Today is Monday the 5th of November and I am sitting at my table drinking my coffee. I am, for all intents and purposes, an American. Some would say Black-American. Some would say African-American. Some would simply say American. I have a nice house, a pretty nice vehicle nothing to brag about for the envy of others but still nice and I have a pretty good job that doesn't pay much but I love what I do. I have many friends both close and not-so-close. I have a great wife, two great sons, even if I don't get to talk to one of them, they are great young men. I am part of a wellness studio that is doing great things for people in our area and I have a great business partner who helps create the vision and mission I hope to attain.
In any case, here I am a black man with a white wife and mixed kids in America. I have the freedoms the Founding Father's started even if my people and others like me weren't included in the original plans of those previously mentioned Founding Fathers. In a country that is a couple centuries old I have freedom. I have a semblance of equality for the most part. I have, in many cases, a judicial foundation that I can believe in even if the system itself seems to be broken and abused by the powers that be. I have the privilege of teaching classes with Korean, Filipino, Hispanic, White, Black, young, old(er), women, men, teenagers, single people, parents, divorcees, handicapped both physically and mentally as well a bunch of other titles and labels. As a writer and a provider of wellness workshops I find myself talking and experiencing many people from many backgrounds daily. And I am a better person for it. So why did I just tell you all that stuff? Why are you reading another blog from me so closely to the last one (3 days ago I believe)? Because of a rally I stumbled across yesterday in Tacoma, Washington.
Actually, before I get to the rally, I should say why I was in Tacoma in the first place. I teach dance fitness at the local high school for the teachers and school staff. Since it is Latin-inspired I have, at one time or another, had most of the Spanish teachers come to the class. Some have come for a long time and I would consider them friends or at the very least great acquaintances who I enjoy shaking booty with and talking to. Well one of them invited myself and my biz partner April to join them (the Spanish teachers) at the Day of the Dead festival held in one of the museums in downtown Tacoma. April had received a couple invites and was eager to go so, we decided to check out the festival.
When we got there it was packed with people and displayed lots of colors and the history of the event. We watched the Aztec dancers and saw the paintings and displays. There were flowers, vibrant dresses and painted faces both half painted and fully painted of skulls. For some it was a joyful day for others it was a somber one as they remembered lost loved ones. April and I enjoyed seeing all the displays and just being inside with all the people. Now, right before the mariachi band started, April and I wanted to go outside and take pictures of some of the statues and displays around the museum. Here is a little collage of that simple detour (for clarity not all were taken at that time some were as we left after the rally stop).
See, this is what the day was about for me not just the Day of the Dead but everything. I love seeing the world and experiencing other cultures. It is in the history we find our connections. In any case, the picture at the very top left of this collage was what I was searching for when April and I walked out of the museum. As we walked out talking about the Day of the Dead festivities we had just saw, figuring out if we were going to eat in Tacoma or back home in Port Orchard and admiring how nice the day was turning out since the sun showed up we were in a good mood. We locate the trail that leads to the fingers holding the rail tie. Something catches my attention. Across the street I see a small crowd in what looks like a pavilion. I say to April, "what's going on over there?" after some looking and guessing we see a flag that says "Antifa say's hello" which now I know is some sort of rally. I look at April and say I have to go and see this because I haven't as an adult. Curiosity only kills cats I think to myself.
Yes, now after nearly 4000 words we get to the point of the blog. This rally we see across the street I need to see closer. I want to know what we "Americans" are pissed off at now. As we cross the street there are 5 police officers standing on the outer edge of the rally. I walk over and stand next them and say "this is interesting. I have never been to a real hate rally." The police officers and I have a little chat about what is actually going on. One guy is pretty loud and has their attention. But he is, at present, simply loud and within the, from what I gathered, acceptable range of rageness. That isn't a word but I like it. Anyway, after talking to the officers for a few minutes (btw, a couple of them moved to a better and closer location in case they needed to react to the young man who is skirting the limit of acceptable rage).
Now, I should say that the military and growing up in LA has trained me to avoid these types of gatherings because usually it escalates into violence because people are stupid and anger only makes them even more stupid. I, of course, did not leave as I needed to see what this really was all about and I needed a picture of it all.
