How Could You?

After hearing about Trump's visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and visiting the museum myself a few days later, I wondered how someone could see all the things I saw there and still support some of the policies and positions the new administration is proposing. This wondering inspired this poem. How could you? How could you see the chains made for men, women, and children and not be moved to fight for freedom for all people?

How could you learn the history of race and the slave trade with its profit motives and preservation of whiteness and not question the underlining messages and motivations within your own political agenda and ranks?

How could you see black bodies on the middle passage cramped into tight spaces to line rich pockets and not see how private prisons are the slave ships of our day?

How could you read about the abolitionists who sheltered "illegals" along the underground railroad and not understand the compassion of sanctuary cities and churches welcoming frightened and endangered strangers as Christ commanded us?

How could you stand before the casket of Emmett Till, a black youth maimed by the ugly face of racism, and blame black youth for their own oppression?

How could you see videos of civil rights marchers being harassed and brutalized by police and demonize protesters who are fighting for racial justice now?

How could you see the power of the independent press to inspire change in the abolitionist and civil rights movements but seek to suppress dissenting voices? How could you pay homage to peacemakers and students of nonviolence in one moment and call for increased nuclear weapons and military spending in the next?

How could you spend time reflecting on the life and legacy of Mary McCloud Bethune, who dedicated her life to evening the educational playing field, and take money away from public schools? How could you see the centuries old struggle for freedom and equality, what really made America great, and settle for a narcissistic nationalism devoid of justice? How could you recognize the humanity, resilience, and diversity of African peoples and culture and retreat to a whitewashed version of history that pales in comparison? How could you observe the ways racism has manifested in every time in America's history and in every institution in American life yet continue to deny the reality of institutional racism? How could you see what Obama meant to the African American community and accomplished for the rights of all Americans and so eagerly undo those rights and protections? How could you follow the disenfranchisement of black people in America from slavery, Jim Crow, convict leasing, sharecropping, and civil rights and not stand up for black lives now? How could you?

(Photo credit: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)


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