In the aftermath of bigotry, hate, and discrimination, a sentiment that is just as destructive is captured in these words…
I can’t believe it.
This phrase, or its pernicious cousins, is an automatic response to the trauma of watching racism, sexism, or any other -ism rear its head from those looking to rationalize its existence.
…that’s not who we are.
…I am shocked at the actions of a few.
…that’s not the america I know.
What I hear when these words are uttered, when this belief is espoused, isn’t strength, but weakness. I see fear, not courage. I feel anger, not solace. Because this sentiment, and others like it, is a reminder that america is a country in denial. We avoid the truth, and therefore we have not broken free from the cycle that limits us from truly being great. american tradition rests on the belief that every action, every moment in history, is defined by our exceptionalism. And when truth reminds america that this exceptionalism enslaved, raped, killed, stole, imprisoned, ignored, and abused, what we actually record in the annals of american history is the greatness defined by intention and ideals; meanwhile, we whitewash the blemishes, marks, and imperfections with a coat of primer so thick that the paint following makes one believe the blemishes were never there to begin with.
america, the blemishes are there. And the truth: we should not be shocked at bigotry. We should not be appalled at violence and terror as a tool to stymy progress. america is a country built by both. To believe otherwise doesn’t erase that truth. To be shocked and surprised today doesn’t change the catalog of yesterdays documenting that truth.
How can it be a surprise? Indigenous people have been telling america that we are hateful. We made citizenship the right of free white persons of good character in this country and then justified the taking of land from the original Americans on that premise. Rather than acknowledge the hateful acts for what they were, we gifted these Natives a fraction of their land after a trail of tears and believe that to be benevolence of character. We took the rest of that land under the guise of destiny, granting *anyone claims to land out…