Nina Simone-Part 2-Mass Participation, Unification

“They keep saying, ‘GO SLOW!'”…”That’s just the trouble, TOO SLOW!”

For a moment, please, let’s look at the rhetoric of “living in the best system in the world,” as well as, “the gradual change toward a fair and just society.”  We, as a country, at some point, “emancipated” the slaves, another hundred years later, our government allowed those who descended from slaves to participate, as “full-citizens,” in our democracy. Sixty years later, we have our first president of mixed race. If one were reading all of this, in a grade-school history textbook, it might appear that all is well that ends well. After all, this is how I was enculturated as child, with textbooks that said, “boy, was it rough, but we did the right thing, and America is still the best country in the world, even better now that we’re all equal and such.”(paraphrased) But the story didn’t add up, what about Rodney King, what about unofficial segregation in the lunch room.

Now the question is: what about Trayvon Martin and Kenneth Chamberlain, and the fact that these situations are not particularly rare? And how are institutional regulations going to change the situation on the ground, where a black man cannot feel safe, on the street or in his home, from those whose role is the protection of our society? And how will it change the fact that the police feel that they are doing their job by protecting society from black males? And that the police feel this way, because that is what our culture tells them, and us, and everybody? Regulatory institutions cannot control the assumptions of culture. They may play a small role, but if they did have this level of influence, then, by all accounts, the only people who wouldn’t make it in the U.S.A. would be those who are not working hard enough or just plain bad-seeds.

Cultural assumptions, in our case, are carefully molded by mass electronic media, which is a frightful barrage of bullshit, in its shiny daily-new package. So, it is up to each of us to claim our responsibility for allowing and encouraging such a bunk culture to continually recreate itself in this progressively horrifying manner. This is something we have to do for ourselves, we can’t buy our way out, and ultimately we are doing this for everyone and the earth we stand on top of: home for all of us.

It benefits those in power to have the working and poor people divided by race, religion, politics, class, heck, whatever works. The middle class is important to keep pacified, so they are given some sway. Or perhaps the appearance of sway, I can’t tell yet: politically, I haven’t seen the middle class move in anything but predictable patterns of polarity so far. Each of the transitional spaces between classes are infused with the hope of making it to the next level of success in our society, and whichever level is the next level is the “American Dream,” always just out of reach. Of course, people can and do elevate their station in society, but this does not mean that they are necessarily ever welcomed into their new soci0-economic status by their new peers. And this is all done with a white backdrop, that is, social norms are defined by how “the other” relates with the colonizing force.

The pacification of the middle-class, and to get more specific, the white-liberal middle-class (the particular subset of society that I have the most experience relating to) is aided by its desire to be pacified. It’s easier to believe in the feel-good story of America being the pinnacle of human evolution, and maybe it’s not perfect, but it almost as good as it can possibly be, maybe in another 60 years…with some more technology…we’ll get there sometime. That is easier than taking a deep look at our own complicity in the crimes perpetrated on humanity and the earth, in the name of progress. This is an may be an unpalatable truth, but screw up your courage jump in and take a gulp.

In my family, it is known that somewhere back in the days of slavery, the slave-master had a child with a slave, this is something that was not at all uncommon. But we weren’t supposed to talk about it with grand dad. In a very literal way we are related to our “other,” go back in the family tree and we are all our brothers and sisters, not in a feel-good trying-to-be-relatable way, but in fact. There is no black and white, in reality, that is the fiction “white” folks created and we all repeat. It was a tool for dehumanizing the “other,” it is a tool to separate the poor folks of all colors, it is also a tool for the moderate white middle-class person to feel better about distancing ourselves from those we pity and act charitable toward. Humans are many shades of a single color spectrum, and black, white, red, and yellow on not on that color chart.

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