For my birthday this year, I was gonna make a whole list of “things I learned on my last rotation around the sun” to coordinate with my big age.
Then pro-Trump supporters stormed the capitol and, from how I see it, tried to stage a coup of our government.
The day after, I tried to figure out how to put into words what it feels like to watch history be made (with the election of the first Black Georgia Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock), and then, less than 10 hours later, watch the country retch and writhe and vomit up its worst parts in reaction to PROGRESS like it’s bad sushi. I’m still drawing blanks.
Might be because I’ve slept a grand total of 9.75 hours in the last three days.
Might be because I’m overstimulated and have too much going on.
Might be because my feelings about this are so big, I can’t condense them into the tiny characters on my laptop screen.
In the midst of trying to put thoughts into words, I took a trip down memory lane and it brought me back to high school.
It’s a long story but promise worth the read.
I went to a prestigious magnet high school. This is not a flex. There was a documentary done about our school once, because of the groundbreaking advancements our principal made available to us. (Clips of it were on YouTube years ago—I don’t know if they’re still there.) We had grants from Compaq, Exxon, a formidable pre-Engineering program, AP (and regular) courses taught by people with PhDs…and this was a public school, not private.
We really were afforded top tier instruction for FREE.99. Roughly, the estimated racial makeup of the school was around 60% White; 40% Black; 5% Latino; 5% Asian (South and East)/Eastern European. In 1994, we had a Black, female salutatorian AND a Black, female valedictorian.
The next year, white parents (mostly mothers) were on our campus trying to collect signatures from other white parents in the school pick-up line on a petition to get the magnet program removed from my school and moved to a school in their neighborhood. They were covert about it, but…I’m an observer.
I’d noticed them milling about a few days in a row with their little clipboards, so I pretended I was going towards the buses in order to eavesdrop, heard one of the white mothers explain it to another, and watched with my own two eyes as that white woman determinedly signed her name. I don’t know if clipboard Karen was part of the PTA or just a regular parent trying to stir up shyt, but I knew without a DOUBT what the impetus was.
Obviously, she didn’t frame it that way. She complained about the kids not being rested because they had to get up super early to be bussed to “this side of town.” Poured on the “fear for our students safety” crap THICK for good measure. I should clarify here that yes my school was, indeed, in the hood. *MY* hood, specifically. Yes, it was wild IN the hood, on the residential streets—it was the ‘90s and we were living the resultant effects of Reaganomics and Ronnie’s disingenuous war on drugs. But CAMPUS was never dangerous before, during, or after classes, at least that I experienced, and I was in many extracurriculars that had me at school either early, late, or both.
I remember track practices where it was dark outside, yet we never had issues because the corner dudes didn’t come on our campus. And if they weren’t coming to bother girls in track shorts, they weren’t gonna bother your precious Caucasian prince, clipboard Karen. Plus—our principal was a Black man and they knew we were the “nerd school.” They left us alone. There was never a shooting or threat of gun violence on our campus, because this was pre-Columbine. Sit with *that* bit of irony for a second.
A Race Riot on Campus
My senior year, we had a race riot on campus when the kids from clipboard Karen’s side of town, who’d formed a group called “The Rebels of D’Ville,” posted a shoutout in the school newspaper with a bunch of acronyms, one being “KTN” which meant “Kill The N!@@ers,” hard -er.
They tried to insult our intelligence and say that’s not what it meant. However, when the emblematic way you choose to represent yourselves is having the Confederate flag on everything you wear, drive, carry, and stick on the inside of your locker…it’s a very hard sell.
The Black students spent the weekend organizing a protest on carefully and creatively navigated three-way calls. The plan was to wear all black, meet in the square, and demand that the administration set rules that the Rebels can’t print codes in the paper anymore. We also wanted an apology.
The day of the protest, students gathered in the square—and the line of demarcation was indicated not only by clothing, but skin color. Threats were yelled across the concrete, and the Black students dared the white ones to “say it to our faces.”
They never said the word, but one of the white male students spit—yes, SPIT— at our side, and that ignited a brawl. After the short melee, we had to sit in something resembling a damn sharing circle, and listen to white girls cry about “heritage, not hate”—again, this was the ‘90s, lest you think that phrase is some new development.
We also had to endure gaslighting, because WE were not allowed to wear anything that represented Malcolm X, including the “Malcolm, Martin, Mandela & Me” shirts that were popular at the time. (Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr.)
We had a very vocal Jewish instructor at the school, so I am willing to bet Malcolm’s affiliation with the Nation is what caused the ban on *his* paraphernalia…but it does not explain why we also couldn’t wear the red, black and green Africa pendants while the “rebels” were absolutely allowed to wear the “You wear your X, I’ll wear mine” shirts. And did. All the time.
Again, my principal was a Black man. (Not casting aspersions on him at ALL, just pointing out the fact that this grown, accomplished Black man had to somehow swallow that white boys walking around wearing the Confederate flag in his face everyday was OK, while also having to tell Black children they couldn’t represent El Hajj Malik El Shabazz in the same manner.)
We, in the Black community, are not new to this.
All of this to say: I am no stranger to the capacity of hateful evil white people can internalize, justify, and act on when they feel like minorities are getting too big for their britches. As a daughter of the South, I have lived it firsthand, many a day.
Luckily, I’ve had wisdom passed down from generations that lived through harder times than I’ve ever seen. My grandmother was born in 1903 and lived to be 95 years old. My uncles, aunts, and parents had to drink out of water fountains that were labeled for their skin color. We, in the Black community, are not new to this.
It’s also why Wednesday was not a complete surprise to me. I had no incredulity about what was transpiring in the Capitol when White supremacists stormed through doors with their privilege and nary a plan.
All I had was exhausted rage and animated anguish over the fact that even when we do all we can to push this nation forward in order to help EVERYONE, the pushBACK comes from the same cast of characters that have been mad since 1865: LBJ’s lowest white men.
The Late President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Such a shame that even when afforded access to everything by default, including top tier educations, ignorance is what a majority of white people choose.
And yes, Virginia, it *is* the *majority* of White people. 74 million people vs. 81 million people is damn near a 1:1 ratio. Percentage wise, 60% of white voters voted for Trump. I already told you I went to a good school, so you should readily accept that *I* know how percentages and representation work.
We ain’t new to this; but we really wish the nation would stop being so ghatdamb true to this.
Maybe next year’s birthday will be full of fun and celebration. All I can say now is that y’all BETTER be glad these people chose the 6th and not the 7th to act a fool; had these troglodytes made Blue Ivy’s birthday a mess, THE ENTIRE BEYHIVE WOULD NOT REST UNTIL EVERY ONE OF THESE DOMESTIC TERRORISTS WERE FOUND AND PUNISHED.
The Capitol building really is a majestic building. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be invited to it multiple times, and have pictures of my husband and I on the Speaker’s Balcony. Such a pitiful, criminal shame it was desecrated by thugs, terrorists, and white supremacist traitors to our democracy. May they get what they deserve.
My only birthday wish today was: America, do TF BETTER.