It’s 7:13am. So far I’ve used the bathroom, washed my face and hands, made my bed and started my morning stretches. Unfortunately, I also spent a few minutes looking at social media. That was a bad idea. While my life is fairly comfortable and I’ve adjusted to the current COVID-19 lifestyle, I’m still processing what happened to Ahmaud. Then Breonna. And now George. It could have been Christopher, the bird watcher in Central Park. Casually, comfortably killing Black people, and almost any non-white people, really isn’t newsworthy. It is not new. It’s just easier to prove. Still, hearing about each new event crushes my heart. I just woke up and already, I feel worn out. It’s not the fault of the person at the White House. It’s the fault of the economic system on which this nation was built. The United States and other Western nations would never have become what they are without centuries of nearly free forced labor and the willingness to casually kill people.
Consider the people who care more about eating out and getting haircuts than protecting themselves and the vulnerable members of their communities. In many cases, their parents and elderly neighbors are vulnerable but that seems not to matter. In most cases minorities, the poor, and people with compromised immune systems are vulnerable. We are constantly given proof that to many citizens of this nation, those lives don’t matter and they never have. The minor inconvenience of covering one’s face is oppressive to those who are comfortable being oppressors. So is being reminded to follow commonly known requirements like leashing one’s dog at a public park.
Think about the rush to “open the economy” in spite of the scientific evidence showing that such action is very likely to cause more illness and death. Now think about what it means to reopen the economy. People who normally work in offices are, in most cases, able to work from the safety of their homes. Children, spouses, and pets may create a few challenges but if those workers remain at home they significantly reduce their risk of illness. Cashiers, drive through window staff, postal workers, garbage collectors, and medical workers, including social work, dietary, housekeeping, and maintenance staff do not have this option. Doctors, some nurses, and administrators generally earn high salaries but most people whose work requires public interaction earn $10.00 to $15.00 per hour or less. Opening more retail, service, and food businesses forces more low-wage earners out of the relative safety of their homes into the public where entitled people refuse to wear masks or adhere to social distancing. It’s a calculated risk, but this nation has always been comfortable with providing wealth and comfort for some at the expense of others.
We know that violence, starvation, and innumerable broken treaties killed many of the indigenous people who once populated this land. We should remember that they were also killed by diseases brought here by European’s – diseases that were new to this land and to which the people had no immunity. In fact it is widely believed that once the colonizers understood that their diseases were far more deadly to the indigenous, they took advantage of that fact by purposefully spreading those diseases in an effort to annihilate the ones from whom they stole this land. It’s likely that people of European descent were also killed by the same diseases, but they were almost certainly poor, uneducated, and generally disposable, sacrificed for the “greater good” by those with greater wealth. Who else would one use to deliver blankets full of smallpox?
Who else would one use to do anything that was exhausting, dangerous, or simply undesirable? Not one’s own family members. Not people of similar lifestyle, beliefs, and behaviors. One must find others. OTHERS! People who seem to be different, unrelatable, exotic. They can’t simply be foreign. Many foreign people look alike. They aren’t easily distinguished without their foreign languages or unique styles of dress. No, OTHERS are required for the tasks that must be done, but absolutely cannot be done by people who deem themselves better than the work that enriches them. Kings don’t tend cattle and harvest crops. Queens don’t scrub floors and nurse babies. Having escaped the social and financial oppression of European monarchs, the colonizers were free to establish feudalism in the New World. Lords and ladies of their manors, they emulated those from whom they fled.
The indigenous others, who suffered endless waves of invading Europeans, either died or fled and had to be replaced. The new others, imported like fabric and alcohol, were at a disadvantage. They had no connection to this land so escaping alive was difficult. Some chose death as the escape. Robbed of their names, families, cultures, clothing, ornamental items, religions, and languages, they were now, according to the colonizers, nothing more than livestock. To the colonizers, the only inherent value of the new OTHERS was in their ability to enrich those who claimed ownership. Yes! Wealthy land owners listed acres, sheep, cows, pigs, chickens and Africans among their valued possessions. Then they fought the evil oppression of European kings, established a new nation, and created a document to rule themselves with liberty and justice for all… except the Africans, the indigenous peoples, and anyone else whose skin doesn’t promptly suffer in the sun.
Like the native others, the African others also died of European diseases to which they lacked immunity. Like the native others, the African others appeared to be primitive in the eyes of the colonizers who were enamored with their own supposed enlightenment and piety. Like the native others, the African others saw their homes ruined, loved ones tortured, mutilated and murdered, and experienced soul-wrenching ridicule. Like the native others, the African others were raped – men, women, and children. It wasn’t long before children needing extra protection from the sun were born to the native and African others. Suffering all of this, all of the others persevered, occasionally helping each other. Eventually, after centuries of revolts, a few wars, speeches, letters, and an undying resolve to give their children viable lives, the others asserted that they were neither savages nor livestock nor fractions of people. Using the words of the document most prized by the progeny the colonizers, the others asserted that they had equal rights to secure the Blessings of Liberty to themselves and their Posterity. According to the law the others were finally citizens, but they were still OTHERS.
