In January when Kelley Ann Conway, surrogate for and advisor to the POTUS uttered the phrase “alternative facts” to justify the steady stream of easily debunked lies pouring from Press Sec. Sean Spicer’s lips, many of the country’s jaws hit the floor. This naked Orwellian doublespeak deserved our horror just based on how unusual it is for politicians to baldly tell you they’re a pack of irredeemable liars.
Predictable but maddening, were the panicked cries of: “This is NOT normal! This is NOT America!” As a lover of irony, I felt a morbid satisfaction in seeing people decry a justification for fictionalized truth with a bit of fictionalized truth of their own, but as a human person that has to live in this society, I often feel like shaking this entire country by the shoulders until I hear the clacking of teeth.
Self Image vs. Reality
There were signs from the massive airport protests with the above sentiment on them (“First they came for the Muslims and we said NOT THIS TIME MOTHERFUCKER.”). It almost sounds like something an action hero might drawl just before laying waste to the bad guys.
As was alluded to in the introduction, this country has a long history of scapegoating and vilifying vulnerable communities, but I am willing to give these sign and meme makers the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that they’re confining their timetable to our modern, information rich reality. News breaks and is ingested immediately over social media. Events of grave societal upheaval happen in real time, broadcast over various 24-hour news networks. Armed with so much more access to data than our historical counterparts, we’re able to mobilize like never before.
Given this specific context we can all agree that…. what’s that?… oh… yeah:
Perhaps the signs and memes should more accurately read: “First they came for Black folk and we asked, ‘What about Black on Black crime?” Admittedly it’s less inspirational, but certainly more honest. Think about it, the American government revoked an entire population’s, “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” A whole section of the first amendment was summarily rescinded in the wake of a police officer murdering Mike Brown and the Ferguson police department responding to a candlelight vigil in his honor with rifles and riot gear. This type of militaristic occupation was repeated all over the country as America’s police forces took aim at unarmed Black women, men, and children.
I don’t remember much lamenting over a constitutional crisis. There was just copious footage of illegal tear gas blanketing whole blocks, militarized police mobilizing against unarmed, peaceful protestors, and pundits shaking their head and speculating about possible looting. What perplexed me was that no one else seemed shook.* These actions were treated like an unfortunate but lawful act. No one beside Black people were panicking en masse. A small-ish town’s martial law readiness being at peak should shake every American.
“What?! Y’all think they’re going to stop at us?!” I would shout-think into the faces of white people and Non-Black-People-of-Color (NBPoC) on my way to work. “We’re just the practice run you shortsighted [expletive]s!” Some ‘This is not normal.” “RESIST!” “This is not who we are!” style rhetoric could have gone a long way back then.
A Little Self Awareness Goes A Long Way
My theory is that the largely unchecked, small town fascism that proliferated against Black people during the previous administration is ironically due, in part, to the liberal media that the current administration seems to hate so much.
The gargantuan difference between actual crime statistics and how often crime is attributed to Black people on the news is an opus of anti-Blackness performed by America’s journalistic community–the fourth estate. Other ways they craft racist and anti-Black narratives are by showing contempt for Black victims and admiration for White criminals.
A white supremacist drives from MD to NYC to stab a random black man to death & news reports compliment his attire? https://t.co/4lrr3TmbY5
— JJ MacNab (@jjmacnab) March 22, 2017
Most Americans (including fellow Black folk) will site the media-created “Black on Black crime” myth to grimly (or gleefully in many cases) excuse the unconstitutional policing of Black people under the auspices that it’s for the greater public good. Of course no such measures will have to be employed against them because they’re not as lawless as ‘the Blacks’. Even politically savvy NBPoC can fall into that thought pattern before being schooled by those in the know, just ask Kal Penn.
A Much Needed Come To Ma’at Moment
Unfortunately for this administration, they completely overreached when it came to immigrants. It’s heartening to see such a groundswell of support for immigrants and Muslim citizens, but I can’t help but notice how much of it is predicated on the perception that they bolster the American economy or serve as useful snitches in America’s international Forever Wars. But even this self-interested support isn’t enough to stem the tide of immigration checkpoints; social media witch hunts at the boarder; families being ripped apart; and de facto internment camps sprouting up all over the country.
There is no opposition party because, with the exception of a few firebrands, the Democrats are: playing petty politics; waiting to see if they can get some victories by default; and pushing the Black Muslim man who predicted the rise of Trump (to condescending giggles) into a support position for the man whose strategy is to court the suburbanites and rural citizens who are still presumably on a high from ‘making America great again.’
The Tea Party movement was the precursor to this administration. We all scoffed at their blatant ignorance, hypocrisy, and racism as they stood outside of town halls with automatic rifles demanding not to have affordable health care. Then they gained a strong foothold in the legislative branch by demanding their candidates do–not talk about–but DO their bidding, thus proving that anything they lacked in intellectual curiosity, self preservation, and human compassion was more than made up for in strategic thinking. They’ve continued in this vein, sloughing off those who are not committed to their will and replacing them with folks who are. Now it is their powerful caucus that is going to decide if healthcare will be stripped from millions of Americans.
Meanwhile, the Democrats chided and jeered but still readily compromised with them as they amassed power. Most egregiously, they didn’t bother to plan a counter strategy to Trump’s America, preferring to leave us to this administration’s tender mercies. Now the Tea Party/Alt-Right/Nazi/KKK-adjacent have full control of the legislative and executive branches of the United States federal government and most of the state governments. Soon they will have the judiciary as well when Trump’s appointments plague us into perpetuity.
The establishment (and many of us citizens) laughed smugly as the orcs were at our door, and now the orcs have captured the throne. It may be too late, but I hold out hope that if we let go of the comforting justifications, alternative facts, and empty hubris we’ve cloaked ourselves in, we can at least try to find the cold, hard truth that will turn this situation around.
* – I am aware that there were various other non-Black Americans who showed solidarity with Ferguson and subsequent police occupations across the country, but there was very little systemic or mainstream push back. It was controversial and rare of politicians or even public figures and celebrities to utter the completely non-controversial statement “Black Lives Matter.”