Last Wednesday on a day that represented my break from teaching, I walked about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The day had begun soft, gray, moist, but once I got to the garden around 2 p.m. the sun began to break out a huge bright smile over this very walkable feast of a place. The Garden is undergoing rapid change–new plantings, old trees that fell during Superstorm Sandy. The variety of roses were in various stages of blooming and closing–the old roses slowly being brought back after a horrific blight. Yellows, pinks, reds, whites, lilac, even silver colors and climbing flowers make the garden one of the mirthful places in this world. I remember walking with my sister many years ago in the garden and we found varieties from 1919, the year our Mother was born. And ones named for movie stars and Presidents. But it is the Japanese Hill and Garden that I was really happy to see after too long an absence. White and purple irises were in bloom, and there have been recent prunings of the trees–in many ways the Garden is an arboretum. And the paths towards the Shinto Shrine, one of the oldest examples in the U.S. had been cleared and recent plantings made it seem particularly lush. All that green and the glorious orange red portal in the pond. I have prayed there. said good bye to a lover there. Called the names of those lost to terror or storm or old age. I had no idea that later on, so much terror would be unleashed but in Charleston, SC and nine Black American church people including Rev. Clementa Pinckney would be assassinated. Who could think of such horror while walking through the beauty of a garden, which is a very human made sculpture?
We can make gardens, but we have difficult time in these United States of looking at our history; at the brutal, vicious and violent treatment of African Americans and finding ways to end racism and brutality towards Black People. The assassin who sat for an hour in Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church did not expect welcome. Had no idea that Black people are polite and sharing. Seemed almost undone by courtesy. But not enough. The Devil’s work had to be done. Not a phrase used, but giving the religious overtones of this political assassination, Rev. Pinckney was a sitting state senator, it seems appropriate. The assassin is not mentally ill. He is filled with hatred and he had a gun (gift?) and he wanted that most American of celebrity–infamy. His name will not be mentioned here.
But if he wanted to trigger a war between the races, he failed. The race war is between Whites. This is where Whites of decency, generosity, civility are going to have to decide how much longer they can benefit from White Supremacy, an ideology that does not bother saying its name and ignore those Whites who are brutal, mean spirited, violent and racist who kill, maim in their name. Because believe me, Black people are done with this. We are not interested in being moving targets for angry White people. We know that White Supremacy exists and are done with explaining to the people who created this ideology what they are doing. We are most willing to defend ourselves, but as Richard Wright noted many many years ago, they got more guns.
So I am hopeful that with the demand to remove the hateful Confederate battle flag from South Carolina capitol grounds; with the commentary in social media from Blacks and Whites and Asians and Native Americans and others on hate crimes, racism that others also have come to that enough is enough moment. Because with the murders of decent, hard working, charismatic, generous African American citizens who were studying their Bible, a shift in the zeitgest is underway. America has and may never be “post-racial.” Barack Obama is President because he was the best candidate for the job and thinking people know that. But his election is but one of the many things that show how the zeitgeist is unfolding. We are at the start of a serious discussion about ending racism in this country. This is not a conversation on race–that is stupid. Racism represents the worst of America’s character and character can be altered, changed. Racism has got to go.