kleaning out the kloset: sKKKeletons, kaepernick, and a tale of two nations
TW: the following essay contains explicit content
“Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro”, July 5th, 1852
politiKKKs as U.S.ual
So, here we are. Nearly a year following the initial surge of coverage surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s (in)famous decision to disrupt the sacrosanct AmeriKKKan ritual of the Star Spangled Banner, his movement, and the reactionary response to it, have grown and evolved from its original message.
Despite receiving counsel from Special Forces veteran and former NFL player Nate Boyer encouraging him to kneel during the national anthem, in politics-as-usual fashion, Kaep’s movement was derailed by wypipo, coopted by capitalists, and instead of actually addressing (or even considering) the grievances popularized by Kaep and the Movement 4 Black Lives, conservative and liberal media alike have tried their damndest to disassociate, deflect, divorce, and otherwise erase Kaepernick’s name from the discussion.
Now, terrified of losing revenue, owners’ greed has them playing a political game; hypocritically locking arms with their players, kneeling prior to the dogmatic ritual (funded by the Department of Defense) to try to appease both sides, and staying in the locker room in unsuccessful attempt to sit out and sideline the discussion entirely — delicately trying to walk a tight rope as tension between fans boycotting the NFL in retribution for the blackballing of Kaep and fans boycotting the NFL for not putting these uppity negroes with the audacity to voice their opinion in their place increases, threatening to snap under the pressure and sending the League careening into an abyss with Keanu Reeves under center.
Although I am truly fascinated by the social process that has transformed the conversation into the terms we’re using today and absolutely baffled that those claiming to be committed to liberty (and throw around the terms politically correct and snowflake) are so opposed to allowing someone quietly observing the national anthem, an act, which in no way, shape, or form, has any bearing on the liberty of their own. The camps are polarized and veterans are once again being used as social artifacts, pulled down from their romanticized shelves, merely to justify a dogwhistle white supremacist stance about American values and who is (and unequivocally is not) allowed to express them. If we are going to use veterans as pawns, we might as well expose the other side of that coin. This argument isn’t, nor has it ever been, about patriotism or veterans. It remains about, as W.E.B. Du Bois characterized it in 1903, “the problem of the color-line”. In the following, I will outline a brief overview of some of the racial violence and discrimination that Blackamerican veterans have consistently faced throughout the history of the United States, exhibiting why many Black and brown veterans fully support brother Kaepernick in his public testament and the discussion that it has raised.
kontextualizing ‘meriKKKan terrorism
“Impress the negro with the fact that he is defending the flag, inflate his untutored soul with military airs, teach him that it is his duty to keep the emblem of the Nation flying triumphantly in the air,” and, “it is but a short step to the conclusion that his political rights must be respected.”
— Senator James K. Vardaman, (D), Mississippi, 1917
The Senator from Mississippi couldn’t have been realer. He was salty. After the losing the Great War of Southern Insurgency, white supremacists were seeing Black people absolutely defying the boundaries of what was thought possible of them. Hiram Rhodes Revels, a freeborn veteran, was elected to represent Mississippi as a Senator during the Reconstruction Era from 1870–1871, and Blanche Bruce, a biracial former slave, was elected to the office of Senator for a full term from 1875–1881 (it wasn’t until 2013 that the United States saw more than one Black Senator in office at the same time). Wypipo like Vardaman couldn’t handle that. So when the Yankee troops withdrew from the south in 1877, the insurgents developed organizations like the Klan fell back on their insurgent roots and started terrorizing Black folk throughout the country. Shortly after, Wypipo like Vardaman ( or Strom Thurmond, or Bill Clinton, or Jefferson Beauregard Sessions), devised poll taxes, literacy tests, and property requirements to disenfranchise Black folk, while incorporating grandfather clauses to exempt less privileged wypipo. Census data was curated and became more sophisticated as decades passed, and shortly after, Nathan Shaler defined the “negro problem” — the notion that the social circumstances beset upon Black people was caused by their own ineptitude was reinforced by the data created almost specifically in order to do so. The idea that white supremacist social, political, legal, educational, and economic ecosystems around formerly enslaved Black people had no bearing on the disparities that they experienced. On the backs of arguments posited by social scientists like Frederick Hoffman and economists like Walter Willcox, Charles’ Biological Darwinism quickly evolved into racial purity ethics of Social Darwinism, ripe with the rotten fruits of immigration restrictions, colonial projects, segregation, and eugenics missions, all designed to speed up the process of literal Black extinction. Bolstered by the convict leasing loophole incorporated into the 13th Amendment — Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction — capitalists were enabled to benefit from the criminalization and subsequent punishment of Black people and other poor people. As time passed, these sorts de facto (extant) and de jure (legal) practices and racial terrorism they enabled created the circumstances leading to the industrialization and urbanization characterizing the Great Migration. Developed out of southern Slave Patrols and Night Watches, local police were becoming more powerful as the convict leasing system, and the profits it generated, took root. Law enforcement was becoming more institutionalized, and on the federal echelon, the purpose was clear. As asserted in Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party & the American Indian Movement, the newly formed Bureau of Investigation, was established to enforce:
“national banking laws, anti-trust laws, peonage laws, the bucketshop law, the laws regarding fraudulent bankruptcies, the impersonation of government officials with intent to defraud, thefts and murders committed on government reservations, offenses committed against government property, and those committed on government reservations, offenses committed against government property, and those committed by federal court officials and employees, Chinese smuggling, customs frauds, internal revenue frauds, post office frauds, violations of the neutrality act… land frauds and immigration and naturalization cases.”