Here I am at my very first real American rally of hate. There is an ironic part of this picture that I did not notice until I opened it for this blog. You see the woman behind me that is in front of the American flag guy? Here sign reads, "BLACK LIVES MATTER." I must confess as a "Black" with a "Life" I happen to agree with the young lady. The irony is that I could of stood anywhere to take my selfie but I just happen to be in front of the one woman who is holding the one sign that matters most to me at the present because of my current affliction of being black. Wait, before anyone gets crazy the word "affliction" was said in jest because its absurd that a color is what we have to fight over. All that aside I needed to learn about this rally.
After talking to a few people I realized that some dude is running for office that leans on the side of divisiveness which brought the supporters of the Nazi groups and such which, in turn, brought the Antifa folks and other anti-Nazi/hate groups. I must confess something, I had no idea who was who, what was going on and why it all mattered. A few people had some information but no one seemed to have ALL the information There were yelling and laughing, there was Reggae (the anti Nazi side) music and apparently, before we showed up, country (the Nazi/hate side) music being played and several people with bullhorns randomly spewing their thoughts. I was offered my chance to use one but I declined I was a spectator not an instigator in this adventure. There were signs like the previously mention Antifa sign, flags both hoisted and worn. There was a spider man onesie, bunny onesie, camouflage and all sorts of variations of looks. From my perspective it was very interesting and very white. Yup, from what I could tell with the exception of one kid and myself every person on both sides of this rally was white. Even the spectators. I could be wrong but that is what I recall. Interesting indeed.
As we got ready to leave I told April I should "go live", which means Facebook live, from here. I did just that as I listened to people yell at each other. I knew, just like everybody else there, that nothing would change in that moment because no one was there to listen to the other side. April found one of the main protester of the protesters who was a middle-aged guy with a red bandanna in his pocket and, from what I could tell, a camouflaged Yamaka and wore a sweatshirt with some sort of gun club on the back of it. I learned later that he was for the group against the Nazi/hate groups. Interestingly enough, I assumed (wrongfully) that he was on the side of the Nazi/hate group. And this is the problem that I found during my 25 minutes of being around all of this chaos. I didn't know who was who. As April talked to the guy he gave the run down on who was who and what was what. The problem, even he, as one of the counter-protest organizers, couldn't tell you who was who and who represented what side of each fence. A few were easily identifiable like the gentleman there who said the red bandanna was to identify his group. Without him telling us we would not have known. But again, as he confessed, he couldn't tell everyone a part.
You see in this crowd of 98% white men and women (a child or two as well) there were so many contradicting looks. Unless you heard the person speak or they had a truly identifiable shirt, flag, brand or what have you there was no way of knowing what was going on. I sat and did my video and people came in and out of the group. And as I spoke I was confused. So much so that when April and I got back to Port Orchard we had to look up the groups and figure out who and what every one (who we could remember) was and what their point was on that day. I don't remember who the politician was but I do remember what he said to the officer who had asked him (before I started doing my video) how much longer he (the politician) would be out there. The politician with his two daughters now next to him and, from what we deduced, was the nanny or care giver of the girls said,
"only a few more minutes we will be leaving. If I knew it would be like this I wouldn't have brought my girls out."
The man that sparked this crowd did not want his children in the aftermath of it. That is interesting. That is also a problem. We were told, April and I that is, that the rally was done specifically on this day because of the Day of the Dead festivities across the street. Now, again to be honest, that could be speculation as I didn't hear it from the politician but it makes sense. People have been controlled by rhetoric. This crowd was yelling, cursing, demeaning each other while the politician kind of walked around a little and eventually disappeared. I couldn't find him when I was doing my video. He didn't want his kids in that chaos yet he created it. And this brings me to (finally I know) the point I gained from this experience.
