Sitting in my favorite local non-corporate owned coffee shop on the outskirts of Tokyo on a peaceful Sunday afternoon, it’s hard to believe what is going on halfway around the world in my beloved town of Minneapolis and other cities across the country. This is both an angry and sad time for the United States, but I saw the writing on the wall fifteen years ago.
After viewing the video of the cop publicly lynching an African American man in broad daylight as both the victim and onlookers pleaded to stop while the other three officers did nothing to help I got angry. I am still angry and sad. A part of me wanted to jump on a plane and fly back to Minneapolis, which as I write is still burning. Then I got to thinking about those days when I was a punk rocker in the 1980s and what we were railing against, among other things cops. I liked to believe that I was brave then, but those rioting and protesting now (not those looting or those destroying property) are far braver. Then I thought as a 55 year old man I have a choice as to how to respond. My initial response just post on Facebook, as if that does any good, which I did by the way for a while. The other more age appropriate response, be smart about what I write, and more importantly donate money to worthy causes that go against what is angering me. I went both routes by writing this and donating a portion of the stimulus money I received from the US government to the NAACP. I am now considering the next donation.
As a resident of New York City living in Greenwich Village and working in Tribeca on 9.11, I experienced the unfolding of events that day including the planes hitting and the aftermath. I do not want to relive that day in this piece, rather I want to bring to light what I observed a few weeks after that day, which was disturbing enough to drastically change the direction of my life.
A few weeks later what emerged was what I call “hyper-patriotism.” Initially, there was an outpouring of support and kindness from countries all over the world. The US would have none of it. They would go it alone doing what needed to be done on its own terms. Soon a revenge narrative took shape perpetuated by the government, and fueled by mainstream media. It was then that I began to realize that people were not taking responsibility for the event on that day. It was never a one time incident there was something much more going on and the US needed to look within to see. They did not and instead added to the growing list of groups to be feared with those at the top being African Americans. The list now included Muslims. Since then, the list has grown to African Americans, Muslims, Asians, and anyone from Latin American countries, essentially anyone who is not white.
While the narratives may have changed the underlying reasons remain the same. After Bush was re-elected for a second term I knew right then and there that my time in the US would be coming to an end. No longer did I want to live in a country that did not hold all human life to the same equal standards. No longer did I want to be a part of a country in which military budgets were more important than education and health care, where profits trumped people.
I have said this before, I am glad to be living outside the US in a country that is in many ways is polar opposite to the US. Yes, at some point Japan was on a very wrong path pre-World War II. It was only after getting beaten down to a pulp that real and lasting change took hold. The results of the changes are what make Japan a good country to live in and include a living wage, reasonable health care and education costs and a society which takes care of one another. Many of the changes that were put in place after World War II were done by the United States, the very same country that now needs to be beaten to a pulp before any real and lasting change takes hold.
Many pillars of society are failing its citizens from the government, to the health care system and we are witnessing what I recently heard during a Cornel West interview, “America as a failed social experiment.” This was never sustainable.
The initial catalyst for the release of this pent up anger and frustration was the pandemic which forced people to stay indoors and both feel the anger and witness institutions failing its people. The flashpoint took the form of a racist act and those on that list could no longer keep their anger from seeing the light of day.
What I fear most is a narrative that pushes for a “back to normal” way of life. Start from the premise there is no normal. Normal is code for keeping the soon-to-be minority whites in power. Try as they might with institutions crumbling, the old guard holds on even tighter, but they are losing their grip. If normal wins out you will see business as usual and continued insanity – doing the same thing over expecting different results.
The writing is yet to be written on this wall, but keeping up the good fight a new way of life will emerge.
Offering a far better, eloquently written perspective is an African American blogger Tianna and her site “What’s Up With Tianna?” Her post can be read here – https://whatsupwithtianna.com/2020/05/30/what-do-i-want-from-white-people-an-illustration-on-being-black-in-america/
Attached are some recent photos of the aftermath of the 4th day of protest in Minneapolis sent by my brother whose home is within a mile of this location.