Charlottesville

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L.D.  Lew Downs

There’s times I feel like complaining about the situations, remarks, and overall racism I must deal with every day as a black man in America, but I’ve always been a firm believer that for every heartbreak, tough go, and depressing moment we are faced with in life, there’s a million people in the world who are worse off and not bitching about it.

But it’s still unfortunate.

It’s unfortunate some of my earliest childhood memories were bullies calling me nigger. It’s unfortunate people claim, “Well, you’re not a real black guy,” because I speak with eloquence rather than ebonics. It’s sad I worry about what my future children will have to confront when they grow up, knowing that their skin tone will bring upon pre-conceived notions and expectations from the public before they can even spell the word racism.

I’m not sure why Neo-Nazis have to rally because of a statue coming down. I don’t know why Black Lives Matter has to claim every black person involved in a cop related shooting is innocent. I’m not sure why anyone of Middle Eastern culture is automatically labeled a terrorist in America. or why any Hispanic who only speaks broken English MUST be here illegally. But that’s America, and that’s what we were built on.

As many of our ancestors walked through the gates of Ellis Island, they entered a land of freedom and opportunity… with a bunch of new neighbors who would in turn make their lives a living hell. Nobody said it would be easy, but nobody probably told them it would be that hard, either. Chink, Kike, and Wop have only been replaced with Spick, Towelhead and Cracker.

You see, a hundred years ago and a hundred years from now, ignorance found and will continue to try and force its way into our lives.

The real question is, how do we confront it?

We could march and loot stores. We could light torches and waves Swastika flags. We could yell at our neighbors when they blare Banda music on a Friday night and we could complain about how are Uber drivers are always named Muhammed. We could do all of that, but I’d hope my future generations want more than that. I’d hope we could seek to explore our differences rather than use our unique traits as barriers to prevent national growth.

Now I’m not talking holding hands and singing “Kumbaya, My Lord” every opportunity we have. Because Lord knows, sometimes a motherfucker needs to get punched in the face.

If you were to ask anyone who has practiced violence as a career, violence is always their last course of action. For when you know the hurt you are capable of causing, it is the last resort you hope to administer.

I used to wait tables at a restaurant by a major airport and was fortunate enough to meet people of every culture and way of life while I was there. I noticed something funny during my time there… that no matter the language barrier, the difference in skin tone or accent, everyone could understand a smile. It didn’t matter if they’re favorite food was tacos, sushi, fried chicken, pizza, or falafel, you could automatically make a connection with an individual if you offered them a smile.

Smiling, unfortunately, isn’t gonna solve our country’s problems. My biggest smile in the world towards a skinhead would probably be met with a particular salute and some unpleasant terminology. But fuck, it’s a start.

Events like what happened yesterday on the East Coast will happen again… more will be hurt and more will perish. But how about we take it upon ourselves to get a little closer, to find out what’s going on inside each other’s brains. Hell, the only way to diffuse a time bomb is to get down to the wiring so you can figure out what’s wrong.

Talk about your differences, ask the stupid questions. Don’t let your only exposure to other cultures consist of the Olympics or going to a food truck fest in the city.

We are a melting pot that is big enough for every type of ingredient there is. Don’t let yourself think the parts you like are the only ones worthwhile, unless you think freedom should taste like bullshit.

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