It is a heartening thing to see huge numbers of Americans, of all races and creeds, organizing in protest of police violence and racism in this country. But there is a disconnect here, one I do not have an answer for. I think it’s important to acknowledge it.
My writing here has drawn both criticism and support. But a recent response made me dive deeper into my own education. The writer pointed out that Malcolm X considered white progressives even more dangerous than white racists, as their betrayal was hiding under the cloak of alliance. He/she referred to them, to me, as “foxes.” I looked up the speech that statement came from, and I watched it.
For Malcolm X, foxes were the ones who fled neighborhoods when black families moved in, who fled schools when they began to integrate, who gentrified black neighborhoods, driving the black residents out.
I get the point.
I have seen it happen in Kingston, and I’ve heard new residents who have fled Brooklyn looking for an affordable, inclusive community worry that they themselves are gentrifying Kingston and driving out people of color. These are good people, well-meaning people, progressive people. They are turning out to protest the death of George Floyd and the generational racism and violence in our society. But their presence, their love for this new community of theirs, has evicted many of the very people with whom they are allied.
So far, no one has an answer that doesn’t negatively impact one group or the other.
Malcolm X maintained that the only answer was for a separate country for this nation’s black people. Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted true justice and integration was possible.
James Baldwin put it this way in a New Yorker article from 1962: “I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be “accepted” by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”
Kimberly Latrice Jones, co-author of “I’m Not Dying With You Tonight,” eloquently expresses black frustration in a now-viral video, when she points out that the reason black people were brought to America was economic – to work in agriculture in the South and textile factories in the North. “If I played 400 rounds of Monopoly with you, and I had to play and give you every dime that I made, and then for 50 years, every time that I played and you didn’t like what I did you got to burn it, like they did Tulsa, and like they did in Rosewood, how can you win? How can you win?” she demanded. “You can’t win. The game is fixed.”
She draws a moving, impassioned conclusion – that the social contract between society and the black community is broken. You may not like what she has to say, but we all should hear it.