Excerpt From My Upcoming Book
I was born in Washington DC, a little more than 10 years before MLK was assassinated, and roughly 6 1/2 years before our sitting Vice President (as of this writing), Kamala Harris, was born in Oakland California. When I was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, I began my life in a low-income apartment complex where I shared a tiny little apartment with my brother, five years my senior, and my mother. My parents had already separated before I had taken my first breath and my first bedroom was a tiny little dinette area in the kitchen and my crib was placed in front of the window looking out over the parking lot of the complex. From what I gather, according to modern standards at least, I had white privilege. By the time I was almost 5, after many issues over a number of years with my mother's violent alcoholic boyfriend, the worst of which was taken out on my mother and my brother, she finally got the strength and courage to gather the three of us up and, by the grace of God, move us in with my grandmother with whom I lived (and by whom I was co-raised) up until the day of her passing. My childhood home was in a suburb of the nation's capital, on the Maryland side, and was close enough that I could ride my bicycle to the DC city line. I remember making that trip many times before MLK was taken from us, but it became an incredibly unwise idea almost immediately after he was gone. The house was part of a Subdivision, consisting almost entirely of seniors and retirees, many of whom were World War II veterans, and new family homes were popping up everywhere in the neighborhood and bringing along with them more and more children as my early years came and went. As my brother put it when he eulogized our mother a few years ago, we didn't have much money but we never considered ourselves poor. We had the neighbors, the local church community, the extended family nearby in the Maryland Appalachians, and we had each other. We certainly went without, but we never felt like we didn't have everything we needed. If I have this right, I believe this makes me an oppressor. While I was entering my last year of elementary school, in a predominantly white lower-middle-class neighborhood, Kamala Harris was still a year away from entering Elementary School and was living in a predominantly black neighborhood in Berkeley California, being raised there by two well-off and highly educated and accomplished parents. I can't find any information that suggests they were poor or that they live paycheck to paycheck, but there is some indication that they were able to travel to different parts of the country and multiple places around the world. There's nothing to suggest that the kids wore hand-me-downs or Salvation Army clothes, as some of us did, and it doesn't seem as though the kids had to put newspapers in their shoes to get them through until the next paycheck. like many of us did . As far as I know, they never had their utilities shut off for non-payment either. Madam Vice President's family was clearly oppressed. The year I started 7th grade is the same year Kamala Harris started kindergarten and both of us were participants in the forced busing program that began in the fall of 1971. The poor child was forced to leave her predominantly black and relatively affluent neighborhood, endure a 4.9-mile bus ride into a predominantly white Oakland neighborhood and then forced to get her education in the midst of a sea of rich white kids. Meanwhile, 3000 miles away and clear across the country, I was put on a bus and rode about half that distance into a predominantly black neighborhood... The very same neighborhood I could no longer ride my bicycle into because of the King assassination... and was forced to get my education in a sea of angry low-income black kids that wanted no part of me being in their school, let alone their neighborhood. Keep in mind that my school was located only a couple miles away from downtown Washington DC and Ground Zero of the post-MLK assassination riots, looting, fires, and total destruction of 7th street and the surrounding area. I will grant Harris that six-year-olds are treated much differently than 12-year-olds and that boys and girls are treated differently as well, but I can assure you that my experience was vastly different from hers. I say as much because, having skimmed several of the many biographies about her life, I know that she spent five years in that public school system before her mother moved her to Canada. Every bit of what is recorded about her experience in that period of her life reflects a child that was catered to, celebrated somehow, and insulated - by and large - from the anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment felt between the races in the early years of forced busing and integration. Whereas her first 5 years of public education were spent in relative peace, my first 5 years were spent trying to survive a war zone. My friends and I were beaten, robbed, assaulted, and verbally and emotionally abused in the hallways, the classrooms, and even the cafeteria. In the early years, there was a natural system of segregation, initiated by the black kids, and our systems of peaceful coexistence took several years to evolve. White privilege anyone? We only achieved lasting peace because both sides got sick of fighting it out with our fists and eventually took the time to understand, and then ultimately respect, the other side's view of the world and how each of us came by those opinions and experiences. Kamala Harris eventually left the United States for a number of years, living whatever life she lived in a country consisting of a population that is approximately 75% White. I bear her no ill will, personally, except that she is a politician and therefore completely detached more or less from what the rank-and-file American citizen endures every day on the streets of America, but I cannot let her get away with misleading the American people by portraying herself as a victim of oppression and racial abuse. Her now-infamous line, while discussing the topic of racism during a presidential primary debate in June of 2019, completely misrepresents the state of race relations in America today and furthers the completely false narrative which suggests that only black Americans can be victims of racism, singly, because of the color of their skin. That is a flat-out lie. As she laid out her case, directed at Joe Biden, she stated that Biden's relationship with, and implicit support of, politicians that resisted bussing and integration was hurtful somehow, personally, as she made the following statement: "It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputation of two United States Senators who built their reputations and their careers on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you worked with them to oppose busing and, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her Public Schools and she was bussed to school every day and that little girl was me." Well, 3000 miles away, that little boy was also me. As well, it was also millions of other little boys and little girls across the entire country that participated in the forced busing systems of the 70s and had been forced to endure the forced integration of public schools. My larger point is, simply, that no one is any more or less special than anyone else; we are all equal, especially under the law, and equally required to abide by them because we are all Americans and that is what law-abiding American citizens do. As a survivor of laws written by those in power, none of whom paid any personal price for the effects those laws had on the lives of other people and then force them down the throats of millions of families and their otherwise innocent children, I feel only bitterness, anger, and disdain for the shrewd and politically expedient calculus with which Vice President Harris now conducts herself. It is genuinely next to impossible for me to understand how it came to be that the most powerful person of color in America, after having survived her own personal stories of racial conflicts and injustices, by the grace of God, could ever go on to use that power to slice open the long-healed wounds from a generation ago and pick a whole new fight between the very people that had resolved their differences and agreed to a mutually beneficial peaceful coexistence. We are all brothers and sisters, after all, and we are all God's creations and we are all Americans. It escapes me how she failed to learn that lesson herself, but it is the efforts of identity isolationists to stand one race above another, such as Harris, whether it be done by unfairly demonizing one or inequitably elevating another, and otherwise dividing all of us into clans and tribes, that tells us everything we need to know about what has put us, once more, as a nation, asunder. We eventually worked our way through the struggles of bringing the races together in the 70s and 80s, and the modern ideas that suggest all of that needs to be undone in order to make some of us more equal than others, cannot be long-sustained if this nation is to remain as one people. MLK died fighting to build that promise, and it will only be ultimately achieved by the content of the character of the color blind hands that continue fighting to see it realized.