In other words, the organization which would less than a decade later become J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO FBI, was designed to enforce whiteness and keep America white. Not only would the federal government assist in the interstate enforcement of convict leasing systems and debt slavery, they also would refuse to play a part in protecting the Liberty of Black citizens, as a March 1910 DoJ internal memo entitled “Memorandum as to the Authority of the United States to Protect Negroes in the States in the Enjoyment of Civil Rights”, noted, “Under the decisions, there is no authority in the United States Government to protect citizens of African descent in the enjoyment of civil rights generally in the states from individual aggression.”
The 10th Amendment would apply, enabling Jim Crow to lynch and disenfranchise the south, while refusing to protect the rest of the Constitution, reinvigorating and federally sanctioning a sort of de facto Fugitive Slave Act from 65 years before. When Black people tried to flee the terrorist violence of the south, the south threw a temper tantrum and the Federal government agreed, in essence, to catch and return a new generation of people who were politically viewed as runaway slaves. Congress didn’t even need to get involved. Even if they had, it wouldn’t have helped Black people; let’s not forget that Senators wouldn’t be elected until the 17th Amendment was ratified three years later, so even if they did pass a bill, it is unlikely that it would have challenged the executive, because Senate was by this point in history, beholden to the white supremacist state legislatures. It also didn’t help that Lincoln didn’t necessarily take the Union to war to free slaves, he just wanted to conserve the Union at all costs, freeing slaves just happened to be a politically advantageous in doing so. This foundation of racism has never been addressed, it has only festered and become egregiously normalized.
Nonetheless, shortly thereafter, the tumultuous geopolitics of Europe thrust the United States into World War I, and despite being branded as criminal throughout the United States, roughly 380,000 Blackamerican soldiers hopped on ships and went to fight for Europe on behalf of the whore of Babylon, Mother AmeriKKKa.
the waKKKe of ww1
“The lynching of a black veteran represented the ultimate act of contempt for black citizenship...”
-Charles Louis Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era
Imagine you’re Charles Lewis. You’re twenty-four. You’re Black; born and raised in Kentucky. Maybe you wanted to go to Europe fight in behalf of human dignity, maybe not. Maybe you grew up poor. Perhaps enlisting, at the very least, gave you the prospect of a guaranteed meal every now and again. Maybe the government drafted you, shoved you in a boat, forced you to cross the Atlantic ocean like your grandparents, or great grandparents, or another generation of your family were. Maybe you thought about this on your voyage in between contemplating your own death, whether you’ll ever make it home again, which makes you think about what ‘home’ even is. You manage to survive the war, get shoved back in the boat to make that odyssey back to the only place you’ve ever known as ‘home’.
It’s December, 1918. You just got home from World War I, right in time for Christmas, damn that turkey gon’ be good. You’re on your way home, still proudly wearing your uniform, when all of the sudden, the town Sheriff approaches you to place you under arrest for a robbery that you have no fucking clue about. Like any innocent person might be inclined to do, you deny any involvement in the accusation, only to be charged with resisting arrest and assault. That night, while you’re in custody laying on a stone slab in a holding cell, you hear a commotion outside. You peek out of the barred window, and you see a mob of wypipo marching on the jail with shotguns, pitchforks, and torches like the typical Friday night with Richard Spencer in Charlottesville. They get closer and you process the regrettable reality that they’re coming for you. Doom. Impending death and there is nothing you can do except weep and pray. You hear them break into the front door of the jail, and quickly spring you from the cell in a whirlwind of violence. Like Jesus, your god has forsaken you. Still in uniform, one of them slides a noose around your neck while the rest kick your ribs, and face, and spit on you, and stomp on your hands, and cut your finger off for a souvenir when you try to defend yourself. Kicking and screaming for the mercy of your god, they drag you through the streets, until they hang you by the neck from a tree. Your country and its countrymen murdered you for being Black.
