Two Americas in One White Nation (“TOWN”) — Part I. A “knock it TF off and pull yourself together” series about the building of a national family.
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Two Americas in One White Nation (“TOWN”) is less genteel than my other discussions on American race relations. I apologize — I do — but time is of the essence, and the urgency expires the third of November.
I say what I say here because we have to get unstuck and much of that is about you.
So, to start: a few pre-emptive qualifications. One, I speak in race generalities. I haven’t the patience to say some this or some that. Know that I always mean “somewhere over there on Team X. . .” Two, you bet I’m mad. Four-hundred years later and still with the racism training wheels? Nope. Three, this mess is of Team White’s making. If your Big Mad is at me, your Big Mad is misdirected. Four, anger is not hate. Five, this is me giving notice; this is not me seeking agreement or permission.
And, finally, this: if you find yourself in these pages, it is because you see yourself in these pages, not because I do. Handle that without me, please.
We are not two Americas, with one Black and the other White. We are two Americas, with one Black also and the other White only. And between both, Blacks are pinballed and ricocheted by their attending hostility.
You — the Malcontent Victorious — are a walking contradiction within Team White’s ranks that simply baffles me. White America dragged us here, White America fought to keep us here, and White America cheat-won all the carnival prizes. Still, millions and millions in both White Americas are pissed at us all the time. No one knows exactly why, really, and that includes the angry Mein Füries.
I, for one, am tired of indulging the tantrums, the enabling, the George Wallace cosplay. TOWN drills down into that frustration over three distinct movements:
- PART I lays the foundation. That is, you have no right to that White Rage. Nurse it if you wish, but if it spills on me, that’s your clean up on aisle six.
- PART II is a reset for our generation. It will be a raw discussion of consequences, because altruism is a bad shepherd to drive lasting and durable change.
- Part III is a cautionary tale, and this is where the time crunch comes in. If you cannot shake some of whatever this is loose, come November 4th the issue will be moot.
Look: you are not leaving; we are not leaving; and, the era of Black cheek turning is over. In case you missed it, Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in Team Black’s last one.
“[M]illions and millions of you are pissed at us all the time. No one knows exactly why, really, and that includes the angry Mein Füries.”
So, we will start our journey with reparations. Why? Because that was when America rebooted, then blue-screened, splitting our country in two. From there we consider the hateful relay your ancestors entered for you. Then, we dispel all notions of your mythical anger entitlement. Finally, we connect harm to consequences, and pause there until TOWN Part II. We have to address the whole hot mess standing between us and becoming one nation.
If we do not face all of this goop — together, with faith and honesty and courage — you are going to reduce this nation to ashes come November. Not us — Blacks; not Us — the nation; You — the mob of the White Angry.
THE SPLITTING OF A NATION.
Our forefathers came together as free men and exchanged promises. Our Black forefathers kept their promises; our White forefathers abandoned their own. Those promises were not for acres and not for mules. Those promises were for a chance to reset our equilibrium as stakeholders in our new nation. The betrayal split the country in two and it remains split today. This is that story.
In January 1865, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, met with “twenty Black southerners freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Reverend Garrison Frazier — their spokesman — explained their understanding of the Proclamation as having freed them from the ‘yoke of bondage’ and positioned them to reap the fruit of their labor.”
“[W]e would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over.”
Sherman and Stanton asked a few follow-ups:
QUESTION: How can the government assist the freedmen in maintaining their freedom ?
ANSWER: We will need property.
QUESTION: If what you want is to be free from bondage to reap what you sow, where is that best achieved, in an isolated encampment or among your fellow White brethren?
ANSWER: “[W]e would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over.”
Freedmen wanted “to be free from domination of white men, . . . to be educated, and . . . to own land.”
Sherman’s question of where flowed from a conversation of what. The “where” was never anything but a means to achieve the “what” brass ring.
In trade for not supporting the Confederacy, Sherman codified, Special Field Order 15 (“SFO № 15”). Drafted closely with Lincoln’s man, Stanton, SFO № 15 promised a 400,000 acre emancipation settlement of confiscated, tillable Confederate land along coastal Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
It took all of 90 days to blow that plan to pieces: John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became President and reversed SFO № 15. The land was Johnny Rebs’ once again.
Through that abandonment, we split into two Americas; through that abandonment, Blacks were unconscionably betrayed; and, through that abandonment, the nation surrendered its moral compass. That one act had the weight of a federal proclamation: Black worth falls below even the seditious. It was a virtual decree of Black open season, a sanction to burden-shift hate to us.
We live with the stain of that proclamation, and of that decree, and of that sanction. It is not slavery that almost hobbled us — it was this betrayal of free men. The product of that betrayal — the two Americas — continues to levy its tolls today.
