Black and White

I got my last promotion in the Army because I was white. That’s an odd statement, but it’s a true one, and the truth gets even stranger when I tell you this: I got the promotion because the other white guy who was supposed to get promoted was busted on a urinalysis test. This means the stoner was actually in front of me for promotion. Now, here’s the part that’s going to really blow your mind: my unit had a policy that if a white guy was promoted then a minority guy had to be promoted at the same time. Since they were already promoting a minority guy, and their white guy had smoked himself out of the running, I was next in line. 

I got a raise and some new bling on my uniform. 

But none of this made the world a more just or equitable place. Promoting people, white or otherwise, because of a system set up to do just that, doesn’t do any real good. What that system is doing is admitting there are so many people in the system who are racist in some shape, fashion, or form, that you have to do weird things to make it work for people who otherwise would never be treated equitably. 

Worse, I knew racist white people who used the system to help minorities as an excuse to hate minorities. If we’re going to give them something for free then that proves they don’t have to work to get it. So, as a racist you aren’t about to help anyone who isn’t white, and if someone else does, it’s the reason you suppress minorities if you can? 

I knew some really good soldiers. I knew men who were dedicated and competent, but there were policies in place that defined their worth to the military, and therefore the nation, in terms of skin color. My roommate who received an award for his performance as a medic wondered aloud if he was given the award because he was a minority. I thought he earned it. I thought he had busted his butt and done his job, and he earned what he got. But because so many minorities have not gotten what they worked for, there’s the system in place to make sure they do, even when they don’t earn it. 

Did that make sense? 

To truly understand the issue of race in America, you have to understand the history of race in America. People of color were slaves, property, livestock, for hundreds of years. Then, there were subject to race laws, pigs laws, and a host of other codified systems which made sure than no matter what happened, they were not anywhere nearly as successful as white people would be. 

Take a deep breath, white people, I’m going to tell you something that is true, and you are not going to like it. In Nazi Germany, a person could be considered Aryan, if three out of their four grandparents were Aryan. This means you could have a Jewish grandparent, and still be a member of the Nazi party. This was in their laws. 

How much black could you be in America and still be considered white? 

One drop. If a person had “one drop” of black blood in their body, if they had one black ancestor, they were considered to be black. That was in our laws. 

Take a moment with that thought. Sit down and consider what sort of world we used to live in, and how much time and effort it would take to retool the thoughts and hearts of a people who have put laws into place, and lived within those laws, before all trace of that society would be gone, and there would be acceptance and there would be love, and there would be peace. 

We aren’t there yet. We aren’t anywhere near there yet. All the promotions and all the awards, and all the bling in the world cannot change what we have done for hundreds of years, until we understand why we did it. 

If you didn’t know the “One Drop Law” existed, then you didn’t know how bad it was, did you? 

How could you possibly be a part of the solution if you never knew the problem? 

Take Care,

Mike

Why Black Lives Do Not Matter

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If you don’t think racism in America began with slavery you either haven’t read much history, or you’re in total denial there is a problem. Black people were chosen as slaves because it would be impossible for them to hide among the native populations, which was being systematically destroyed, and it would be impossible for them to pretend they were part of the colonial people, most of which were oppressed financially, too. 

Slaves, and slavery, were symbols that people with money could own, control, whip, beat, torture, and use for their profit or amusement, other people. People without money saw this sort of behavior as something to aspire for in their own misery, that they too might one day be good enough to treat other people like this. This is the very soul of racism. This is it. Look at it. 

Racism in America is a form of elitism. It’s always been a way to show off how good you are as an American. Hate equals success. 

From the very beginning of this country, slaves were used not in the name of convenience or for needed works, but for profit. If we have learned nothing about capitalism, we have learned there is no concern higher than profit; not human life, not the health of the planet, not the welfare of the seas, and not even the air we breathe. So the lives of slaves were never a concern. Slaves equaled black people. From the very beginning, black lives did not matter. 

When this country separated from England, in violence and anger, freedom and liberty for all didn’t mean women could vote, and it did not break the chains of slavery. They could have, our Founding Father might have taken that step forward, but the profit made from the lives of people kept in chains and abject poverty did not matter. 

Seventy years later, when most northern states had abolished the practice, the southern states withdrew from the union rather than free the slaves. For the next five years a nation tore itself apart, with one side fighting to its very ruin rather than using waged labor and fair working practices to produce an income. This was more than mere predatory capitalism, oh no, in this the very heart of extreme racism began to beat, and beat very loudly. 

For the next one hundred years, black people were not allowed to vote, even in places where it might have been legal. There were separate schools, separate hospitals, separate waiting room, bathroom, drinking fountains, rail cars, housing, restaurants, movie theaters, and no black person would dare sit next to a white person anywhere, but especially the south. 

Separate but equal became the battle cry of the racist government and the racist citizens of America. 

In theory, things changed in the 1960’s. Martin Luther King’s campaign for equal right did much to elevate the rights of people of color, and there was more acceptance of black people in society. Overt signs of racism all but disappeared. Yet America was still very much a segregated society. White churches were white, and black churches were white. White neighborhoods were white, and “there’s goes the neighborhood” was the refrain when someone not white moved in next door. 

Still, the country crept forward. There were black men and black women as astronauts and judges, and even a man of color as President of the United States. This should have been cause for celebration, and it was, but it also revealed a society that was deeply divided, and that divide was fuel in the worst form of hatred that America ever called its own. 

It is no surprise, and certainly not a shock, that after the first President who was not white, came a demagogue, a person dedicated both to his own personal wealth and to division. A man who would stoop as low as he could, or thought possible, preached the gospel of division and hate, filled social media with insults, name calling, and race baiting. The dog whistle was music to the ears of the racists, who finally had one of their own in the White House. 

Racism did not die, it was not killed, but it became camouflaged. Fuel by encouragement from the highest office, who claimed some Neo Nazis were very fine people, a war against people of color that began in Jamestown, and continued for every year since, was fueled by the thought that America would be made white again. The same president that decried brown immigrants as animals and an infestation would certainly look the other way as people of color were murdered by rouge cops, who knew their actions would go unreported, and unchecked. 

Black lives do not matter because of the race baiting president in the White House, who uses race to divide, so there will be no unified people to fight against his policies of looting the taxpayers to enrich big business. 

Black lives do not matter because there is profit in having a class of oppressed people who are willing to work for minimum wage, or worse, infinitely worse, cannot defend themselves against mass incarceration for profit. 

Black lives do not matter because there is money to be made off their misery, just like there was in 1850, just like in 1950, and just like in 2020. 

Don’t hashtag “BlackLivesMatter” on social media, and then sit content with that as the total sum of your worth to a people who desperately need your help. 

The arrest of the four cops who murdered George Floyd is the beginning, the very first step, not the end of the race. 

Black Lives will not matter until there is a new president, and a new government, but most of all, Black Lives will not matter until the people in this country address mass incarceration, wealth inequality, opportunity and education disparity, and most of all, most desperately needed, an understanding of racism, and how it is still here. We white people have to do this. We white people have to understand our own demons, and we have to put them away, forever. 

Black Lives do not matter to white people, not yet, not nearly yet. 

But maybe we’re seeing something different now, with white people in the street, fighting, being gassed, getting hit with rubber bullets, and spilling their blood for equality. 

Get out there, White People. Get out there and fight. Get out there and say it, and mean it, and show your children, and show the candidates that you’re willing to bleed as well as talk. 

Then say “Black Lives Matter”

Because then, you’ll finally mean it, and it will finally be true, for everyone. 

Take Care,

Mike Firesmith.