America's fatal flaw is a systemic racism that keeps millions of people perpetually on guard and off balance because of their skin color. Gary Younge writes about this in a "long read" in The Guardian. This is very sad. It's also a danger and a warning for the future, for everyone. If America feels this way to a successful black man, who is giving up on this country and going back to England (!), something has gone severely wrong, and not just in the south.
The south, of course, is where racism is worst, but it's bad everywhere. It does not have to be overt, though often enough it is overt. The day to day grind serves well enough to wear people down and shorten their lives.
Younge found the U.S. intriguing enough to stick around for 12 years:
I arrived in New York just a few months before the Iraq war. Americans seemed either angry at the rest of the world, angry at each other, or both. The top five books on the New York Times bestseller list the month I started were: Bush at War (Bob Woodward’s hagiographic account of the post-9/11 White House); The Right Man (Bush’s former speechwriter relives his first year in the White House); Portrait of a Killer (Patricia Cornwell on Jack the Ripper); The Savage Nation (a rightwing radio talkshow host saves America from “the liberal assault on our borders, language and culture”); and Leadership (Republican former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s post 9/11 victory lap).
There has barely been a quiet moment since. First there was the jingoism of the Iraq war, then the re-election of George W Bush in 2004, Hurricane Katrina, disillusionment with the Iraq war, the “Minutemen” anti-immigration vigilantes, the huge pro-immigrant “¡Sí se puede!” protests, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, the economic crash, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Obama’s reelection and the current rise in anti-racist activism. Being a foreigner made all these phenomena intriguing. Politically and morally, I picked sides. But, when reporting, it was more like anthropology. I saw it as my mission to try and understand the US: why did poor white people vote against their economic interests? How did the descendants of immigrants become xenophobic? Why were people disappointed in Obama when he had promised so little? The search for the answer was illuminating, even when I never found it or didn’t like it.
I thought of myself less as a participant than an onlooker. While reporting from rural Mississippi in 2003, I stopped to ask directions at the house of an old white couple, and they threatened to shoot me. I thought this was funny. I got back into my car sharpish and drove off – but I never once thought they would actually shoot me. How crazy would that be? When I got home, I told my wife and brother-in-law, who are African American. Their parents grew up in the South under segregation; even today, my mother-in-law wouldn’t stop her car in Mississippi for anything but petrol. They didn’t think it was funny at all: what on earth did I think I was doing, stopping to ask old white folk in rural Mississippi for directions?
...When someone close to you struggles with chronic pain because they have no healthcare, has their kitchen window pierced by gunfire or cannot pay a visit to their home country because they are undocumented, your relationship to issues like health reform, gun control or immigration is transformed. Not because your views change but because knowing and understanding something simply does not provide the same intensity as having it in your life.
...Because for all the white noise emanating from the Tea Party movement, it has been black Americans who have suffered most since Obama took office. Over the last 14 months the gap between my son’s life chances and his friend’s have been widening.”
...“Nonsense,” wrote one commenter. “Your middle-class status means his future will have more in common with his white friends than any poor black kid.” Another – a Guardian contributor, no less – also chimed in: “For you to claim shared victimhood on skin colour alone is highly disingenuous. Your son is highly likely to do OK, to say the least. He has most of the advantages in the world.”
Such responses betrayed complete ignorance about the lived experience of race in a country as segregated as the United States. Class does makes a big difference, of course: this is America. We have healthcare, jobs, university educations and a car; we live in a community with reasonable schools, supermarkets and restaurants. In short, we have resources and therefore we have options.
We do not, however, have the option not to be black.
...Class offers a range of privileges; but it is not a sealant that protects you from everything else. If it was, rich women would never get raped and wealthy gay couples could marry all around the world.
This last paragraph is the key. The highest privilege is to be white, male and heterosexual. As a white man once said to Terry in a moment of honesty, "The system is set up for us, so why not take advantage of it?" It's little daily things that add up to advantages for this group that they do not acknowledge, usually. It's what many are willing to fight to the death for, usually the death of others, of course.
So Younge predicts a summer of rage as conditions become more and more intolerable for blacks, and he doesn't want to be around for it.
Younge was intellectually engaged by the mess we are in but not did feel personally impacted until he had had a few experiences that he couldn't laugh off. Most particularly, he realized that if he stayed here he would have to bring up his son without any guarantees that his status would protect him from the consequences of living in a black skin.
Racism is the curse from which all evil flows in this country.
Off to participate in the park action in our little corner of the universe, where a crazy white guy is trying to bully everyone. It's a race issue, for sure, but we are being cautious about naming it as such. Our only goal is to get him out of the park area, because that's all the power we have. And even there we may not succeed, because all he has to do is this one thing of being a troublemaker, while the rest of us are involved in productive activities that take up most of our time.
So this ends on a weak note. We left America once, in 1971 but we came back in 1985 and to Hawaii in 1996. Hawaii is not as racist as the rest of the country, but it's racist all right. We can't leave again, because we are too old, and to be sure we love this place. We get well treated, mostly, and are generally well thought of because of our white skins, not just because we are affluent.
Update:We went down before 7:00 and parked the old car and then did some errands in the other car. It's nice to be out that time of day, especially when we know it will be too warm and humid later on.
Borden was not there! Big anti-hate signs were on both sides of the street, and I am not sure he would be able to park anywhere close. I'm going down at 10:00(rush hour on Kinoole) for a couple of hours of sign waving. We'll pick the car up at 3:00.
Parents have taken heart and are bringing their children to the park again, and there is a general lifting of the mood there. Jeri Gertz, a local celeb, was there this a.m. and she said the drug situation at the park used to be worse, before the county put in play equipment. That was good to hear.
This is an exhausting country to live in, for sure, but it's my country.