Imagine what it must have felt like to plead for your life after risking it for the freedoms of your lynchers.
The next day, hundreds of white onlookers showed up like as was custom in so many lynchings, to celebrate and ritualize the murder of the unfortunate Blackamerican warfighter, Charles Lewis, rest his soul. Over the course of the next year, at least ten more veterans would be lynched for having the audacity to believe that they are human beings, murdered for being patriots. According to the media coverage of the event, Private Lewis’ peril was very clear, his lynching was nobody’s fault but his own, as explained on the EJI website:
Days after Private Lewis’s lynching, Louisiana’s True Democrat newspaper published an editorial entitled “Nip It in the Bud,” summarizing Southern white views of returning black veterans. “The root of the trouble was that the negro thought that being a soldier he was not subject to civil authority,” the paper wrote of Private Lewis. “The incident is a portent of what may be expected in the future as more of the negro soldiery return to civil life.” The editorial board opined that military service had “probably given these men more exalted ideas of their station in life than really exists, and having these ideas they will be guilty of many acts of self-assertion, arrogance, and insolence . . . there will be much friction before they sink back into their old groove, and accept the fact that social equality will never be accepted in the South.” The editorial board warned that “[t]his is the right time to show them what will and what will not be permitted, and thus save them much trouble in the future.”
Unique, yet similar atrocious murders of Blackamerican veterans — like Luscius McCarty who was shot over a thousand times by a mob of 1500 white then tied by the neck to a car and drug through the streets of Bogalusa, Louisiana before being burned at the stake — litter the past of the United States. Black people, including veterans, continue being lynched today.
nazis, nooses, & KKKrucifixions…
When World War II jumped off, Blackamerican soldiers continued to be instrumental in Union military excellence. Blackamerican GIs saw marginally improved treatment; they were more enabled to “enlist”, officers were — for the first time in AmeriKKKan history — allowed to train with white warfighters, however, the racial violence perpetrated, from continued practice of lynching to Black exclusion from FDR’s New Deal Policies, were the “way of life” of citizens and government alike.
As impossible as it is, let’s try to put ourselves in the boots of Felix Hall. Pearl Harbor is still eight months away. You’re an wiry yet athletic, handsome, 19-year-old Blackamerican man from Alabama. You grew up poor. Your mom died of TB and your dad left you and your siblings with your grand momma in Millbrook while he went to find work in nearby Montgomery. So to be real, you been beggin’ for a way out since you first learned to walk. Being from Millbrook, Booker T. Washington is your hero, and when you heard that the Army is training negro pilots at Tuskeegee to fight the Nazis, you couldn’t wait to put Alabama at your back, racing towards the prospects of your future with the wind blowing in your face. You don’t really want to fight, after all, no kraut never called you no spook, but you been called nigger more than you can count by crackers in Alabama. You will never forget how terrified you were when you heard the news of the lynching of Elizabeth Lawrence and the so many others like her that never even made the news. But on top of all that, you’ve been reading a lot of The Crisis and Roy Wilkins has you gassed up on the “Double V” campaign. You revel at the possibility of fighting on behalf of human dignity in Europe and prove to these rednecks in Alabama that Black folk can do anything that wypipo can, except better. Shhhhiiittttt, that’s not even that difficult of a decision; turn the fuck up.
The Army is still segregated, but deep down, you sort of feel better off that way; at least you don’t have to worry about no white man having your back when the shit hits the fan. You’ve only known a handful that have actually treated you as human, let alone make you feel protected. It’s either enlist, or keep picking cotton, so you enlist. You aren’t selected to become an airman like you’d hoped, but here you are, just up the road in Fort Benning, Georgia, on your way to becoming a fierce warrior, a Buffalo Soldier of the storied 24th Infantry Regiment.
