The slogan “Moving the country in the right direction,” and “Taking our country back” means different things to different people.
I have been scratching my head trying to figure out why the U.S. media and White Americans are taking so long to fully understand the depth and breadth of what “Moving the country in the right direction” means to people of color (POC). These words mean so many things to us, and none of them are good.
I would like to break down what it means for a middle-aged Black woman with children and grandchildren. My parents were born in segregated hospitals. My parents went to segregated schools. They walked because Blacks couldn’t ride buses. Those few words when spewed by White people believing in the segregationist propaganda being sown by this administration and the GOP leaders mean the nation were going in the wrong direction before.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means separate and unequal.
Moving the country in the right to me means cheating to stay on top. Cheating in ways like the leader of the nation has done by blocking a voting bill to make sure the playing field remains unequal when people of color go vote and closing polling places in Black communities to ensure they do not have a voice. It means rich, grumpy old men and their gerrymandering, purging voter schemes, and paying off concubines to hide dirty little secrets to remain in power and maintain control. It means undermining Black leadership before it even has a chance to demonstrate its skills and abilities, and using your rich friends and connections of privilege to keep the dirt under wraps.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means once again bigots being able to say all the derogatory things specifically about people of color under the protection of the First Amendment. The things some racist White people usually would say behind closed doors. Like calling Black women dogs and low-lifes, saying Black women have low IQ’s and how they look like men. It means we are super cool with patriarchy, sexual assault and harassment and men who disrespect women just like back in the day when women were property and you beat your wife on the courthouse steps.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means more Black and Brown children being placed in detention centers and foster homes like this nation has done for decades. No one seems to care about children being harmed unless they have some type of political value.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means rolling back all the protections that have caused us harm. Like rolling back worker protections, and rolling back environmental protections that would prevent more harm caused by humans to Mother Earth and to the poor people who live on her. Moving the country in the right direction means violating treaties with the nation’s Indigenous people in order to drill oil and robbing park lands from taxpayers to make corporate America and their shareholders wealthier. It means screw the poor and pad the pockets of the rich.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means White men and women being able to walk any street they want to in America with Tiki torches (minus the white hoods) to affirm their Whiteness and privilege from the days of old, instilling fear in people of color everywhere. Right direction + Alt Right = Black and Brown misery.
This is just a reminder of what moving in the right direction looks like to Black people.
Moving the country in the right direction means taking from Black and Brown futures to ensure only White ones are sustained. The things taken away from us are the things too many people take for granted. They are basic necessities like clean drinking water, public education services for K-12 children with disabilities, civil rights, fresh, low-cost food, shopping centers in our own communities, the ability to apply for housing loans, good credit, employment opportunities, and even delivering a baby close to our communities. These things for people of color are luxuries we’re simply not entitled to as citizens.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means I must worry about the intentions and purposes of every White person I encounter until they’ve made themselves and their intentions known first. I can no longer blindly assume every White person means me no harm including physical harm, emotional harm, economic harm, and gender harm.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means I must worry about my Black grandsons being harmed by racist White primary school teachers who dislike Black people but need a pay check. Because Black and Brown people must always teach our children and grandchildren about the real world, real hate, real racism, and discrimination, our kids don’t get to the luxury of being kids for long. Children of color carry adult worries.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means I must worry about my sons being harmed by scaredy cat, racist police who have infiltrated our police forces, sheriff’s departments, and other places within governmental institutions to impose their hate while inflicting fear upon minorities.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means not being welcomed (more frequently) in public spaces. It means White heads held high with pride and no fear, as I now must monitor my every step and every word to ensure the “Stand Your Ground Law” lovers who fear/hate/don’t respect Black and Brown people don’t get a reason to use their guns to kill me.
Moving the country in the right direction to me means fear, more lack, stress (more than usual), economic instability, more degradation, more dehumanizing, more humiliation, more hate, and more retaliation. I see all the things my parents and grandparents told me about living while Black in the South from the 1950’s and 60's.
Many White Americans have been in denial since 2007 about what these words have meant. Those words never mean anything when you’re on top.
And while many White folks are still in denial about these old code words, POCs have never had a moment of doubt about them. We’re used to dog whistles. We’re also used to not being believed about what we hear.
White Allies, we need you to be more vigilant. We need you to speak up. We also need you to be consistent. Thinking individually instead of collectively causes serious harm to people of color. Put your privilege and fragility in the trash. It helps no one except White people.
Lastly, allies please speak up!!!!! Refusing to speak honestly and bluntly about the coded language used to describe pre-Civil War and pre-Civil Rights time periods used by your White friends, family members, co-workers, church family, barber, etc., harms Black and Brown people working hard in the country to just survive. We don’t need any more trauma. POCs in America already have a lifetime supply of trauma to pass on to future generations of our offspring. Ally silence and denial is a consent to do harm us.
Moving in the right direction may mean going backwards to a better time for White people. It may even be good for them. For most POCs, going backwards definitely means going back to a time when our lives were in danger, and upward mobility had low ceiling.
Let’s stay on course, and let’s move forward, together. America cannot survive if we don’t all work together to make it better for all of us. We also need to get crooks, liars, con-artist, entertainers and thieves out of our local, state, and federal governments.
Together we stand. Divided, this nation falls.