My mother was conceived from a rape. Her mother was a light-skinned Black woman, who at the age of 19 saw her family burned to death in a fire. While she was recovering from shock in a hospital, a White doctor on staff had his way with her.
Out of that horrific act, my mother was born. The doctor was never punished and disappeared into the dustbin of history. My mother was subsequently adopted by a Black family and my biological grandmother, victim of the crime, was rendered insane in a mental institution for the rest of her life. Ironically enough, my mother looks like a White woman to the naked eye.
After discovering this information in high school, I had to find my way to forgiveness. There had to be some way to change the root conditions and collective psychological damage that was so commonplace in African American families across this nation, from our ancestral arrival on the shores of this country.
This will not be an exhortation for the U.S. government to make payment to African Americans for the indignities and injustices of slavery along with subsequent poverty and urban degradation. There definitely is a rationale for payment, but that’s relatively small potatoes compared to what America really needs to heal itself. The reparations that I’m referring to are a repairing of past damage in order to make ourselves whole.
Barack Obama has got it right when he asserts that there are no red states and blue states. There is the United States of America. In the same way, there isn’t a North Minneapolis or a South Minneapolis. There is the City of Minneapolis.
However, Senator Obama and everyone else must make sure that we don’t lose our collective progressive soul and democratic ideals in our search for bipartisanship. The Democratic Party and progressives everywhere must grow strong sharp teeth and a sturdy backbone to regain the moral authority that we lost after FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society.
Once we can rearticulate the reasons why our liberal society was created, we can start to move this country forward from its enforced regression induced by the Reagan administration. At that point, we can and should speak powerfully to the implementation of an Equal Rights Amendment for women as well as full marital and partner benefits for same sex couples.
The LGBT community has been maliciously targeted and scapegoated by right-wing ideologues, to our country’s shame and detriment. We all bear responsibility, straight and gay, male and female, in helping that community receive the justice that they seek. Homophobia, like sexism, knows no color. Let the healing begin.
African Americans have to stop blaming White America for all of our ills. This mentality keeps many of us wallowing in our own victimization. This is not healthy behavior. By the same token, those Blacks who have found White acceptance by being obsequious toadies must stop now! Your behavior is embarrassing and an affront to all of those who have died for your right to be free.
As exhaustive and sometimes dangerous as it may be, we have to continue to educate White America. We must find receptive, progressive White ears who can then teach other White people. White Americans have to acknowledge their culpability and oftentimes downright ignorance of the systemic causes of racism and oppression.
Those White Americans who don’t take this step remain part of the problem. Racism is not always aggressive; it is most times a passive act in contemporary society.
There is no time for defensiveness. We all have to correct our mistakes from participation in past injustices and man-up or woman-up for the battle that is ahead. Let the healing begin.
Barack Obama has mentioned that he now has the same Senate desk as the late Senator Paul Wellstone. While this is an interesting factoid, Obama and Wellstone approach politics in two entirely different ways. Barack Obama believes in his heart that we can all compromise our way to a greater good. He happens to possess considerable skills that would probably make this approach viable. And after many years of intense partisan bickering, Obama’s approach is as refreshing as a beautiful spring day.
While Senator Wellstone acknowledged that compromise is a necessary part of politics, he also realized that you have to recognize when you’re in a street fight. There is a time to compromise and a time to go all the way to the wall. The fact that Obama possesses the ability to be cognizant of the difference will help to repair a lot of the damage that has been done and will make the Democratic Party whole again.
We all have lots of work to do to repair the damage that has been done to America. Over the years, we have all hurt each other immensely. And just as I forgave my unknown grandfather, the rapist, we all will have to forgive past wrongs and the memories of savage battles and egregious acts to reap the glorious rewards that the future holds for us.
In future battles we will have to compromise, to be sure, but we will also have to remind ourselves and others that we stand for something. Politicians must move beyond the cowardly strategy of sticking their collective finger in the air to figure out which way the political wind is blowing. Leaders should be able to tell the difference between the defensible and the reprehensible.
The journey ahead requires much courage. It is not for the faint of heart. However, in the end, I believe that we’ll reach a higher place, and we’ll all rediscover an America that was promised long ago. And perhaps, somewhere along the way, we’ll rebuild our backbone.
I rest my case. Let the healing begin.
Ralph Remington is the Minneapolis 10th Ward City Council Member. He welcomes reader responses to Ralph.Remington@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.