Commentary By Candace Arthuria Williams
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Aug. 24, 2023: Back in the seventies, I developed a friendship with a Caribbean co-worker. It is not necessary that I identify the country of his birth. We were pals – ate lunch together every day – frequented Manhattan delis and brown-bagged it to Central Park when the weather permitted.
We laughed about the characters in the office and shared stories about the lives we lived at home. Then suddenly, there was that day when someone like me made the mistake of calling him, “Brother.” That was consistent with the times, hardly worthy of his vehement response.
Yet, his agitation was palpable, unrehearsed and immediate. ‘I am not your brother!’ he growled. It never occurred to him that I might find that offensive. I struggled to prevent the experience from skewing my opinion of my work-friend. But for the rest of the summer and until I left to begin my fall semester, I wondered instead about his opinion of me.
His skin was darker than mine, but we were equally black. Nevertheless, his head and heart had been filled with a hatred taught before he ever crossed the U.S. border. And he had processed the message well. Do not align yourself with crude, lazy, stupid, and beggarly entitlement seekers. You are so much better than that.
Divide and conquer, a historically effective strategy.
African-Americans are the most hated creatures on the planet. That is not a scientific conclusion. It is derivative of consistent, arbitrary, diverse, and subjective opinion. Some might be inclined to argue that all black people are hated – all over the world – but only African Americans whine about slavery and insist on playing “the race card” in every conceivable situation. So, let’s explore racism in its various manifestations.
At the onset of COVID, a Caucasian woman and former colleague attempted to quell my fears regarding the virus. “You don’t have to worry,” she consoled. ‘Why not?’ I asked. People were dying by the hundreds of thousands, their bodies wrapped in black trash bags and abandoned in piles on the street. “Because you don’t live in those places,” she replied. In the interest of full disclosure, the communities to which she referred were inhabited by brown people, as well. Ironically, her blue-collar husband, unable to work from home, contracted the virus only two months after her statement – at a time when COVID-19 was doing its worst. I know. I lost four cousins and an aunt, all of whom had been gainfully employed and living in homes whose mortgages they worked hard to pay.
That same woman boasted that her kids had attended school with black children – as though that was a magnanimous gesture on her part. Either she thought I was stupid or oblivious to the fact that her family couldn’t afford private school. To this day, she holds fast to her liberal delusions.
The insults keep coming. Earlier this year, a friend advised that her Community Center had discontinued a government-funded senior lunch program. The people who are paid to manage distribution are contemptuous of those who need it. She told me of tax-paying citizens who were too embarrassed to enroll. And who do you think those tax-paying citizens are? For some, it had been their only meal of the day.
Here’s contempt of a different color. A few weeks ago, I attended a local meeting to discuss the housing crisis. It was shocking. People who support Black Lives Matter and rail against anti-Semitism felt perfectly justified in bashing Koreans for hoarding subsidized apartments. This they did openly with no shame in their game. I wondered what would have happened if the media had gotten hold of the audio? My name was on that roster. It reminded me of that saying about the company you keep.
Yet unabashedly, we shout diversity from the rooftops.
America remains conspicuously segregated, although it is the custom for people to pretend not to notice. Restaurants, retailers, and places of worship all cater to their own kind. Often, I have wondered why my people break their necks to patronize the establishments of merchants who will never darken (or whiten) the doorsteps of black-owned enterprises. There is no perceived or reciprocal obligation.
What if I hear one more person refer to Hispanics as “those people” who come over here and take our jobs? What jobs are they taking? In most cases, migrant workers fill low-level positions that most Americans don’t want. How many people do you know who line up to board trucks for day work – manual labor performed in the scorching heat or frigid winter temperatures – for slave wages and no benefits?
When is the last time a Latino denied your promotion or raise?, or a mortgage, dashing your hopes for attaining upward mobility? Don’t buy into the hoax. Wake up and put your anger where it belongs. Not directed at any individual, but at systematic barriers that bar the gateways to success for us all.
Why not let your fellow crab out of the barrel? It won’t diminish you. Then cast your vote for the Equal Opportunity that appears on every job application – before you find there is no opportunity, equal or otherwise. Can’t you see the futility of battling those who are just as powerless as we?
There is universal contempt for people with black and brown skin. Native Americans, the indigenous tribes who were here before 1619, know that only too well. Perhaps they might allow us to refer to them as “Brothers.”
At this juncture, I have to acknowledge the flaw in my earlier hypothesis. There is more than enough hate to go around. Thus, I amend my statement to this extent only. Black people are the most hated creatures on the planet. Until we open our mouths, there is no way to distinguish the American-born from the African or Haitian immigrant. They are subjected to the same injustices as I. Does the serial shooter ask his victims to segregate on the basis of their citizenship? Does the killer police officer?
We cannot be divided without our consent. My ancestors were brought here on slave ships. Others came voluntarily, hauling the hopes of the American dream. But at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat, living off a land that doesn’t belong to us, either. If we could all just get along with the masses who share our struggle, we could forge new definitions of minority.
Let us lose the insidious mentality of “them” versus “us.” Let’s be smart. It is time to question the logic of perpetuating bigotry against those who should be allies. Teach your children to replace the long division with new math.