‘It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.“
I am about to “do” something that for me has been long overdue. I am first and foremost a poet. A poet speaks through the mouth of truth with a poetic tongue through keen objective and subjective observations and scrutiny of society and that is what I will attempt to do, to the best of my ability.
These are the days you’ll remember, an old racial reality with younger angrier faces has been re-hatched with temerity, and we hope it will bring us stronger together rather than tear us apart; as we continue to learn to celebrate our diversity instead of being castigated for our differences. Today I saw a sign held by a young white female during the freedom of speech rally on the Boston Commons that said: “Racism is not over, but I’m over racism.” This is a testament to the resistance against intolerance.
The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement is not in competition with the “All Lives Matter” movement simply because of course All Lives Matter but racism dictates that Black Lives Matter Less and White Lives Matter More and so that’s why the movement exists. The BLM movement is having its moment in the sun by speaking and standing up for equity for the designated bottom feeders of society who refuse to run, but instead, get angry.. They hail and wail, and with them I also question: “what is going on?” We need a shift in direction!
“Many sides! Many sides!” say Black people are lazy but moon town sun down we’re working like crazy; fighting for our inalienable rights as “equal” members of society. Our clock never seems to stop turning; we’re confused about the American promise: work hard and you’ll get some relief but does “relief” comes for those who do not look like the majority? But who am I? Just a maligned Haitian-American citizen whose voting voice barely makes a seething sound.
Way back when, chiefly Africans worked 400 years around the clock building the American capitalist economy. It is documented that slave labor made an 80% contribution to the building of the grand American wealth. And when Abraham Lincoln tried to remedy slavery with the onslaught of the Civil War and won, he was assassinated and the White Lives Matter More movement was born.
Never mind the fact that when America decided to free itself from the tight grip of British oppression, the first person who died for the American cause was a Black Bostonian by the name of Crispus Attucks on March 5th, 1770. Never mind that Black people have fought in every American war, even when they were told that their “inferior“ genetics made them a liability and unfit to serve, hence they essentially had to fight to fight. Never mind that after the American World War II triumph, when returning soldiers were handed hefty G.I Bills–which were designed to help service members, eligible veterans and their families cover the costs associated with getting an education or training–that allowed them to partake in the American dream that resulted in being able to buy houses in the suburbs with two car garages during the booming 1950s and subsequently the Black soldiers were denied their G.I. Bills and instead faced further indignities by having to endure separated but “equal” Jim Crow laws and a discriminatory practice that was generated by the civil war called The Black Code which meant that Blacks seeking jobs were to be turned away. A practice similar to the “No Irish Need Apply” signs during the influx of Irish immigrants in the early 1820’s.
Which makes one wonder, how does a race that endured 400 years of slave labor, toiling seventeen hour days under the sun, while light skinned Blacks waited on Whites inside the plantation houses, and in the post slavery years were turned away when they sought legitimate employment be stereotyped as lazy? Besides, scientific evidence has traced the genesis of the human race and eventual diaspora all the way back to Africa 50,000 years ago, (aka The Mother Land). Hence this mere fact would argue that indirectly we are all connected.
Never mind that my Haitian ancestors fought in the American Revolution and were finally memorialized in Savannah, Georgia for their heroic service. Never mind that the ruthless emperor Napoleon Bonaparte used the monetary funds he attained from the slave labor on the Island of Haiti to fortify the American cause against the British. Never mind that Haiti’s victory over the French inspired American slave revolts in the form of Nat Turner’s rebellion and more successfully the Civil War; which resulted in the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments meant to ensure Black equality in America. Yet, here we are, in the 21st century, over 150 years post slavery, we are back in the streets fighting to matter. I once heard an unmasked white nationalist (as most of them are these days) asserting with a deceptively docile smile on his face, that he acknowledges the inherent worth and dignity of all people BUT…particularly people of European descent. Go figure.
The world is restless as wars for justice and equality go on and on the domestic front; regular folks have formed movements to unify a diversified and increasingly divided America juxtaposed with president Donald Trump’s stance to “Make America Great Again” but for whom? For Blacks? For Hispanics? For Asians? For Muslims? For All immigrants? For the poor and disenfranchised? For whom? Perhaps we can “all” make America great by making our own unique voices heard by making moral and ethical contributions to one another; by aiding and not abetting the American cause, the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which belongs to all Americans. Period. Lets not forget all of us, who are not Native Americans, are descendants of immigrants. All of our ancestors came here from somewhere else, whether it was on the Mayflower or on Ellis Island in New York harbor overlooking the Statue of Liberty, we owe our lives here in America to the intrepid liberty seeking trajectory of the immigrant. Hence we will NOT be silenced. And we will NOT go away. We are here to stay!
I am quite aware that a plethora of Americans, White or otherwise, have been indoctrinated–which is to teach someone to uncritically accept biased ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group–rather than educated about our social-cultural and economic structures. For example some have been indoctrinated to think that Black people are lazy and some choose to believe that without question. One of the remedies I can think of is to be honest with yourself about how you have been consciously or subconsciously indoctrinated or taught about others who are different from you, and then, the most difficult part of all, have a DIALOGUE with that person, then re-evaluate your preconceived notions or fallacies and start fresh. I truly believe that it will be at that point you can move from being indoctrinated to being “educated” about other human beings who are truly not that much different from you; being that we are all members of the same race: the human race.
Yet, still I concur with the French playwright Molière’s inspirational words “It is not only what we do but also what we do not do for which we are accountable.“ Hence you are responsible for looking away when wrong is being committed just as you are responsible for getting involved when wrong is being committed. So don’t just sit there, do something! Start by having a conversation with someone perceived as different from you from a prima facie stand point and see what happens. There can be social progressivity in practicing political civility. What I mean by that is diligently adhering to our American constitutional pledge of freedom of speech inherent in our first amendment rights and our democracy. We may not always agree, but as free Americans, we have pledged to at least listen to what each other have to say.
My heart is brimming with pride to be a Bostonian after the inexorable display of unity on that hot summer day, the August 19th Freedom of Speech Rally where hate groups were expected to make a strong showing, but less 50 showed up to Boston’s 15,000 strong; which proves Bostonian treat each other as family, and like most families, there maybe some in fighting, but when it comes to hostile intruders, we stand together in defiant unity. Thank you to Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston police for the preemptive protection of our beloved city.
It is because of this intrepid display of unity that l am a proud Haitian-American citizen and Bostonian. It is because of this fervent display of unity that I am hopeful and optimistic that one day the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised members of society will finally rise from the ashes of assigned adversity to eventually bask in the glory of human dignity through monetary self sufficiency and finally find liberty, equality and fraternity for all of humanity.
The father of that young White woman who died fighting racism and hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia at the hands of neo-Nazis and white supremacist implored us all to STOP THE HATE! Stop holding onto the past like a child holds onto a security blanket and forgive each other. At the end of the day, we all matter and we are all stronger together!
Jacques Fleury is the Author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir & It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.