ONE AMERICA FOR THE REBS, ANOTHER FOR THE YANKS, AND A HATE RELAY FOR BOTH WHITE NATIONS.
“It is amazing, why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.” ~Doc Rivers, August 30, 2020.
Think. What Confederate or Union soldier does not walk from Johnson’s open-palmed slap understanding our country does not love us? What Reb or Yank child does not inherit a belief that our country will always love him more?
This is not a defect of 1865. This is a defect of today. In the sixteen decades since Johnson, Blacks went from Jim Crow to “separate but *equal*” to “separate but decidedly subpar,” where we remain. What does that mean? For us, every major system and structure of governance is not just bifurcated but also hierarchical:
- Voting, with its two systems of everything from eligibility to safe participation;
- Education, with two systems of quality, discipline, “policing,” support, and resources;
- Housing, with two systems of vetting, loans, localities, community resources, government resources, policing and NIMBY dumping;
- Employment, with two systems of hiring, salaries, and opportunities.
- And the most insidious mockery of all? The unapologetic double track of justice.
This last one sees us as chum. It is the White reach of her grace for you, and the Black depth of her apoplectic fury for us. When Whites receive justice, it is sometimes dirty, imperfect, and cruel. When Blacks receive justice, it is almost always as Calvin Candie’s bitches. But one example: for the police to shoot a White man, they must prove they are entitled to kill him.Yet, somehow, when those same police engage a Black man, he is not entitled to survive absent proving his right to live.
Separate but decidedly subpar is like two planes of existence in the same time and space, wholly interdependent yet somehow unrelated. Two Americas in One White nation — one White only; and sometimes, one Black maybe.
But even more important is this. Your ancestors do not plague us here. That, my friend, is all you. And, their betrayal did not build the system. What their betrayal built was you, too.
Your ancestors did but one thing: enter your bloodline in a hate-soaked relay. And your Rebel/Yankee forefathers began training that very same day. Each then did as his father before: train his children, then pass his baton. That your ancestor is long-dead is really of no consequence. Look down: he may have passed decades ago, but that is his baton is in your hand.
So, stop saying “that was then, this is now”; “it was awful but now it is over”; and, “it wasn’t my fault, can we put this behind us?” It is now, it is still happening, and if you want it behind us, then why are you still running?
Could it be that what you really want is for us to just leave it alone? No, and in case that is not clear enough, hell no if you would prefer.
Hear me well on this so there is no confusion when our discussion turns to consequences. I am not blaming your ancestors here, or you for what they did then. I am blaming your ancestors for what they did then, and you for what you do now.
And do not think it escaped my notice that you just passed that baton to your child.
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO YOUR RAGE.
Do not — not — address us as if we are Americans by your good grace and generous leave. No one married us to you but you, and we can no longer afford to let slide your misinformed notions.
“We are home. We are staying. That national discussion is at an end. If you truly do not care for this nation of immigrants, you precisely know where the door is.”
The caustic irony here is that Blacks tried to first leave and then self-isolate, and we did these things for centuries. Do you know, for example, that to escape slavery, slaves would pack dirt into their throats until they suffocated? Seems that they could not live with things like having babies so your ancestors could have live alligator bait.
Then, as slavery began its fade, Lincoln himself sought to separate free Blacks from Whites. He pleaded with the nation, with White leaders and Black ones, for the separation of races. It did not work. Do you know why? Whites specifically sought out Blacks for lusty amalgamation and, as Lincoln noted, not the other way around.
Then, at the close of slavery, Blacks begged General Sherman for liberation from vile hate and domination, and Johnson put a quick and deliberate end to that safe haven.
Then, even as late as the 1940’s, Blacks tried instead to establish enclaves and communities. Rosewood, Black Wall Street, Lincoln Heights are just a few, and Whites of each era destroyed every. Single. One of them.
We fought for our space, lost, then abandoned those campaigns. We are settled in, we are digging in, and we are handling business, and have been for almost a century.
You, on the other hand, got our property, got our freedom, and still you are pouty and forlorn. Your forefathers dragged us here, then clawed us back, over and again. And now you, their progeny, feel somehow entitled to savage us for our proximity? Adding insult to injury, you bray and keen at what your kin killed us for by the thousands? You are entitled to no rage, and you are a victim of nothing and no one but your ancestors’ greed and inhumanity.
We built this country, just like you. We maintain this country, just like you. We are Americans, just like you. And we are home, just like you. That national discussion has reached its natural end. Complain to your ancestors, complain to Jesus, but complain to us no more. And take a moment to ask Jesus to tune up that that attitude while he is with you.
YOUR NATIONAL RECKONING FOR SOME “ACT RIGHT” IS LONG OVERDUE.
