This is personal, and here is why. What happens to those fleeing war and destruction happens to each one of us.
Dear Reader: I don't often address political issues, but this is important to me as a world traveler and with beloved friends in many countries, some of which are at war, and who are similarly affected.
By this time you've probably heard about how Nigerian, Indian and other students, visitors and workers in Ukraine are being prevented from leaving the country. Poland's right wing fascist youth have been goose-stepping the borders as well, shrieking slogans about "saving our women." That's a time-honored fear-mongering trope which conveys the vicious lie that simply because a man is Black that means he's a sex addict and rapist and ONLY is interesting in raping White women.
It boggles the mind, but here we are in 2022, and this just doesn't stop.
To that, in case you missed it:
While there is some very real embarrassment for the governments of these countries, this really says it for me:
On BBC News, Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor David Sakvarelidze explained being very emotional as he was seeing “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed everyday”.
Okay, sure, Sparky, you sure showed the racist shite in your tightey-whiteys.
Over on Twitter my Black writer friends are justifiably horrified. One recently wrote about war-torn areas in different African countries, often ignored completely, where the humanitarian crises are ongoing.
But it's hardly a humanitarian crisis if you're not considered human.
This is personal because of my upbringing, about which I've written before. And because my closest inner circle includes many people who are in categories of folks who are bludgeoned by White Supremacy even as they prove themselves brilliant beyond brilliant. That's especially when put next to the mindless ignorance of White Supremacists for whom their intellectual mediocrity pales- pun intended- next to the Black brilliance of many I know and respect.
They are terrified of this fact, and use lies about wanton sexuality to mask what they really fear: that not only are other races equal, they are in many ways proving themselves superior, especially in the areas of emotional maturity and resilience. Therein lies the problem.
Rather than allow our brothers and sisters of color to freely add their considerable value to the rest of the world, which ranges from eye laser surgery to ice cream to hundreds more inventions which we enjoy everyday but don't realize came from Black inventors, we allow this kind of fear to fester.
This is also personal because I travel. I have traveled all over the world, and like so many of us who do travel, once we have explored a country, its politics touch us the rest of our lives. For example, there is a family in Ethiopia which was torn apart by the ongoing war there. I care very much about what is happening to Ethiopia because there are people there I met, worked with, broke bread with.
Perhaps that ultimately is the point. When we break bread with people, sit with them on their lawns or porches, share an orange under a tree, walk with them around the villages and city streets, we experience them as deeply human just as we are. No longer can we isolate THEM OVER THERE into bunches of subhuman folks who have no right to live a decent life.
Not when you hold their kids, hug their elders and walk with the families to see their crops.
You will forgive me if I call out the other massively insulting trope that too many White folks use when they befriend Black friends " You're not like the others."
Growing up in the Deep South my parents ensured that my education included being exposed to, raised around and integrated into Black families. Black was normalized. Black achievement was normalized. The way my parents spoke about and celebrated Black folks normalized color for me. When such brutality happens to people with more melanin, that hurts me, too.
This is personal.
To all of us, but too many still feel immune. We aren't.
What too many of us fail to realize is that borders are political constructs only. You only need to speak with members of any indigenous tribe anywhere in the world to learn about how European powers carved up slices of conquered land irrespective of centuries, thousands of years of habitation by people who got there first.
There was a difficult meme yesterday on LinkedIn about how history teaches us about Hitler (today's Putin) but doesn't bother to teach us much about King Leopold, who was singlehandedly responsible for some fifteen million deaths. African deaths.
Belgium is beginning to take real stock about this, especially after George Floyd's murder. Leopold's statue was splashed with graffiti. So you will forgive me if I point out the insane selectivity of what we learn about history, for the convenience of White folks who continue to avoid owning their shit.
It's a real pity that most folks are only familiar with this through the more recent Tarzan movie, which centered a superhuman White man as "Africa's favorite son," a line I am sure Samuel Jackson choked on but delivered anyway.
Climate change is already forcing mass migrations due to starvation and drought. Island nations are drowning. Here in America people have been moving, too, and met with much of the same kind of hostility that desperate people worldwide are facing. Don't come to my town.
We'll all just visitors here, Sparky. We are all on borrowed time.
Only we can't see what's likely coming for us. On top of climate change, when civil uprisings, war or any kind of heretofore unthinkable shit happens to us here in America, and it is increasingly likely, we will become immigrants somewhere.
What happened under Trump is now embedded in America like a sick tick that crept under our skin, and it is not going away. When other countries can legalize abortion (Colombia, thank you) and America continues its all-out war on anyone not White and Male and Rich, we will continue to rip ourselves apart.
As many good people, and there are billions of them, are working hard to do the right thing, there are too many, too rich and too brutal to care about what's happening in the larger world to all of the rest of us. And US includes all folks of all cultures, colors and backgrounds. We are them and they are us.
Ex-pat communities are burgeoning. At some point, it's entirely possible that we will see a mass migration from America because of climate change. Who's going to want us wantonly hateful folks when we need a safe place?
Where on earth do you think you and I, as Americans, are going to be welcome? America is no longer seen as the gold standard. How we continue to treat folks at our own borders is instructive:
Nature doesn't care about skin color. Neither does God, no matter whose you believe in. Those of us past sixty may not live long enough to see this happen. Our kids, and most certainly our kids' kids inherited the lousy practices, racist institutions and hateful politics we continue to kick down the line. That will not serve them well in a world where we all will likely be needing mercy from one another, as climate change and social uprising may well force them to keep on moving.
This is likely to come back to haunt us in that very Biblical way that we most certainly reap what we sow.
When we show mercy, grace, understanding to all humans, we become human. In fact, we demonstrate that spark of the sacred, what is truly divine in each of us.
When we segregate out who deserves to live or die based on eye and hair and skin color, we are sub-human.
For those who love to wave their hateful beliefs in the name of God and country, I'd like to be a fly on the pearly gates when they come face-to-face with their Maker and have to explain why they treated God's creations, which their Bible (it ain't mine, not how it's used in the service of hate) says were created in His own image?
I am not a believer in that sense, but if we are, isn't it interesting how we like to pick and choose only to believe what serves our nefarious purposes.
We are all immigrants, but don't want to admit it. We are all, those of us of European descent, visitors here in a country inhabited by folks we did our best to eliminate. Remarkably, the most generous, kind, gracious and welcoming of all people I've ever known were people whose lands were ripped out of their hands. They understand that kind of pain.
And even more remarkably, they are quite likely to welcome us into their homes, what's left of them, because they understand desperation first hand.
That alone is perhaps the greatest teacher of all.