One day I was at work on one of my deployments, sitting in the office, minding my business and waiting for the dinner rush to calm down since it was steak and lobster night. The office was pretty quiet, besides the low murmur phone boning that was going on by the guy behind me with his wife and the way too loud headphones of the guy next to me. That relative silence was broken when the guy next to me started singing this country song. Considering he was definitely listening to rap music before that, it was really out of the blue. I never heard the song before that, and I’ve never heard it on any of my playlists because I’m not a country music guy at all. Just so we’re all clear, the guy next to me was a younger Black guy from Georgia, about 27 years old at the time, he was enlisted. The guy behind me was a White guy from Kentucky, about 29 years old at the time, he was an officer, and I was 30 years old, obviously Black and a contractor. Back to it…for some reason, the singing became a duet at one part before the guy from Georgia abruptly stopped and asked if I was ready to walk to the dining facility. The Kentuckian invited himself and we all walked to get in what was still a long line, but the conversation was mostly about this failed American Idol moment I had just witnessed.
Outside of the fact that both of these guys were from what I’d generically term “the country” of their respective states, they had no obvious similarities that I could tell. However, I listened to both of their backstories over time and realized that outside of race, their upbringings were damn near identical. They both grew up in racially homogenous neighborhoods, didn’t really interact with anyone outside of their race on a serious level until late teens or college. They both like country music, loud ass cars that make 2000 high speed left turns in a row, AKA NASCAR, oversized pickup trucks with lift kits and pumpkin pie. They have more in common with each other than I have in common with either of them. However, when leadership was around, they never spoke to each other, and the White guy actually did his best to distance himself from us when his bosses were around. I didn’t really care at the time, still don’t now, but I definitely noticed the difference in interaction when he had eyes on him versus when he thought the coast was clear.
I carry myself like a person that lived around all kinds of people, because I went to school with a bit of everyone. My neighborhood was homogenous, but my school had White, Black, Mexican, Romanian, Puerto Rican, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, and so on. The White guys in my high school were just as versed in hip hop as I was. Some of the Chinese guys were in a gang, Mexican kids in the science club and all that. I say that, not as a “can you believe it” statement, but rather a “this is reality” statement. All of the stereotypes eventually got tossed out of the window for me, because most of the kids around me didn’t fit them well. The mystery of other races was no mystery to me, we’re all human, same wants, needs, desires…just not living a shared experience because of our respective race.
I have found that it is far easier to respect otherness because I’ve spent A LOT of time around others in my life. What I have been able to determine without a shadow of a doubt, when it all comes down to it, the only color that truly matters is green…or whatever color $100 bills are these days. The green is what keeps the rest of us segregated in so many ways. Our neighborhoods are primarily segregated by income levels now, with race being a secondary factor. The availability of jobs and opportunity are still granted based on race, but it costs money to even be considered for the good ones. As a city kid I was able to see poor and wealthy people from every background. A perspective my country bumpkin co-workers addressed above never really had.
I believe there is value in racism to a select group of people. Yes, this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but definitely plausible. The only ones that truly benefit from racism are ultra-wealthy, White people and White politicians. They either actively benefit or passively benefit from it. That’s not saying or implying that all wealthy white people and politicians are racist though, just saying they’re the only true beneficiaries. Convincing poor white people that they’re poor because of every other ethnic group is absolutely essential in maintaining power and safety for the folks that are actually keeping them poor. Segregation by race helps to maintain the feeling of “us and them” because there is a huge barrier to get to know someone. Providing benefits or promotions for a small percentage of minorities and then claiming it was necessary for some quota builds resentment and keeps the divide in place. Even when working together in environments such as the military it is essential to treat the parties a bit different to make it seem like everything is part of the meritocracy when White people do well, but part of the rotation when non-White people do well.
Hell, even our music is unnecessarily segregated. For YEARS Usher and Justin Timberlake have been making the same type of music, using some of the same producers and all that. However, when Usher does it, it’s R&B however, when Justin does it, it’s Pop. The powers that be in Country music didn’t want to allow Lil Nas X into their ranks because of the type of music he was “singing” to, yet there are no issues with Trailer Made rapping the song “Tennessee Sh*t” as country music. Again, this begs the question why? Why must we segregate the masses into groups by race? If we’re all Americans, why do I need to select Black, White, Hispanic on my job applications? Why are people of color that were born here generically singled out with qualifiers…African American, Mexican American, Asian American etc.? Why are we considered less than American when we’ve been here the same amount of time?
Don’t Play With The Money
Back in 2011 when people were fed up and occupying wall street was a thing, there was condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. It sounded differently on each side, but outside of it being something to report on, it was relatively bad for business. The spotlight was shone on the top 1% and income inequality was at the forefront. When that happened, and the noise started to spread across the nation, Homeland Security got involved and the effort to tear them all the way down began. Didn’t take long either, that movement lasted for about 2 months. What followed shortly thereafter though was unchecked police brutality and egregious examples of racism being acquitted in court, birthing the BLM movement. Conveniently re-segregating struggle when people were starting to rebel against a common enemy. Now, I’m not saying the powers that be started BLM or purposely manufactured the conditions for BLM to start, it’s likely just a coincidence…albeit a damn good coincidence.
Some historical context for my wacky idea here…Martin Luther King was considered one of the good ones, until he started talking about economic equality among poor people, Black and White. Civil Rights had already been established and showed no signs of changing things for the better. Being equal on paper was easy, seeking equity and unifying poor people in general put the target on him. Malcolm X was a coveted firebrand when he was calling White people devils on TV. Upon returning from Mecca, when his messaging was less critical of White people in general, but more specific to the struggles in America the attention changed. When he claimed to see brotherhood in all races, he was assassinated. Fred Hampton was younger, but he was ahead of the game on recognizing the true issue. He declared that they would fight racism with solidarity among all the poor masses, Black, Brown and White. Then went so far as to say they’d fight capitalism with socialism too. This led to the powers that be carrying out a ruthless execution mission shooting no less than 90 rounds into his apartment while he was sleep. Spreading unity is dangerous to those thriving on misinformation and capitalism, the folks that try never seem to survive that messaging for long. That being said, I’m not trying to unite anyone, I’m simply sharing these observations and enjoying this life I’m living. 🙂