I have always identified myself as African-American. I embrace who I am and where I come from. I proudly tell anyone who listens to me that despite being stripped of our culture, our language, our very identity and sold into slavery, despite Jim Crow, despite the KKK and other groups that hate us, despite the economic and social inequality thrust upon us and a host of other roadblocks African Americans are as responsible as any other people in the shaping of America into the country it is today. Unfortunately, like many African Americans, I have been called a nigger; I have had the barrel of a police officer’s gun pointed directly at my face for merely throwing a football in the backyard of a friend who happened to live in an all-white neighborhood. Despite never being in trouble with the law and not dressing like the mythical stereotypical “threatening African American male,” I’ve been stopped for driving while black, stopped and frisked for no apparent reason, and seen white women cross the street at night when they have noticed me. Yet my story is a little more complicated than just the color of my skin. Adopted, it wasn’t until my late 30s did I discover I was half white. A DNA test courtesy of 23 and me confirmed that my DNA profile is mostly Nigerian, twenty-seven percent, followed closely at twenty-four percent Ashkenazi Jew. So, for the KKK, I’m the jackpot, you know, lynch one get one free. In totality, I’m Fifty-four percent Sub-Saharan African and Forty-three percent European. The bottom line is that no matter who my DNA traces back to, I’m always going to be who I am. Anyone who knows me or meets me should judge me based on my character, not the color of my skin, what religion I practice, my sexual orientation, country of origin, or a host of other factors we have invented to separate ourselves from one another.
In the very beginning of the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes, Charleston Heston’s character Colonel Taylor wonders if that throughout the thousands of galaxies, millions of stars, if there is only one, a speck of solar dust we call Earth that has been graced or cursed by human life. He wonders if man, the marvel of the universe, still makes war against his brother and lets his neighbor’s children starve. At the end of the movie, Dr. Zaius informs Taylor that he has always known about the man and that he must be a warlike animal who gives battles to everything around him, even himself. Science fiction from over fifty years ago or reality from today? Because as we are getting ready to usher in the third decade of the twenty-first century, we are still waging war against each other, even letting our neighbor’s children starve, and always looking to give battle to ourselves. The ending of Planet of the Apes doesn’t paint a bright future for humanity, YOU BLEW IT UP, and it does not take much to suspend belief very much to see our future playing out the same way.
In the last few years, America has seen a rise in hate crimes as a percentage of Americans increasingly feel threatened by anyone who does not look, sound, live or worship the way they do. It has always been a simmering, but now with an administration that tacitly endorses it, remember a group that walked the streets of Charlottesville chanting the Jew will never replace us was said to have good people, it seems ready to boil over.Now is a crucial time we as a people must guard against our prejudices and make no mistake no matter who we are; we all have some biases dwelling with-in us. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided. I have heard a few of my Jewish brothers and sisters. Dismissing Black Lives Matter with comments as if they don’t want to be targeted, they shouldn’t commit crimes. I have heard a few of my African brothers and sisters dismiss anti-Semitic violence as overblown, angrily wondering why bigotry is seemingly only deemed a problem when it happens to the Jews and not when it happens to the African American community. I have heard both groups go after one another over the nonsensical debate about what was worse, the holocaust or slavery. I have witnessed African Americans and Latinos who loath each other as they fight over the limited resources afforded to them because of inherent social and economic inequality. It is precisely these divides that play into the hand of those who preach racism and bigotry. Keep them divided and fighting among themselves, they say it makes it easier for us to keep them down. Yet despite all of this, I genuinely believe, as I have said many times in this blog as time goes by, those who preach racism, bigotry, sexism, judge people based on their religion, or are homophobic are a dying breed. We must not give them any life by falling into their trap of fighting among ourselves.
We are the voice of the many.
We see no difference in each other.
We judge each other for who we are and what we do.
We unite as one people.
We are America!
And we are gaining in strength every day, and it’s just a matter of time before we defeat you.
Find someone to laugh with you, it will bring you joy.
Find someone to cry with you, it will comfort you in times of sadness.
Find someone to listen to you, it will ease your mind in times of anxiety.
Find someone who can do all three and you have found someone to love.