It’s a few months into training, and you hate it. You signed up to slay Nazis but you quickly learned that you were only valued for your manual labor at the mill. You found out that you were only what white men had viewed you as all along, a qualified field hand; a hollowed Black body good for nothing but toil and trouble. When you have free time, you like to enjoy yourself and are starting to explore romantic interests, you have grown to love the ladies. It’s been nice to have the resources to get a meal regularly, in the 3 months you’ve been in you gained 15 pounds. After work, you tell the homies you’re gonna head to the PX. It’s been a rough day, and its your favorite spot on base, they have hot chow and they let you eat at the counter. As you’re walking over there, you hum Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train”. Your grand momma crosses your mind, but not for long, it’s February, but you smell the pleasant fragrance of southern honey suckle, and the sweet scent makes you think about what Ada Mae, and Florence, and Cordelia are doing tonight. You see an airplane over head and that untouchable dream of being a pilot appears in your mind again; if only you could fly to Negritude Martinique and join the movement, or Hawaii, or Paris, anywhere but the crusty south, really. Before you realize it, you’re smack dab in the middle of the white NCO neighborhood. You usually walk around the neighborhood, but shit, here you are. Your palms start to sweat as you walk faster. These assholes smoke you any chance they get, and you ain’t got no time for that today. You’re almost through the neighborhood when all of the sudden you hear the words that make your heart beat so fast it feels like its about to explode, you are petrified in you tracks…
Maybe it was Sergeant Henry Green and his brother-in-law Sergeant Ace, who had been getting drunk all day on their day off, on the porch with whiskey and a shotgun waiting for a “colored peeping tom”. Maybe it was Sergeant Hogdes; the FBI labeled him a suspect but his motive remains redacted today. Maybe it was your boss who followed you after you left the mill because you had the audacity to defend yourself from his assault. Maybe it was George Zimmerman just trying to keep his neighborhood safe and you looked mighty suspicious. Maybe it was Darren Wilson or Timothy Loehmann, terrified for their life, of your mighty 130 pound existence? Maybe it was none of them at all. Maybe you just happened to look at a white woman while you were whistling Ellington and it really pissed off her husband, or brother, or father. Maybe you just wanted some fucking hot chow and Skittles. Shit maybe (probably) it was all of them, you’re the only one that would have been willing to tell the tale, and dead folk tell no tales. They rush you and before you can move again, you’re on the ground getting the shit kicked out of you in the street. They bind your hands and boots with bailing wire before they slip the noose around your neck. They start carrying you, but that is too much effort, so they drop you on the ground and drag you by your neck for about ten minutes through the woods while they hoop, holler, and pass a jug around. You try to beg for your life, but all you can do is gasp for air, all that slips out is, “I. gasp. CAN’T. gasp. BREATHE.”
You can’t catch a breath. The air doesn’t seem to reach your lungs, but when it does, it burns. Finally, you reach the pit. It’s familiar to them and you realize it wasn’t the first time they used this pit to lynch someone that looked like you. They tie the other end of the rope to a tree and throw you into the abyss. Sgt. Green lets a round from his shotgun loose in the air and the men whoop as they leave you to die. The silence sets in as the mob trails off into the distance. You don’t want to die, especially in this wretched hole at the hands of some fucking crackers. You pray. You struggle. You fight. You manage to get your feet free and try to build a mound of dirt to stand on to relieve the tension on the noose so you can survive. You finally manage to get one of your hands free, but by now, it’s too late. You can’t breathe and you painfully drift into unconsciousness as death envelopes you, but the last thought that goes through your mind before you slip into the echoes of nothingness, is, “in my god. damn. uniform. dear god, why have you forsaken me?”
The government would never find your murderer(s). They actually wouldn’t even ever really try to. Who knows why? Maybe they just really didn’t have the resources. Maybe because it was six weeks before your body was found, without anyone even reporting you missing, it was just too much to overcome. Maybe some of the investigators had lynched folks before and were happy to see your corpse rotting in that pit in the Sand Hills. Who knows? What we do know is that your life didn’t matter to your fellow soldiers, and it sure as shit didn’t matter to your government, who continues to refuse to redact the investigation even today, over 75 years later, yet we remain to assert, Black Lives Matter…
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, aka the “G.I. Bill of Rights”, was passed in anticipation of high unemployment rates that would likely follow the WWII. The legislation provided pathways for veterans to more easily transition back into civic society, and more importantly for the government, the economy, by offering opportunities to get federally subsidized home loans, small business loans, and the opportunity to pursue higher education. On paper, history has it that the program was a huge success. Over the next seven years, 8 million veterans received educational benefit valuing $14.5 Billion and over the next twelve years, veterans bought over 4 million homes, accounting for 20% of newly-built homes bought following the war, totaling a value of $33 Billion. But, just as the Constitutional Bill of Rights excluded Blackamericans as 3/5 of a person, so too did the G.I. Bill. Very few Blackamerican veterans were employed by Veterans Administration; in one state, only seven of 1,700 employees were Blackamerican. This underrepresentation led to a great disparity in who received benefits. When Black Veterans tried to establish the United Negro and Ally Veterans of America to aid Black veterans in receiving their entitlements, the VA refused to give it any credence, leaving Black veterans hopeless in the pursuit of the same American dream millions of white veterans were receiving, the same dream that they fought for, in the same war, in the same uniform. While there was no language in the legislation to limit who received benefits, even if Black veterans were able to get the VA to back loans, racist bank policies were employed to turn away Black GIs, and in the rare event that the Black veteran were able to get a loan from a bank, they faced the challenges of redlined housing segregation that was prevalent even in the north. Home ownership has been a steadfast metric of socio-economic status, and because wealth is typically extended generationally, the racial wealth gap has continued to greatly increase since the white babyboom of post war middle-class empowerment. In terms of education, the de jure segregation of the time prevented Blackamerican veterans from attending white schools, and HBCUs, overcrowded and underfunded, frequently had to turn Blackamerican vets away. It was clear, Blackamerican veterans were only worthy of taking bullets for their country, not actually being a part of it. These policies continued to be compounded in the following wars that AmeriKKKa would use it’s Black and brown people to fight for them. In time, they would make enlistment voluntary so that higher-classed, particularly white people, wouldn’t have to see their children die in the wars they condoned. The prison-industrial complex would explode with Reagan’s “War on Drugs”, Clinton’s “War on Crime”, and Bush and Obama’s “War on Terror” and the subsequent “security” and surveillance enterprise it induced, and Trump’s project of tying it all together to Make America 1898 Again.
