February 10, 2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of the day a junior Senator from Illinois announced his candidacy to become the first President of the United States who was also a person of color.
While he would ultimately succeed in bringing out record numbers of first time voters and increasing the civic engagement of people all across the nation, and drawing a record massive 1.8 million people to attend his historic inauguration,
Both he and his family would become the nations preferred targets for racial hatred and death threats.
As Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco informs us:
According to conservatives on social media, “Republicans have jobs and responsibilities” and therefore couldn’t engage in civil disobedience to voice their discontent with the 2008 and 2012 elections. With this perception of the Obama elections and subsequent claims of “ Republican acceptance,” Trump supporters are now demanding the same “fairness” for Donald J. Trump’s presidency, “We sat through do nothing politics for 8 years, the least they can do is go shut up and sit in the corner for 8 themselves,” on Trump supporter explained.
However, these perceptions do not reflect what actually followed the election of our country’s first black president, much less the difference between why people are protesting Donald J. Trump’s presidency as compared to Barack Obama’s presidency.
Obama’s election in 2008 was preceded and followed by violent attacks and property destruction targeted against minorities.
Evette Dionne provides us with several examples of the discontent of those racists:
For nearly 10 years those that were against him, would resort to racial slurs, insulting school yard nicknames (so they wouldn’t have to actually speak his real name), incessant harping on a non-existent issue over his birth certificate, and accusations that he was a Muslim terrorist. These racial attacks, even against his wife and children would continue even through his final day in office and beyond.
For four of those years the cries of “Benghazi” and “Emails” were added to those of “Muslim” and “Birth Certificate,” which became tools used to interrupt and shout down anything they didn’t want to hear.
Throughout it all, every member of his family, but especially he, showed extreme grace, dignity, and decorum — more than anyone could have expected, more than most anyone else would have managed.
Unfortunately, as a result of this, those against him were able to maintain their level of anger, draw more into their fold, and remain willfully ignorant of any information that belied their personal views. Some were even able to manage the mental gymnastics that would allow them to convince themselves that they were actually the victims of racial policies instead of the perpetrators and supporters of them, while others came to believe that actually denying human rights to a specific group of people was nothing more than a political stance instead of a crime against humanity.
This allowed them to drive turnout during the midterm elections and swing both state legislatures and governorships their way. This, in turn, paved the way to undermining the Voter Rights Act at the state levels, gerrymander voting districts, and create new forms of legalized voter obstruction.
The first fatal flaw we fell victim to has been trying to fight unreasonable people with reason, logic, and facts — trying to rationalize away the cause of irrational and deeply seated fears.
As we watch civil rights already begin to roll back in the first days of the new President’s term, we must realize by now, that drafting new laws isn’t going to change the cultural bigotries that exist.
Those are still too ingrained in our collective identities.
Slaves started arriving, having been brought by force, to the Americas in the early 1600s. It wasn’t until 1865 that slavery was made illegal in the United States, although it was some time later before that news reached everywhere and was well enforced. Segregation started ending in the mid 1950s but the Civil Rights Act wasn’t signed until the next decade. Even that didn’t stop racist lending and housing practices that manufactured segregation by maintaining racial makeup of communities which are still in practice at some companies today as we just discovered in the lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase Co. Along the way, we discovered that the “War on Crime” had taken advantage of a loophole in the 13th Amendment that legalizes slave labor for prison inmates, which was further compounded by the outsourcing of that labor to corporations by privatized prisons.
With that information, it is easy to see from the timeline below showing four centuries of racist practices that we are not yet even one generation removed from overt systemic racism in our nation.
This is why People of Color are not “over it” yet, and it is why those privileged whites that have benefited from it in any way still have trouble sharing their privilege as a right of equality.
The body cannot heal while the wounds are still infected.
We see similar problems being repeated in the fights for the rights of the Native American people, women’s suffrage, women’s right to make their own health care choices, disabled inclusion, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, interracial marriage, marriage equality, fair housing practices, fair lending practices, and the rights of every other group of marginalized people and the issues surrounding how those rights are oppressed.
The second fatal flaw that we consistently make is treating each of these individual fights as separate fights, and further treating the same issues as separate issues for each marginalized group and having to fight the same battles over and over again.
As we focus our sights on the next issue to tackle, we lose ground on others. As we saw today. While the world focused on the historic international event of the Women’s March that brought out over four million women and men protesting several women’s rights issues, the violence against the Native Peoples at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipe Line escalated again.
We need to unite in the fight for human rights for all.
Then we need to force the new laws that protect those rights to be written as all-inclusive laws that protect every grouping at once, and any possible future groupings that may arbitrarily be created in an attempt to circumvent those laws.
However, as we’ve covered above, we know that just having those laws in place doesn’t really protect anyone unless we enforce them. And getting them enforced fairly and justly requires having the hearts and minds of the public and those that enforce the laws on board with why they are important.
Which brings us to how we win.
Changing hearts and minds, and rewriting societal norms isn’t a matter of politicians arguing, it isn’t a matter of rewriting laws or writing new ones, it isn’t a matter of trying to reason with unreasonable people.
It is psychological warfare.
To win it, we must use the same tactics that were used against us. We must be angry enough to stay motivated. We use that motivation and anger to bolster our numbers and drive us to the voting booths. We must cast a ballot for every local and national office and initiative. We must show up for midterm elections and off-cycle run-off votes.
Achieving that will require duplicating the interruption tactics, using our own buzzwords to shout down their lies, hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, rape-culture, and oppressive desires.
When they start presenting those things, we must be ready with the cries of “Russia!” “Sexual Predator!” “Fraud!” “Racist” and others.
This must be done with the same tireless vigor and venom that they used for the 10 years since Mr. Obama declared his candidacy and we must stick with it until it is done.
We must take to the streets and stand up against all the forms of racism, bigotry and oppression we find. Even if we’re not the victims of it. Even if it is our family, friends, and neighbors that are the perpetrators. Whether it is intentional or unintentional.
No more free passes for anyone.
This isn’t about political differences. This isn’t about being politically correct.
This is about fundamental human decency and human rights.
And if you’re not willing to stand up and fight for them for anyone else, you can’t expect them to stand up and fight for you when you suddenly find yourself or one of your loved ones in one of the marginalized groups.