I see you
child of a Jamaican immigrant
because I am one half that too.*
I understand the pressure
and the power
I get the humor
and the struggle
what it means not to comprehend
when someone says “can’t”
These are not words in your vocabulary
because among the many gifts… music, rhythm, sun, ocean, passion…
that were poured into your ear
in the honeyed lilt
of your parent’s native tongue, Doubt
was never among them.
You received your gifts…
with grace and faith
but not so much that you can’t look at yourself
even today in wild unbridled vanquishing triumph
…laugh, at the child of a Jamaican immigrant
in the mirror
who will always believe they can do better
Should do better
Must try to do better
and will always believe they can take the world along
For the ride.
*My father, Dr. Charles A. Dyer was born in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica in 1936
Thomas L. Friedman wrote a piece for the New York Times yesterday that was part of a collection of opinions titled “What Have We Lost.” Friedman’s entry is called “Trump Has Made the Whole World Darker“. It is appropriately dystopian and bleak and references China and Russia and loss. But for me the title is also weirdly ironic because if Trump made the world darker, that darkness didn’t touch the New York Times. Out of 15 writers, this piece includes no women of color (to my knowledge, although there is a small sprinkling of men.)
Like Friedman, there are a lot of people forecasting catastrophic situations on and after Tuesday’s vote. Businesses are boarding up, police are going on high alert. People are planning rallies and vigils.
And I’m not.
Whenever the votes are finally counted and someone is declared the winner of the presidential race, the morning after that, I will wake up, walk my dog, have my breakfast, start my day and I will STILL be a black man in America. I will still be the most vulnerable and visible in the white organizations I interact with both by my choice and against my will. What is more, even having voted for Biden/Harris, I will still not have voted for a real systemic change because systemic change will not happen through the ballot box.
Systemic change will happen when we figure out how to build a completely new system. This can’t be fixed piecemeal. It can’t be retrofit. The reparations that black people need will only come in the form of a new Constitution that doesn’t make apologies for racism and isn’t based on it; includes women from the beginning; and recognizes universal humanity as well as the sovereignty of the First People. And I know we aren’t there yet.
Freidman and others claim that this election is a referendum on America. It is not. It is a referendum on how people experience America, if they get to experience it at all. Welcome to a sliver of the black American experience folks. As Jamelle Bouie says in his contribution to the New York Times piece, “Trump is not an aberration.” There are a whole bunch of people who get to enjoy this same sick feeling, not just on the occasion of a quadrennial election that involves a racist demagogue, but every day. When they apply for a job. When they move to a new neighborhood. When they use a dating app. And even when they are walking their dog like I was when some random white woman screamed at me in pure, vein popping rage and hatred (safely from afar of course) “ALL LIVES MATTER!”
I’m not apathetic. I’m not numb. I’m not in denial. I don’t need pity, or concern or even solidarity. This stuff doesn’t phase me. I can tell you though, that if the New York Times had some black women (and others) contributing to its opinions, my perspective on the business as usual of America might be more commonplace. No, I don’t need anything at all in preparation for this election. I’m part of the population that has to live every day with an escape plan, an asset map, a counter terrorism strategy and a defense mechanism in my back pocket ready to go at all times.