It doesn't matter what side of the fence you are on, the notion of America being this one thing or the other is stupid. America is a melting pot. It is black history, white history, spanish history, native history, immigrant history, migrant history, straight history, gay history, believer's history, non-believer's history and world history to name a few. Yet all we see is sides. People hating other people on a ball that we all live on. (For the record the ball is Earth.) And on this particular day I saw sides but couldn't decipher who was the hate group and who wasn't the hate group. April, having walked around while I was taping my live chat, heard several people around the main group saying the same "who is who? What does that person stand for or against?" Think about that for a second. There is a rally, there is gathering to promote or condemn something or someone and the people who aren't involved have no idea what it is about. That is like a Hollywood movie trailer with just a black screen and the title "Spinning" with nothing else. The only people who know what its about is the actors (maybe), the writers, directors and film crew. That movie wouldn't get many people in it until people knew what it was about. It is the same here, I watched the movie but damn it I am still not too sure what it is about.
We have been fooled America. We are not under attack from some outside force. How can a celebration of heritage, that is not bound in hate or destruction, be worthy of contempt, hate and protest? I looked at the Aztec dancers come down and thought about the centuries old heritage that has been lost to the people and how these events are why we understand the people and their history better. A racist looks at this and says something about how these Mexicans are trying to take over. An American looks at this and finds the beautiful culture of a time long ago.
We have been fooled. We've been trained to see others as the enemy and with that they must be bad, horrible, god-less, evil and out to murder us. We have been fooled. These groups preach hate and destruction. They scream war and need for "America" to be what it was in its glory. We've been fooled. Everything in our country has been developed by an immigrant of some sort within that persons direct lineage. EVERYTHING. Yet, here we are with rallies of hate and divisiveness. We've been fooled.
America is under attack but not by a Mexican caravan 1000 miles away or some Hijab wearing Muslim. No, it is under attack by the very people who stand wearing flags made in China and proudly proclaiming to return America to its glory. Their fear drives our hate. This is what I saw in this gathering of individuals yelling at one another, America under attack. Look at this picture again
you see the guy holding the flag over his shoulder? I thought he was one of the Antifa folks. Why you may ask? He looks either Hispanic or Native American. Now, I know not everyone looks like his/her heritage. Did you know I was 15% European? English and Irish to be exact. Anyway, April finds out that this young man is part of a group called Proud Boys. After looking it up it is pretty much a white-supremacist hate group that says it isn't really a white-supremacist hate group. Again, confusing stuff. Either way, I look at this man and wonder if he knows that if all the blacks, mexicans, asians, foreigners, homosexuals, non-God loving and any other non-white group was gone that he too would be gone. Does he know he doesn't "fit" the end game? Now, I am speculating that he isn't white or at the very least not pure white. He, like us, have been fooled. Here I stand in this picture which behind me is a little white lady with a Black Lives Matter sign next to a, what I assume, is a non-white Proud Boy holding an American Flag over his shoulder. Interesting stuff.
What I got from this was a lot of people are afraid of what is going on and we are circling our wagons grasping at what we believe is our way. There are no viable solutions except yelling "see what we did back then..." We pick and choose what history we will use as a defense of our beliefs. I'm still baffled how the Fore Fathers were all knowing yet we have 30ish Amendments to the Constitution for basic stuff like Freedom, Equality and stuff like that. Confusing stuff. But what do we do with this type of stuff? How do we actually make America better? That answer came to me driving home and will be the last picture for this blog.
We build bridges. Our nation was built on the backs of others. There is no way around that truth. Our leaders of past capitalized on others. It is our story. We have taken and made our own something from every nation in the world. We did that by having people from every nation in the world be a part of this country. If we are ever to be GREAT FOR THE FIRST TIME we must stop this nonsense. That can only be done when good people who know better stand up not to yell, shout or attack but to listen, understand and educate those who do not understand. Hate cannot exist in the light of truth. Truth does not need to yell to be heard. It just needs to be stated Sometimes over and over and over again.
I don't hate those people who hate me. I don't hate the Neo-Nazi or any other hate group. I don't believe what they stand for because it isn't what we, as a nation, stands for. So instead I feel sympathy and sadness for them AND those on the extreme opposite side of them. Hate of any kind will never solve anything. All it does is eat at the very fabric of ourselves which just makes us a snake eating its own tail. No matter how tasty it seems in the end we all die.
I saw my first rally. I'm still confused.
I am an American and I am grateful for all I am able to do, all that I am able to help, all that I am able share my story with and all those who stand for equality, justice and freedom for all of us. American!