In my previous column, I wrote about the importance of really listening to what black Americans are trying to tell us as they’ve taken to the streets — propelled by generations of anger and sadness — to call for the same treatment and access to opportunity white Americans take for granted.
This week, I’d like to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Kadida Kenner. She’s a loud and necessary voice for justice Pennsylvania, and her Facebook page — where she’s posted near hourly thoughts on our ongoing national conversation — is required reading.
I’ve known Kenner for a number of years. She’s one of the smartest and most fearless women I know, and she granted me permission to use excerpts from her page. Some of what you’re about to read may make you uncomfortable. That’s the point.
On the anger that’s driven so many into the streets since May 30, and the responsibility white Americans bear to change things:
“I’m not mad or ashamed or disgusted at the black folks out there burning down cities. I’m not. And I specifically say the black folks because the release of decades of pent-up rage is a long time coming.
“However — I don’t understand the white folks who are out there looting and carrying on. I don’t get that. Those looters aren’t mad about black folks’ oppression, they’re just using their privilege to get free goods.
“You saw folks lose their minds after two months being stuck in their houses without haircuts and being ‘asked’ to wear masks when out in the public. They showed up on Capitol steps with weapons and raw emotion.
“And guess what — their demands are being met. Cities and towns are opening up, and opening earlier than they should according to guidelines they themselves set up. That’s power. They have the power. Politicians are fearful of them. They respect their vote and they see themselves in those protesters. They see their humanity. Their show of force yielded results for them and put black lives in further peril.
“Every election year, do-gooders drop money in communities to get black people to vote. They swoop in and drop cash. The election happens and they swoop right back out.
“We get used for our votes because the vote is powerful — but we aren’t powerful. They only see a speck of our humanity during election time when they need us in order to maintain their supremacy.
“That’s both sides of the aisle. And yet, I vote every time. What else am I supposed to do?
“Black folks can’t fix this. We don’t have the power. We are again at the mercy of the majority to see a glimmer of our humanity and give us liberty and freedom. If they don’t or won’t, we’ll never get it in this country. That’s supremacy. They have all the power.
“So we ‘riot’ — what else is there for us to do in a country in which we have no power? It’s the hopelessness that hurts the most. This won’t ever change in my lifetime.
“White people — please do something within your communities to fix this. Have courage — have raw courage. See our humanity. Use your power for good.”
On the looting that’s taken place in cities nationwide:
“I don’t like the looting happening right now, especially to black-owned businesses, but I understand it. Black buying power is unmatched! We fuel this American economy. According to The State of Working America, black people spend 4 percent more money annually than any other race, despite the fact that they are the least represented race and the race that lives in poverty at the highest rate.
“These protests and instances of looting (by people of color) is the manifestation of the rage felt by the oppressed. It’s been a long time coming. It’s not rational but neither is our oppression.
“Although I’m not advocating for it, I think this display of outrage has to continue on so that the next time a cop puts his knee on a black man’s neck, he’ll think twice, and if he still does it, white America will punish him within the full extent of the law, and immediately, if only out of fear for their property.
“They don’t fear our votes, but they fear the loss of capitalism. If you want law and order, give us justice!”
I’m listening carefully to what Kenner has to say. I hope you will, too.
— An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @ByJohnLMicek. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.