To many, Colin Kaepernick, and those — like myself — who unihibitedly support his cause and method, are Sons of Bitches (how dare our bitch mothers bring pieces of shit like us who continue to care for civil rights into the world, amirite?), degenerates, miscreants, and ungrateful, or just flat out no good niggers (hard R) that should either go back to the land they continue to pillage, or shut the fuck up and be thankful that Anglo-European people colonized Africa and Manifest Destinied the Western Hemisphere on the blood, sweat, lives, minds, and backs of indigenous and Black people, then created colosseums to put the excellence of our bodies on display; a mandingo minstrel spectacle of veneration and worship, so long as those glistening Black and brown people don’t get too uppity and expect that people who look like them be, for once, treated like humans. That’s what it really comes down to. That’s what it’s always come down to. PEOPLE. Humans that are not reducable to mere bodies. Human beings. White supremacists that express overtly that they don’t believe non-white people are human, point blank, so fuck ‘em. I don’t have any hope in them and refuse to continue asserting my humanity.
It’s a matter of respect for the flag, they say. But, if it were matter of respect for the flag, shouldn’t there be an equally ferocious backlash the flag designed and endorsed by Blue Lives Matter proponents? What about the Confederate Battle flag, which is as antithetical a symbol as one can be to the UNITED States? Nope, in these cases “we just support cops and our heritage, these snowflakes are just too galdern politically correct, dagnabbit”. Ironically enough, those same folks feel the need to further disrupt National Anthem rituals with boos, racial slurs, degrading those who choose to peacefully sit the national anthem out without bothering anyone, and even issuing death threats for those who even dare to comment in support of Kaepernick, because nothing says “I respect the (racist) National Anthem” more than throwing up a Heil Hitler salute and screaming “die nigger” and hollering “Build that Wall”from under a MAGA hat between guzzling down some Budweiser (created by a German immigrant) and devouring nachos (culturally appropriated from Coahuila, Mexico) with extra jalapeños, of course.
A few years ago, while I was attending UNCW(hite), I was pulled over on a bicycle on my way home from the library because I “looked suspiscious and there had been a lot of break ins in the neghborhood”. When I refused to consent to a search, two more cruisers showed up, with their weapons drawn upon me and blue lights dancing all around to the pace of my pulse, I continue politely, but obstinately refusing their requests telling them that they could arrest me if they’d like, but they didn’t want to because they knew they had no probable cause for arrest. Beyond frustrated, I finally requested that we meet in the middle and I provide them identification. They said yes, and with my palms sweating and shaking like leaves in a crisp autumn breeze, I very slowly reached into my back pocket to retrieve my wallet. I produce my NC drivers license and VA id card and give them to the officer with the license on top. He scrutinizes my license, looks me up and down, scrutinizes my license again, shifts to my veteran id and immediately exclaims, “Oh my god! I am so sorry, sir!”. I no longer carry a wallet. It didn’t matter to him that I am a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant. To him, my visible appearance and invisible identities were irreconcilable. My long hair, full lips, and biracial Dominican caramel complexion were incompatible with their preconceived notions of veteran’ness’. He was fully aware that he wouldn’t have treated me like that had he known I’ve spent two of my adult years in Afghanistan. A few months later, I was shoved in the back by a police and when I told him not to put his hands on me, Sergeant Richardson responded, “who you ‘gon call daddy, boy?” To police (generally), it don’t matter how decorated your Class A’s are, or what color beret you wear. To police, you’re either white, or you are niggerized. My racial, ethnic, and cultural appearance, to police (and most wypipo), make me a subclass citizen (and human). Because of the way these sorts of arguments have constantly been framed, my racial, ethnic, and cultural appearance are antithetical to what is American.
