There was a time when we had honorable giants who led conversations with the intention of mending America’s most horrendous wounds. Men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Baker and countless other revolutionary thinkers and visionary leaders sacrificed mightily to nudge society forward, attempted against all odds to tear down America’s caste system and tried to deliver inclusive justice.
We are far from that era of honorable giants; we are now firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist of moral midgets. After the establishment silenced one prophetic voice after another in the 50s and 60s with scandals or bullets, they spent the next fifty years co-opting social movements and buying the souls of every opinion leader in sight. There is not a healer among them; these would be allies of justice are actually paid operatives who are enriched with paychecks and afforded status with blue checks from the very system the pretend to be railing against—we live in the age of social actorvists.
Malcolm X once warned of wolves and foxes and how the Democrat foxes use paternalism to disguise their intentions that are no different than the Republican wolves. This game of good cop vs bad cop is not only leveraged by politicians; the entire establishment, from politics, media, think-tanks, academia, Hollywood and beyond have perfected the art of agitation and outrage as they foster sectarianism for the sake of cultivating a following. Misdirected by these miscreants who have weaponized identity to further their own agendas, it has become nearly impossible to have fruitful conversations about race in America. Society is being sliced and diced through an endless array of labels (brands) only to be conditioned to fight one another instead of uniting to take on our common oppressors.
There is a brilliant insidiousness to the way demagogues on all sides are empowered by the media-politico complex to spread anger and antagonism to their respective bases. We never understand how they are hoodwinking us because we are too triggered to know how they are playing us. Con artists know that the hardest part of scamming their intended targets is to stir them up and play on their emotions. Observe to the heated conversations taking place, go on social media and scan “racism” or “white privilege” and you will witness a legion of people bashing each other left and right as they bludgeon fellow strugglers while neglecting the struggle.
Someone raised an interesting question related to my column today: Has any black serial murder in America achieve folk hero status, or is that a white privilege. I would say one prime example would be Nat Turner.
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) April 8, 2019
We are distracted from addressing the disease of racism by professional dissemblers who yap away at only the symptoms. Sadly, the people who are getting victimized by racist policies and malicious legislation are falling for these tricks. Instead of working together to fight back against economic policies that mug almost all Americans into perpetual states of economic insolvency or financial anxieties, we find it easier to act like crabs in the barrel and claw at each other. The new social norm is to compete about who has it worse as people try to monopolize pains and diminish the hardships others face.
Martin Luther King Jr. once noted “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. MLK figured out what these sheepwolves and public serpents in mainstream media either neglect or don’t understand; the only way to stand up for justice is through inclusiveness. Though some feel the heat of exclusion more than others, that doesn’t take away from the fact that humanity is being exploited as a whole. There is a connective tissue to injustice; the only way to gain relief for the least among us is to link the struggles that most of us face.
The establishment and their corporate masters fear the possibility of a collective movement rising up to defend ourselves from the excesses of the ruling class. This is why we are being inundated by sectional movements; firebrands on the left and the right are loosened among us as wolves in Armani clothing convince us that our pains are different than the pains endured by others. We fall for these antics to our demise; people who are being shellacked by the status quo are maliciously conditioned to defend the status quo as they attack others who suffer just like them.
What is missing are national conversations and local dialogues that address racism and exclusion not with clenched fists but through an open hand of solidarity. There is a way to discuss injustices without turning to collective judgement and being divisive in the process. It is possible to enumerate our tribulations without subtracting from the adversities that others experience. I firmly believe this to be true, those who have been mistreated the most have the rare capacity to redeem humanity. When we refuse to be vindictive and instead seek the love that is in our hearts, we can redeem others who suffer too.
Some people are chosen to go through tribulation for a purpose. This is what “God’s chosen people” is really referring to; it’s not about supremacy, it’s a parable about people who retain compassion after being mistreated by society.
The most widely read article at the Ghion Journal is one that I wrote titled “the Absurdity of Saying White Privilege”, in the article I conveyed the obstacles “black” folks encounter without castigating all “white” in the process. This article has been read close to 20,ooo times, I know a lot of these clicks were drawn by the title of the article and the anger people felt that I was diminishing the pernicious effects of racism. Yet when I write an article about the horrific legacy of discrimination and oppression that was borne by “African-Americans” and recast the narratives from victims to victors in an article titled “Capital Prisoners“, it gets a fraction of the attention. Which makes me ponder, are we seeking solutions or are we only searching for vindication?
A few months ago, a reader of the Ghion Journal inboxed me and asked if my aim was to be a pundit or to lead conversations that could counter the antagonism of the establishment. This inquiry left a deep imprint; I realize that writing behind the safety of firewalls and the comforts of home has a limited shelf-life. We are being inundated with information overload; missives that could have galvanized a social awakening in the past are now being lost in the shuffle amid the onslaught of propaganda that is paraded before us as news.
The Ghion Journal has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years; however I’m not sure how much impact our articles are having within the broader public. On a daily basis, we get thousands of hits, but as is the case with online publications, our articles have a spike of readership for the first few days only to fade as all eyes turn to the newest article. This would be great news if our aim was to be the next MSNBC, Fox News or the Washington Post—our manifesto is to be their exact opposite.
