recently another friend who happens to be white, not as close as the aforementioned, implied that the media was gleeful about the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, apparently not seeing how that statement diminishes the shooting of those Black people in the first place and reduces their deaths to an “oh well.” I still haven’t talked to my friend, and if I were to talk to him I don’t know where to begin. And right now as I go to post Trump is talking about a Civil War, and I can honestly say I’m not sure what side my friend would be on.