Which raises the question, what is America? What is a country? To many, the flag and the national anthem represent the unity that binds all citizens together, by law, under the ideals of “liberty and justice for all”. For others, it is a mere reminder that in its history, that unity has never existed for non-white people. In his book Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy, Nikhil Pal Singh reconstructs the history of civil rights in the US and challenges conventional notions of what a nation is, suggesting that many towering figures, like W.E.B. Du Bois, for example, viewed ‘nation’ more as a global collective Black cultural identity than a sovereign territory governed by a uniform system of laws. To Singh, Black is a global nation on its own, alienated by the white supremacist structures that continue to replicate themselves. After being enslaved, denied political autonomy, and branded as innately criminal by using technology to reinvent data to support such hypotheses, can you really blame non-white people for not feeling the kumbayah vibes and expectations of assimilating into white culture without actually valuing our lived experiences? We are constantly called “they”, a distinct difference from whoever “we, the people” actually is. You curse us, you spit on us, you even lynch us in uniform, after we’ve fought for causes that do not directly effect our wellbeing as subclass citizens domestically, so why exactly should we celebrate your flag? Because we should be grateful to be criminalized and disenfranchised in such an exceptional nation? Right… Miss me with that.
Colin Kaepernick’s stance was never about veterans, it was never about the flag, and it was never about patriotism; it is, and continues to be about white supremacy and the institutionalized racism that is more American than apple pie. As I have painfully exhibited, if it were a matter of respect for American veterans, those claiming to give a fuck about the plight of the American veteran would be outspoken advocates for robust reform of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the reparations for at the very least, the families of those denied GI Bill entitlements, lynched by mobs in the gut-bucket, Jim Crow South, or murdered by police. If it were about veterans, our society would be dedicating increased resources to the Department of Veteran Affairs to address the veteran suicide epidemic consistently consisting of over twenty veteran suicides per day — over 120,000 suicides since September 11, 2001 — accounting for 23% of all suicides in the United States, not to mention veteran opiate overdoses. If it were about veterans, Congress would ensure that veterans are getting the help they need and disability claims in a timely manner, or at least fix the ASPIRE website so that veterans can at least get an estimate of how long they will have to rot until their regional office to processes their claim. If it were about veterans, our society would give a fuck about the nearly 40,000 homeless veterans on our streets any given night, 45% of them either Black or Hispanic and stop simply telling them to get their shit together and pull themselves up by the bootstraps. This argument is, and always has been about white folks’ belief that they are entitled to exert their will over Black and brown people and dictate our behavior. It was NEVERRRRRRRR about veterans, so stop deflecting, because your racism can’t hide behind the veil.
patriots and apostates of the kingdom of ameriKKKan kulture…
In the end, your mind was probably made up about the issue at hand before you got through the title and trigger warning. George Washington wasn’t a patriot in the eyes of King George and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most dangerous man in the eyes of the AmeriKKKan government. For some, particularly those that know me, you already knew where I stood, you just wanted to hear how I articulated it from my perspective, be reaffirmed that we’re not alone in our beliefs, and continue to learn from some of the resources that I’ve had the privilege of coming across. For others, you’re going to continue to deny the role that racism has played, and continues to play, in the prosperity of AmeriKKKa.
I mean absolutely no disrespect by highlighting the violent deaths of Charles Lewis, Luscius McCarty, and Fenix Hall, and if any offense was taken to the manner in which I hypothesized their deaths, I do apologize. The contemporary fascination with trauma porn of tortured Black people is despicable, but stories like these need to be recognized and atoned for. Not much has changed since the stories I told actually happened. Black life still doesn’t matter in AmeriKKKa, regardless of how loud we scream that it does. Yet, these courageous heroes didn’t die in vein. They give me the hope, and the circumstances of their death fill me with the rage to keep fighting oppressive power structures everyday, because if it wasn’t obvious from the protest that sparked this essay, we still have a hell of a fucking fight ahead of us.