There is a phrase in Latin — civis romanus — that means “I am a citizen of Rome.” In practice, and thousands of years ago, it was seen as a badge of protection for Romans moving about the known world. Civis romanus was a promise of assured and absolute annihilation should harm befall even one of Rome’s children. Cloaked only in the protection of that promise, a Roman citizen could roam the world fearlessly as safe from harm and oppression.
“[I]f my reaction offends you, stop the catalyst from putting it in play. But once the catalyst makes that call, my return volley is not your business.”
To illustrate the effect of civis romanus on the rest of the world, let me share a personal story. When my oldest son was about two, he bit my back, then calmly watched for my reaction. I just as calmly reached over, drew him close, and bit his back as well, but of course, significantly harder. And that little face was serious as he looked at me, stunned, and then turned and walked away.
My boy had developed a curiosity around biting — around power, in truth — but he never bit another again. I suspect that what he learned that day was that his harm exposed him to more harm than he was interested in.
That is an abject lesson: a warning of something wretched to come should one continue on his or her current trajectory. That “something wretched” must be so severe, and so certain, it deters all but the truly dedicated. You have enjoyed Black grace, Black teaching, Black admonitions, yet you continue to pull the tiger’s tale with incautious abandon. It is nigh time to acquaint you with her teeth, it seems.
My civis americanus is my notice to you that I will live free of your interference.
Burden me with your hate if you must, but I will geld you when I return it. I will reach for your entire estate, with but one goal: to strip you bare of all worth. So you do not think me completely heartless, your hate is yours to keep.
In short, leave me be or you will join my crossing on the hard knobs of your elbows and knees.
Justice in White Americana has always meant my eye given for your eye taken. Justice in Black Americana, Separate but Subpar Edition, means my eye given and my forgiveness too. I extend my thanks for showing me the way, and reclaim American justice now. That means that, should you reach for my eye again, I will break that fucking hand off, friend.
Nothing personal, of course. This is just notice and simply had to be said. Hunting season is over for us, and here over means immediately.
Notice that my response is purely reactionary. If you do not want violence, do not choose violence, and you will be just fine. I know I certainly have no desire to engage on these terms at all, but will if you insist that I do. And, finally, if my reaction offends you, stop the catalyst from putting it in play. But once the catalyst makes that call, my return volley is not your business.
So, no more violence from you but prayers from us. No more kneeling, cheek turning, or “inevitable Sambo” to minstrel through fury and pain. No more please, no more thank you, and no more separate table for the hyphenated-Americans. We want what you want, and that is all — not more, and no longer less. That is to shop, travel, work, learn, live, be Americans, scratch and survive, and be policed with compassion. Any one of these thousand tragedies will show you just how hard for us a simple life is.
About racism, does that mean do not talk, do not teach, do not love, laugh or explain? Of course not. In fact, ours will be a relationship all the healthier once engaged on plains of equality. What it does mean, however, is this: malice, brutality and savagery are binary and never, ever a discussion.
BE BRAVE. “I awaken with fear in the morning and go to bed with fear in the night. How can a nation be brave if she is afraid? . . . When she is afraid is the only time she can be.” ~Eddard Stark, with liberties.
This is where TOWN Part II picks up. It is both a tough-love course correction and a bold challenge for the nation. The first step is, and must be, returning the burden of White rage to its people. It will not be easy, but it will be just and fair and self-driven, and is long over-due.
I warn that what is coming is not the typical response. There are no five steps to a cure, no important things White folks should not do, not say or not think; no counseling of patience and teaching. And, I do not speak of “cures” for racism because racism is not a disease, it is a choice — a choice that many have no motive not to make.
TOWN is a call to our dysfunctional American family to crisscross apple sauce TF down and get to the business of a nation. We may be a rowdy, drunk bunch of hooligans, but we are stuck with each other, and two Americas in One White Nation simply will no longer do.
Published in Civis Romanus (debute: September 12, 2020). Because sometimes equality is a full contact sport.
Before you engage me or others, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Catherine Pugh is an Attorney at Law and former Adjunct Professor at the Temple University, Japan. She developed and taught Race and the Law for its undergraduate program, and Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal and Civil Procedure for its law program. She has worked for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, and was a Public Defender for the State of Maryland.
To my sweetest of loves: I am the wall for them; you are the wall for me. And nothing — nothing — has ever gotten past you. You are my everything. #CubanKitchen.
“It takes the wisdom of the elders . . .” Thank you for teaching us, loving us, leading us all: Mary Stovall Davis Budd, Andrea Tucker, Lorenzo and Dorris Pugh, Jacqueline and Roger Wallace, Kenneth Davis, Sandra Davis, and Karen Davis.
***Apologies to those who read the original. It was a sloggy, and heavy and difficult read — a nightmare. I thought it prudent to do a sharper version. ~Catherine