Credit: (source: northeastern.edu)

S.E. Williams

A 2009 study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information noted that theoretically, people can become desensitized to violence after repeated exposure.

For example, after repeatedly witnessing community violence, something that  would initially elicit strong negative emotional reactions,  it is possible those feelings will be dampened and as a result, individuals experience less emotional distress as they continue to witness such incidents again and over again.

I sometimes wonder if this is what is happening to us as a nation, that we are becoming emotionally desensitized to violence. 

This weekend the people of Buffalo, NY laid to rest the first of ten Black people shot to death at a supermarket on May 14, by a young white man overflowing with hatred for a whole group of people merely because they were privileged to be born Black in America. 

A country whose history is rooted in hate

Hate is toxic no matter what the motivation and hate allowed to fester in political, nationalist and facist ideology should be untenable in a country like America that espouses freedom of religion and that is multi-racial and multicultural and yet, this is what we tolerate. 

For a country whose history is rooted in racist theory and white supremacy, the idea of turning away from a white supremacist mindset for many people, is apparently a bridge too far and as such, it continues to be a herculean effort to abate it. This, despite the many white Americans who find such ideology as abhorrent as those of us born Black.  

How does roughly a third of the nation’s population continue so successfully to poison the national dialogue  by perpetuating  a so-called replacement theory; by creating hysteria around ethnic studies by defining it as critical race theory and then misrepresenting critical race theory as something nefarious:  and then  as if that were not enough, to actually go a step further and ban books as if we are living in some kind of  dystopian nighmare where the thought police run roughshod over our lives?   

“We pass hatred and prejudice on to our children as though they were heirlooms of humanity. We cling to traditions that keep us bound to a way of life that no longer works and arguable never has.”

L. M. Browning

Racists get away with it not only because of–as so aptly noted by our president recently–the wealthy, powerful and greedy who benefit from the ignorant who are all too happy to be their henchmen willing to keep the country in turmoil,  just as poor overseers (who could not vote themselves until 1828 if they did not own land) did the dirty work of plantation owners and who were also the first to sign up to fight and die for the confederacy, all to maintain a way of life where they themselves struggled to survive. But it is not all their fault. 

Both-sides-ism

However, we must also give credit to what I call both-sides-ism. Where many in the national media and otherwise continue to pretend as if there are two fair and equal sides to this story that must be flushed out, assessed and reported . . . there are not. There is only one side to this story that continues to be “white-washed” generation after generation. 

Some like to opine that what we are experiencing today  is just a lingering remnant of  the Lost Cause. But, it so much more than that. The the terror these race haters perpetuate is enduring. We know, and I am sure the educated among them know as well, that the trauma they perpetrate against Black people not only impacts Black lives today, that trauma is  embedded in our DNA and then passed on to our progeny along with our kinky crowns, the satin blackness of our skin,  and the compassion we carry for other humans in our beings as the mothers and fathers of humanity. 

The terror carried out against us that we pass in our  unwillingly bequeath to our children, grandchildren and future generations  just as we inherited it from our ancestors, leaves us– on an unconscious level–dealing with remnants  of trauma we don’t fully understand. This is equally as insidious as the physical assaults against us. 

Again and again results prove Black Americans still are victims of hate crimes more than any other group. This, while a “government of, by, and for all people” that has existed for about 250 years should by now have the institutional framework and systems in place to deter such atrocities. Yet, again and again,  our  government has failed to establish them. There appears to be an unwillingness to force the change needed to protect Blacks and other vulnerable groups, for purely political reasons.  

A black political bargaining chip

Black lives are always up for negotiation, a chip used to barter for political expediency. Even when the courage is mustered to make a change–like the Emancipation (remember the 13th amendment) or Reconstruction or Affirmative Action  or Voting Rights, they can and are often quickly and easily bartered away for some other political trinket or token further down the line. 

These are all examples of, America giveth and America taketh away. This is the story of Black life in America. 

Do not misunderstand. I am not saying that there has been no progress because of course, there has. The bigger question is why is that a consideration in the first place? Why should we have to be humbly be grateful for something that is our birth right? And, isn’t that birth right supposed to begin with the right to life… the right to liberty… the pursuit of happiness. I don’t believe the Declaration of Independence meant that the right to life be extended to Black people as evidenced by what we experience here even though that was supposed to be corrected by the 14th amendment.

A nation grown numb

The question I ask today is whether this nation is growing accustomed or numb to mass shootings? Are we so distracted by the other issues taking up bandwidth in our every day lives that we can so quickly move on from what occurred just two  weeks ago?

The massacre at the Mother Emanuelle church in Charlston, VA which happened  only seven years ago when another young white supremacists took the lives of nine people during the era of Donald Trump, we could not react enough, criticize enough, demand enough,  or grieve long enough or loud enough. 

So, how has the nation so quickly turned the page in the wake of Buffalo where ten Black lives were stolen?  Where are the demands on the Biden administration to offer more than passionate words?

Prayers and promises are not enough. We want you to stop killing us. Stop killing our children, our husbands, our wives our mothers, sisters and brothers, neighbors and friends. We want federal laws with teeth that make the punishment for plotting, planning and/or executing domestic hate crimes so onerous people will be reluctant to commit them. 

We cannot make people embrace the concept of agape love but we can become a nation that stops enabling hate. 

We must make our votes matter

As we cast our votes during the primary and then again in November, think twice about who you are electing to represent us. Are they people who support the party that supports Trumpism and the ideology of white supremacy? Republicans of good conscious must choose. If they are enabling and empowering a  party that is enabling white supremacy they might as well put on white robes and get a rope.  It is time to pick a side, there is no both-sides-ism in this political moment. 

Yes, all politics are local and many of these Republicans are our friends, coworkers and neighbors and yet the Republican congressmen elected from this region who may smile and shake our hands and seem nice enough are also the same ones upholding the Big Lie. 

Lest we forget

Think about the Republican Assembly  representatives espousing untruths about critical race theory and fighting against ethnic studies;  think about the district attorney and sheriffs–some who even took a knee in 2020, who arrest and charge Black people disproportionately, who join white nationalist groups, or are surprised when they set up tables at their tax payer funded events or who dismissed the gravity of the coronavirus as it raged through this community. 

Remember the board supervisors who stood with the sheriff and against the Black community as it fought for transparency, and oversight,  who wasted our tax dollars filing lawsuits against the governor for implementing safeguards to protect the community even as our family, friends and neighbors died of COVID-19 solely for political reasons and then wasted more tax dollars in an attempt to recall him for the same political folly. Think about the millions of dollars that could have been used to house the homeless lining the streets of our communities or to feed those who are food insecure and the list goes on.  

As one Black leader once said, “We need to know who is in there [the halls of Congress, state Assembly chambers, city council rooms, sitting at board of supervisor tables or making school board or water board decisions] that are for us and by that I mean not only caring about and representing every one in the community but who also  care about our Black lives and the lives of our children. 

We must elect people who are committed to moving this nation toward a more perfect union. Whether we are protecting Black lives or the lives of children in elementary classrooms or those in a gay bar or at an outdoor concert, the only way to begin to end the violence is to elect those who are willing and committed to change, to put an end to white supremacy and a gun culture that has spiraled out of control.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.