America’s Foundational Disease

Photo by @and_rew_and_you
June 3, 2020
By Mikey Knab - Co-Founder, Business For Good San Diego

Stream of consciousness this morning:

It strikes me now that in 'normal' times, every black American risks their life every time they leave their homes. They risk being attacked, arrested, killed, lynched, for the crime of being black while driving, while jogging, while watching birds. Hell, lives are at risk even at home, ask Botham Jean.

Those were 'normal' times.

This past week, Americans have decided to risk their lives further by gathering in massive numbers, braving a pandemic that requires social distancing to avoid or reduce its transmission. They wear masks to protect themselves and others from the contagion.

This is not normal

But, the masks protect from yet more risks:

The risk of being overcome by tear gas when peacefully protesting

The risk of having pepper spray shot by those sworn to protect and serve Americans

The risk of being identified and targeted for participating in civil unrest, which is constitutionally protected behavior in America

These are the risks, the challenges, the crucial truths facing black Americans today:

The mortality rate of this virus is disproportionately high among the black community

Many police have proven to value property over black lives

Police are funded by the government, and provided with weapons of war that they readily train on black bodies

Our President, meant to be the leader for all Americans, has shown little to no remorse or regret at the unjust killing of black Americans at the hands of police, nor at the hands of white so-called patriots. Rather, our President spends most public statements inciting violence, rebuking deescalation, and whistling to racist dogs

There are more... proud boys, KKK, neo-nazis, skinheads, peckerwoods, alt-right, stormfront, rise above...

There are many more.

Is this normal?

The heart of America is broken. We are sick with a virus, like the rest of the world, but worse, we're infected with a disease that mutates to be resistant to any haphazard treatments we've thrown at it. That disease is foundational to our country. We built America on the bodies of African slaves, on the soil stolen from native people. The racism in the DNA of the American nation has never been addressed in terms of searching for a cure, because a cure would be too painful.

It took 77 years and a civil war before the 13th amendment to our founding document abolished slavery. Another five years passed before black Americans got the right to vote. And then, an astonishing 94 years passed before - and only after a President had been assassinated was this possible - the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on race.

Painful treatments, not cures.

The 'normal' is too comfortable for those with power, with privilege, with security to allow for self diagnosis. So, black Americans risk their lives again and again and again to show the rest of America that we are sick. We must cure ourselves.

I am not a doctor, so I have no prescription.

I am a white American man. I have benefited from systemic racism my entire life. I can promise to be an ally, to make difficult decisions that make me feel uncomfortable, to listen and not talk, to stand up when asked to, to stay seated when not, and to learn. But, inevitably, I will fail to deliver some or many of these promises, because it doesn't feel normal, and we the privileged are inclined to return to that. I will never know what it feels like to fear for my life or my safety simply for being me. I am sick with the foundational American disease of institutional racism. We all are. Let's fight that war now. Let's bend that curve: it's called the arch of the moral universe. Holy shit is it long, but if we get uncomfortable, if we break the fever, it will bend towards justice.

Black Lives do not simply Matter. Black Lives are sacred. America owes a debt in black lives that can never be paid. The best we can do is quarantine our voices and listen to the sounds of the pain, process the misery and unjust disparity, and try to find a cure.

I apologize if this post was rambling. I'm not myself these days.

I don't feel normal, but maybe that's just what's needed.