We are not in this to gain mass appeal, we have a truly audacious mission to make a difference. I fully understand that our level of truth-seeking will necessarily limit our reach—it is easier to rail against the outrages of the world instead of addressing the roots of injustice. Given this fact, I nonetheless know that there is a marginalized majority who yearn something different. This community of thinkers and doers tire of the manufactured friction; instead of falling for the bait of the establishment, they work assiduously to effect change where they live. We are speaking to their frustrations and hopes in an effort to unite people who truly want change instead of bickering over our differences.
Last night, I had the honor of meeting an independent publisher named Ashley Logan Graham at an open mic night at Busboys and Poets. I shared a conversation with her as the attendees were dispersing and told her about an event I am hosting in a couple of days that is centered on race and identity in America. We proceeded to have an in-depth exchange as we talked about historical injustices and social inequalities that continue to this present moment. At some point, Ashley alluded to the saga of Babel and how humanity was fractured because of our hubris.
“Babel shattered humanity; our egos got in the way of our communal nature and pitted brother against brother, sister against sister. We have been conditioned to believe in Babylon and to act as individuals. But there is another example we should consider. Instead of following in the footsteps of Babel, we should aspire to be like Bethel.”
Ashley’s words left a profound impact on me. Bethel is a city in biblical Israel, which is different than political Israel, that witnessed the rise of countless prophets who tried to push humanity forward. Whereas Babylon corrupts us, Bethel offers a redemptive path. Even if Bethel eventually succumbed to the very contagions of self and ego that destroyed Babylon, the seeds of hope and the possibilities of inclusive justice are rooted in the city that means “the house of God” in Hebrew.
We are choosing to be like Bethel and speaking against the divisiveness of Babylon that is spreading like cancer around the world. This Thursday, April 11th, Ghion Journal will be hosting an event called “Leave Race” at a local café in Alexandria, Virginia called Chez Hareg. If you are near the DC metro area, we cordially extend an invitation to you and your network of family and friends to attend and take part in a community event that aims to tamp down acrimony and engender conversations that can address the injustices that impact society. Even if you are not in the DC area, please spread the word on social media; your voice and your posts can reach someone who lives in this area. Let us use social media not to echo the establishment but to speak against their malevolence.
The video we will be showing is one that I produced while I was living in Wellington, Colorado. Through hardships come blessings; enduring two years of indigence removed the blinders of tribalism from my eyes and imbued in my heart the wisdom to seek inclusive justice. If you are not able to attend the “Leave Race” event, you can watch the video on YouTube by clicking HERE. If you can make it this Thursday, please don’t watch the video as we will be showing it followed up by a group discussion about race and identity in America and how we can find productive ways to address the social and economic inequalities that are indenturing millions of Americans in perpetual bleakness.
As I implore people to not give their hands to people who preach animus, I also must acknowledge that people turn to anger because they have an abiding hurt that they harbor in their spirits. The issue of race and identity in America is a third rail that burns violently for a reason, after centuries of state terror, vigilante injustice and volumes of legal and extralegal campaigns of intimidation, there is a deep reservoir of resentment that has been inculcated in the psyches of survivors. We can’t ameliorate injustice if we don’t acknowledge and truthfully account for these violations that were visited upon countless millions of people.
During the same open mic event I attended last night at Busboys and Poets, Rebecca Dupas read her piece titled “Dear White Girl”. Using powerful verses, she pushed back against the ways “black” girls have been disparaged and made to feel lesser than for too long. The old me would have ate that piece up, the person I’ve become felt a sense of discomfort as I listened to her speak. After a stint of homelessness and witnessing a sea of humanity broken by poverty irrespective of their identity, I came to the realization that all but a fraction of society are being victimized by a system that robs from most in order to nourish the top 1%. If we are to turn around this paradigm, we have to muster the fortitude needed to be forgiving to one another in order to hold the true purveyors of injustice accountable.
As a first generation immigrant from Ethiopia, even I will never fully understand the plight of millions of “African-Americans” who have bore the brunt of generational coercion that was used by society to otherize people based on the color of their skin instead of valuing them based on the content of their character. As I speak against fiery rhetoric, I must be mindful that people who are not in the “upper-crust” of society go down the path of indignation driven out of hopelessness and despair. But I also hope and pray that people on all sides walk away from vengeance and seek forgiveness. I was only able to pull out of the despair of indigence and abject poverty because I chose to forgive, if we are to heal, we must forgive those who trespassed upon us. Just as important, it is vital that we understand who the trespassers are versus those who are lumped into the same caste.
I hope to see you on Thursday, but even if you are not able to attend due to distance or schedule conflicts, l hope what you take away from this article and the video I embedded above is that the only way to advance our interests is by creating a broad coalition instead of being sectioned into America’s caste system that was built on the foundation of race and imposed identities. We can either unite to thrive or we can remain segregated by way of identities and ideologies only to suffer apart. The time is now to leave the caste system of race that was created by racists and instead embrace our connected struggles in order to defend our collective interests. #LeaveRace Click To Tweet
“No longer will they call you deserted, or name your land desolate.But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.” ~ Isaiah 62:4
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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