We Are Responsible For Who We Become

Early on into Former US President Barak Obamas’ presidency, a Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates was arrested for trespassing in his own home in Cambridge Massachusetts.

This incident caused national outrage. Barack Obama weighed in on the issue and pronounced that the “Cambridge Police acted stupidly by arresting someone when there was already proof that they were in their own home”

For his comments, Barak Obama was labelled an anti-cop racist who had “demonstrated over and over again that he had a deep seated hatred for white people or white culture”.

This was an opinion shared by many Americans because his ratings plummeted, they were the lowest they had ever been in his entire 8 year presidency.

He was forced to apologise. For using the word stupid. But that was not enough. Two weeks later he called in Henry Louis Gates and the police officer who had arrested him to the White House to share a beer. A meeting the media labelled “a beer summit.”

For this, Obama was accused of using the cop as stooge to increase his ratings.

I came across this story recently and it sent a chill down my spine.

It made me think that Black people can’t win in this fight. Whether you’re a distinguished Havard Professor, the President, or an ordinary man, woman or child walking down the street. Your skin will not protect you.

Today as the world mourns and protests the murder of George Floyd; I think of Audre Lorde when she said you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools:

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that that deep place of knowledge and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose faces it wears, then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

Apartheid (South) Africa

We thought we had succeed in dismantling the master’s house here in South Africa, but we only succeeded to make racism more entrenched and insidious. Most racist people here always say Apartheid is over, whenever something which implicates them happens.

So, it’s over.

I am convinced that there is nothing more black people can do to fight racism. No amount of extending hands, talking, beer drinking, forgiving and protesting will change people who choose to be racist.

They will always find a way, a loop hole, a strategy to twist and turn what we’ve done or said in our defence until we no longer recognise our own voices.

Still, I wish I could invite my brothers and sisters to Africa – the land of milk and honey and say it’s safe here. But black lives are worth much less on the motherland than anywhere else on the planet. So, as chilling as it may sound right now, you are safer in the USA. The most heinous acts of hatred and violence are routinely being performed against black bodies by black Africans with absolute impunity. There’s no white man to blame here. So we don’t protest anymore.

What happened to George Floyd and hundreds of millions of black men and women who suffered similar fates will never be acceptable.

But.

I will no longer protest against racism. From what I can see the more we protest the more it stokes fires on both sides. Racists become more racist and black people become more angry and inflamed at the injustice of it all and the cycle continues. All of it leads to death. Whether we want it, deserve it or not.

If anything these recent events demonstrate that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become. So I am going to choose another way, it’s okay if you don’t agree. I understand. We all have a choice to make and I’ve made mine. I’m done talking to walls. D.o.n.e.

Racist, hateful people are racist and hateful because they choose to be, they want to be, in fact they insist on it.

“Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.” 
― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

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