by William “Duke” Smither
“We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.” – President Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America
This post is not about NASCAR (“National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing”), nor Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, nor the Confederate flag, in spite of the recent ‘hangman’s noose’ event found in his garage stall at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway….
Nor, is it about ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s also not about President Barack Obama, the United State’s 44th President’s quote mentioned above. Shucks, it’s not even about #45, President Trump, or the preponderance of racially divisive ‘tweets’, during the recent “Juneteenth 2020” celebrations.
What’s It All About?
In a very real sense, it’s about all of that and more. Much more! In fact, as an African-American U.S. military veteran, having grown up in the South during the years of ‘Old Jim Crow’, as a high school athlete (football and track) on the frantic cusp of school desegregation, but now married and the proud grandpa of six– so far– it’s about a potpourri of racialized experiences which many of us so-called “Baby Boomers” can attest to, and certainly authenticate, having had ourselves a few doses of America’s profound plague of racism.
Racism? Generally, it’s the trumped-up (no pun intended) belief that one race is superior to the other or the practice of treating a person or group of people differently. Uh, that’s the somewhat polite version.
But, over the years, since before the American Revolution, in 1765, and long after our nation’s Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress, at the Independence Hall gathering, on July 4, 1776, there has been a polyglot assortment of descriptions and labels leveled at this insulting, hateful behavior.
In the United States, some say that this ‘thing’ we call ‘Racism’ is the result of some toxic personality disorder’. Others feel that this behavior began, here, when European colonists began their pursuits of civilizing the “heathen savages” of the Americas, namely darker skinned peoples who certainly didn’t look like the “pale-white ghosts” invaders, beginning around the 15th century. Actually, it was earlier in various parts of the world.
Far Beyond the 15th Century?
But, if you asked the Tupi and Guarini peoples of Brazil; or the Cherokee, the Navajo or the Sioux of North America; or, the Choctaw, Chippewa or Apache; or, any of the many other so-called ‘Native American’ groups– as well as the other indigenous or aboriginal people of the world– especially Africa, you will likely get a more complicated, intense and decidedly different interpretation of this around-the-globe state of mind and pervasive behavior, oft-ascribed to political doctrine.
Their interpretations may often include the various states of the human condition, such as enslaved, starved, lynched, battered, beaten, raped, burned, murdered, tortured, terrorized, eugenicized AND dehumanized. Whew! But, yes, it is complicated.
Each one of us has our own story, our family stories or the narratives of our ancestors, passed down through the ages, since time began anew, ‘back in the day’ and eons before all that. So, I won’t even try to provide too much of my own slanted interpretations, here.
It’s Complicated, Indeed
Yet, over the years, I have learned that it’s extremely difficult to sit down and have an earnest discussion about race with people of different racial groups. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve been so frustrated in trying that I simply swore that I’d try no more. But, eventually, I did…
I can also recall, during some of my post-high school athletic experiences, including the military (playing soccer on the U.S. Sixth Fleet team) and civilian life (coaching AAU track and field), there were always individuals, many much younger than I, who seemed to just ‘get it’ and became instrumental in revitalizing my own hope for a better future for this land I love.
It’s why I can say, today, that I’m still proud of the Bubba Wallace’s, the bevy of ‘Black Lives Matter’ groups, and many other groups in sports, arts-and-entertainment, theater and/or music, which seem to be stepping up to the plate against our nation’s deep-rooted, “inherited” disease of racism and cultural arrogance. At minimum, they seem much more capable of resolving a few of the important issues that our grid-locked politicians no longer seem competent to do. Frankly, the vexing realities of political leadership today are exhausting, and too numerous to mention. Even a scant few religious leaders now appear more political themselves.
So, today, though I’ve never been much of a NASCAR fan, whilst I have a few friends that are, it’s why I’m specifically dishing out kudos to Mr. Darrell ‘Bubba” Wallace, Jr. and the NASCAR leadership and drivers.
You’ve given us some hope when things seem a little gloomy and darn near hopeless. So, KUDOS to you! Thanks for standing up.
But, please remember that there’s still a day of reckoning, yet to come: Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. I hope you’ll be there, too.