Segregation and bootstraps

President* Trump,

This afternoon Laura and I watched Sarah Cooper’s latest Trumpian lip-sync on YouTube – “How to Lincoln.” Although Cooper portrayed you brilliantly, it was an especially vile 24 seconds of Trump-speech and when it was over, all I could think to say was that you are loathsome. You truly are. Fortunately, though, this gaslighting effort (i.e., that you have done more for ‘the blacks’ than any other president except maybe Abraham Lincoln) is so desperate and so stupidly unbelievable that only the most reality-challenged of your base will lap it up, so there’s that. But geez – you are a blight.

Yesterday while we were sitting with Old Lizzie (who, by the way, is doing plenty of wagging and even went on a 4-block walk today), my daughter told me how frustrated she is with the media over the recent mischaracterizations of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about specifically until later when I read about Fox having spliced in images of fires, looted store fronts, and people wielding long guns in their fear mongering “reporting” about Seattle’s CHAZ. Loathsome. Despicable. And very scary.

Yes, the doctored footage was retracted, but apparently it looked quite real and since much of your Fox-viewing base, wherever they might be on the reality-challenged spectrum, are not likely to question images that comport with their assumptions about a police-free state (even if it’s only 6 blocks in size), no amount of proof to the contrary is likely to sway them. In other words, you all can (and have and will) put out whatever bogus shit about Seattle or Black Lives Matter or covid-19 you want for a news cycle, dutifully retract it, and still get the lasting jacked-up fear/hate reactions that were your object. Loathsome. Despicable. Predictable.

It must be terrifying to you and yours then, that so many more white people are finally, finally starting to chisel the concrete out of our eyes and are starting to wrap our minds and hearts around the brutal facts of racism in this country. It’s taken an unconscionably long time for us to wake the hell up to systemic racism and it seems likely that many of us would very much like to go back to sleep and pretend we live in some sort of “post-racial” society that requires no real reckoning or reparations, but still, it’s looking like we are in the midst of a multi-racial uprising, as our pastor proclaimed this morning. This isn’t what you signed on for, is it?

I may be off base here, but it occurs to me that the myriad concerted efforts on the part of government (federal, state, local) to segregate and sequester Black Americans in impoverished parts of towns and in poorly supported schools and low wage jobs, not to mention in jails and prisons, served the dual purpose of keeping the boot (or knee) on their necks and keeping most White Americans enough removed from them and their collective reality that we are apt to be oblivious to the stark injustices. The simultaneous brainwashing with the Horatio Alger ‘up by your own bootstrap’ bullshit is a handy complement to this estrangement if you want to convince Whites that we “made it” on our own merit and not because of baked in White privilege and that Blacks are poorer, sicker, and more likely to be imprisoned because they just didn’t work hard enough and not because of barriers imposed by baked in systemic racism.

Despite many having come to believe there must be something wrong with them, that they weren’t pulling hard enough on their bootstraps, Black Americans have essentially known the truth for 400+ years while Whites have studiously avoided seeing it for nearly as long. So if Whites are now finally starting to see and accept the truth of systemic racism and the myth of the bootstraps it could very well upend the system. May it be so.

May we all be safe here in our America.
May we do the work we need to do to make America America for everyone.
May White Americans not cop out with feigned fragility.
May those of us who need to, accept that we’ve been complicit in and benefit from systemic racism.

Tracy Simpson

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