About 1,000 bodies, disproportionately Black, litter AmeriKKKan streets every year. Yet, since 2005, less than 100 police officers have even been charged with murder or manslaughter, let alone convicted. In fact, only 26 (~.21%; not to be confused with 21%) of the roughly 12,000 police that have murdered citizens since 2005 were convicted. We’ll never get an accurate view of how many police shootings are a year either, because there is still no federal apparatus to track these events…
I love the United States of America and I love being an American; my identity is almost completely informed by my naturalborn privilege of American citizenship, but I also recognize my explicit involvement in promulgating American imperialism and the colonization of brown people; that’s something I am forced to hold in tension everyday of my life. There are sooooo many things — football, hip-hop, ecclectic sensibilites, sweet tea, Bojangles and Cheerwine, fashion, pulled pork barbque and ribs (Eastern NC vinegar based sauce, not that Memphis or Kansas City Shit), the Macbook I’m typing this on, and the Declaration of Independence (to name a few) — that I love about the United States. But I come from a truth-telling tradition, and no thing nor anyone, are above scrutiny and critique, especially institutions. White supremacy is a cancer that permeates every aspect of American social life; it always has, and I imagine it probably always will. Until we address this and change our systems that are all born of white supremacy, the race line will continue to race on, and many of us will continue to use our voices (and knees) to shed light upon it. I hate everything AmeriKKKa is but I love almost everything that the United States claims to be. I still have a hope in the words etched into the annals of history on July 4th, 1776. I have hope that we can for once extend them to everyone and celebrate that we have actually extended them to everyone, and then argue about what we think should be codified in law, with respect for the lived experiences and dignity of every global citizen. I still dream that through recognizing and processing, on a societal scale, the anti-Black violence that is baked into the apple pie, we can realize that when you mix it with ice cream is just fucking better (unless you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, that’s cool too; and the United States is supposed to have a place and menu for you as well).
Blackamericans have both proudly and regretfully fought in every U.S. war (and conflict) and are, to this day, treated in many regards as subclass citizens. This account, is in no way exhaustive; it barely scratches the surface of the atrocities that non-white people have endured throughout the United States, and it doesn’t express how white supremacy effects foreign policy. It does, however, offer some of the sources that I have found particularly helpful in the journey to my current understanding of race and racism in the U.S. I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned something from reading this opinion, if you have, please feel free to share. 1ove & De Oppresso Liber.
Uncle Sam, don’t forget the ‘ñ’ when you put me on the list.
Super Predator Veteran for Colin Kaepernick,
p.s. to the kapitalist koons & white moderates
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity…
We get it, Donald Trump is hot garbage and you’re trying to help. We can continue to recognize and challenge the foundations and policies that he represents and actively strive to dismantle the foundations of oppression in the United States, and globally. At some point, we just need to stop putting fillings in the cavity and ripe out the whole damn tooth.
First, read Reverend King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, they rebuke you more aptly and articulately than I ever could. Your moderate liberal politics are dangerous as fuck and your articulations of “lesser of two evil” ethics are obsolete. We get it, Donald Trump is an overt racist, and the people that voted for Trump willingly endorsed his versions of racism, sexism, Islamantagonism, transphobia, homophobia, etc., are all complicit in endorsing the discrimination that comes with him. But it is really easy to point fingers and say, “that is what white supremacy looks like”. That is no longer a viable solution to the political reality and ubiquity of white supremacy, nor does the overtness of the white supremacy in the Trump era excuse the racism within the Democratic party. Liberals have been around since the birth of the nation (in many senses of the word) and have consistently either defended or ignored, but never actually addressed, the racial violence that persists today. We are all complicit in the atrocities of white supremacy, from the products we buy to the words that we use, but the first step to overcoming this addiction to white supremacy is to start admitting that it exists and that we are associated with it. When a person of color calls you racist, maybe instead of saying “GASP!? no I’m not, I could never”, start asking “oh no!? I’m so sorry, I didn’t even realize what I said was racist, could you explain your perspective to me so I can learn how to challenge my blind spots?” Racism is completely normal in this country, but that doesn’t make it ok. It needs to be dismantled but we will never be able to dismantle it if y’all keep expecting us to protect you from your own fragility. I give a fuck not if you voted for Hillary Clinton, Tim Wise, Barack Obama for a third term, or Abraham Lincoln himself, your vote doesn’t mean you’re somehow dedicated to the struggle of the oppressed. The only difference to me, categorically, between the Democrat and Republican parties is that the former spends all of it’s time trying to pretend away it’s own racism by deflecting it solely upon the latter, while the latter celebrates it.
Police your people and put your money where your mouth is. Take this weekend’s iteration of the argument for example. Notice how language normalizes what is acceptable racism. Take SBNation’s Kansas City Chiefs page and its news coverage last week. The headline reads “Terrelle Pryor says he heard slurs during Redskins-Chiefs game”, completely dismissing “Redskin” as the slur that it is. Yet, Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins who has continuously outrightly refused to change the racially insensitive franchise name, is somehow now woke? You really can’t make this shit up. HTTR the fuck up on outta here.