So here we are, 401 years after the first kidnapped Africans were delivered to the Virginia colony. The imported Africans experienced a lifetime of forced labor, abuse, exploitation and humiliation. In return for their services they were paid with hatred, which seems to have been invested in a trust fund to be paid to their children, grandchildren, and every future descendant. Here we are, surrounded by the children of those who fled Europe seeking freedom. Many of them exercise their freedom by abusing, exploiting, and humiliating all others. Here we are, inexplicably expecting to live in a more perfect Union where Justice has been established, domestic Tranquility is insured, and the common defense is provided. Look at us behaving as though our general Welfare will be promoted – as if we, like the children of the colonizers and more recent European immigrants, have equal opportunities to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
Those who did ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America did NOT do so with the OTHERS in mind. They did it for themselves, their children, and those who look like their children. While the OTHERS have been effective in changing the letter of the law, the spirit remains. Violence, humiliation, hatred, illness, and death at the hands of the colonizers and their children continue to be the unfortunate inheritance of too many OTHERS. Many children of the colonizers find this behavior outrageous, sad, horrifying, and despicable, but not enough to speak up to their families, neighbors, coworkers and spouses. Not enough to recognize the privilege of looking like the people who stole this land and created it in their own image. Then there are those who think that relentless, casual violence against others is just fine. The OTHERS obviously must have done something to deserve death.
“He shouldn’t have sold individual cigarettes in New York. He deserved to be choked to death. He shouldn’t have been driving in Minnesota with a registered gun in his car. He deserved to be shot to death, live on social media. He shouldn’t have been a child playing in a public park in Ohio with his big sister. He deserved to be shot within seconds of the police arriving – no questions asked. He shouldn’t have walked to his father’s home after buying candy and a drink. It’s perfectly fine for a neighborhood watch person in Florida to stalk and murder a neighbor’s child. He shouldn’t have been selling CD’s in front of a store in Louisiana. That merits the death penalty. That Black guy shouldn’t have been jogging on a public street in Georgia. Those streets are only public for white people and anyone else must pleasantly identify themselves to random, gun-wielding, truck driving vigilantes or else they deserve to die.”
“A woman can’t smoke a cigarette during a questionable traffic stop in her own vehicle in Texas. Take her to jail and kill her. A Kentucky paramedic can’t sleep in her bed while her mate defends their household from violent, late night intruders. Kill her and charge him with a crime for defending his home. A woman in Texas can’t stay up late playing video games with her nephew, then defend her home from people with guns in her yard. She must have done something to make them kill her. A man in Minnesota can’t ask to be allowed to breathe while handcuffed with three police officers holding him down. The officer was simply protecting and serving the community by using his knee to keep the suspect of a non-violent crime from moving. He did such a good job that the suspect will never move again. Those Native Americans shouldn’t have asked for medical supplies to help battle COVID-19. They ought to be glad to have those body bags. Those women shouldn’t walk around this country with those things covering their heads. They deserve whatever happens to them. Those people shouldn’t have come here fleeing oppression, war, or famine without the right documentation. They deserve to have their children taken and stored for safekeeping in dog kennels. My grandparents came without documentation but they deserved to be here and I’m proud of the sacrifices they made to provide a better life for their children.”
People of that mindset will always be able to justify murdering OTHERS. Blacks, the indigenous, non-European immigrants, and any lives that they don’t appreciate or understand have about the same value as a stray cat.
It’s 2:02pm. I’ve had a cup of coffee, several glasses of water, a few biscuits that my husband made, and a tomato sandwich with bread that my son made. I’ve updated orders, sent receipts, and responded to emails for our family business. I sat on the patio and read two days of scriptures in my chronological bible, put in a load of laundry, paid a dormitory deposit for my oldest daughter, and tried to figure out how to style my new haircut. Of course I spent some time writing this blog post. My desk is beside a window so I enjoyed watching and listening to a brief, but heavy downpour. Now the sun is shining and I hear a neighbor’s lawn mower running. Eric, Philando, Tamir, Trayvon, Alton, Ahmaud, Sandra, Breonna, Atatiana, and George no longer have the opportunity to do the mundane things I did today. As descendents of OTHERS, they have received the inheritance set aside by the founding fathers.
I am an OTHER. My husband and children and nearly my entire family are OTHERS. Most of my friends are OTHERS. Many of my neighbors are OTHERS. Lately I’ve been wondering how to disclaim the trust left for us by those who established this nation. There’s a legal process to disclaim an inheritance that you don’t want and I certainly don’t want this one. I don’t want anyone else to have it either. I grow more weary and numb each time I see it being distributed. Constant grief is exhausting and every time I think I can rest, someone else gains their inheritance. Then another wave of sorrow hits me. I think that’s one reason why I’ve been comfortable with social isolation. The people I love spend much more time at home where it’s safe – except for no-knock raids and neighbors “accidentally” entering the wrong door and shooting an assumed “intruder.”