Then, consider the most recent news regarding the NFL protest. Sunday, Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, came out and publicly announced that he would support Donald Trump, and in typical ‘owner’ fashion, discipline any of the players on the Dallas roster that displayed solidarity with Kaepernick in anyway. As a response to this, ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who has been in hot water with her employers since her truth-telling about Trump, took to Twitter and noted that if fans disagree with Jones, they could “boycott his advertisers”, which landed her in a 2-week suspension by ESPN. Which really exposes how outrageously sloppy these interconnected corporate oligopoly systems are. ESPN is owned by ABC, who was bought by Disney in 1995. Disney is willing to make money off of diversity when it is advantageous for them to do so, but utterly unwilling to take a stand against white supremacy when it jeopordizes profits. With its outwardly progressive appearance, draped in this façade that they give a fuck about ‘diversity’ and being forward thinking, it seems, like most liberal corporations and institutions, only use ‘diversity’ as a euphemism for ‘token’. They’ll employ Black and brown people to boost their ratings (and probably view it as charity) until those Black and brown people begin to speak their mind. Then as soon as you even appear like you might threaten those profit margins it’s “fuck you, we don’t have time for your passion, be couth keep your politics out of the workplace and stop pulling the race card”. Ask Kaep. But fr tho, it’s really ironic that in a response, to a reaction, to a protest about how Black people are constantly silenced, which Colin Kaepernick was effectively fired for, Disney decided that the appropriate course of action was to suspend her, which may well end in her termination. Fuck with their profits and they tremble then strike out of fear. So what does this mean for the magnificent Ava Duvernay and her upcoming blockbuster, A Wrinkle in Time? Are we to ask her to jeopordize her own financial wellbeing and ability to invest in substantive agents for change and challenge Disney in their stance(s)? I don’t think we should have to, but, how else do we hold these corporations accountable when the resources they control have direct impact on the impact that we can make? What is the role of the individual within an institution at challenging that institution to progress?
There are many intersectional barriers facing non-white Americans today, of them, — mass incarceration, economic and educational disparities, and gentrification — just to name a few, are all concentrated in liberal metropolitan bastions like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Look at the history of the city that forged me and the Democratic Party’s direct involvement in the 1898 Coup D’État. Yeah, it is easier to buy the narrative that the platforms flopped when Strom’s crusty head ass left the Dixiecratic Party and took the corp of white supremacist power with him. But let’s be real. Liberals have always been willing to budge on treating Black people as humans as long as they can make a buck off of their backs, if you don’t believe me, just check out Du Bois’ Suppression of the African Slave Trade. To this day, Democrats, even under Obama, have been consistently unwilling to even try to address racist policies, because the convict lease system is extremely lucrative, as slavery always is.
Final thoughts. Stop trying to save everything, we don’t need saviors, we need legitimate political agency and accomplices. Crawl first. Start listening, because people been talking about this shit for a long time. Stop pretending that centering whiteness and white fragility, devaluing, disrespecting, and erasing the experiences of Black and other nonwhite people in the US is actually doing something to fucking help. Research and donate to organizations that are down for the cause, and be aware of those that are problematic (shoutout The DiDi Delgado for always keepin’ it one hunnit). Stop trying to reduce racism to class issues; yes, there are a lot of intersections, and addressing class critiques is necessary, but reducing economic disparities doesn’t actively address racism, the two are not the same, stop trying to convince yourself that they are. And for fuck’s sake, you and your good ol’ Morgan Freeman “racism will go away if we stop talking about it” stance, really aren’t helping a damn bit. Pretending away the Truth doesn’t make the lie you’re trying to live any more livable or True. Don’t expect people to educate you, you aren’t entitled to that, but when they do invest emotional labor into doing so, don’t be scared to pay your local artists, activists, advocates, and educators for the work they’re doing in the ongoing process of unsettling people and forcing us to grow, they’re really fucking undervalued (and hungry) in our society.
Big ups to Bryan Stevenson and the folks at the Equal Justice Initiative for their amazing work in researching and curating a public space documenting a more critical account of the anti-Black terrorism that has been consistently erased and forgotten from the exceptionalist history books of the United States whose work was central to this essay.
About the author: Steve Núñez is a critical race, (de)postcolonial, and just war theorist; Master of Theological Studies ’18 in Religion, Ethics, Politics at Harvard Divinity School; and veteran Special Forces Weapons Sergeant from Wilmington, North Carolina, De Oppresso Liber