Weeks ago, I sat in a scarcely occupied theater to watch Nate Parker’s film, Birth of a Nation. It was opening weekend and crickets. It was clear the debate within our community had taken its toll, and Parker’s passion project about a Black American hero would be televised, but the revolution would sadly go unwatched. I knew my people were conflicted, and for months I heard every perspective, but somehow we overlooked one major detail: White people, or in effect White Flight. They were having their own conversation and their consensus was historically accurate. White folks will not support a Black man accused of sexually assaulting a white woman – that support looks more like a mob taking justice into their own hands and making a public demonstration of power and hate.
Parker’s promotional poster of him hanging by the flag of our nation was prophetic. The emergence of Nat Turner’s story at the end of the first Black president’s tenure is eerily telling. The stark image of him, though one of resilience in context, speaks to America’s legacy and the hands of hate that even today wreck havoc on Black life. The ‘it could’ve been me’ reality rung so true. I saw myself in that poster, I saw Jordan Davis in that poster. I saw our president in that poster struggling to maintain his voice in the grip of America’s legacy. Parker and his film fought for every breath of fresh air, and the struggle is a losing battle at the box office today. We chose to turn our backs on the messenger and the message and we thought we were taking a stand, but the message from white America was louder and clearer. We just couldn’t hear anything outside of ourselves.
That message showed up again last night and we not only heard it this time, but we felt it. On the biggest stage, white America took the conversation back, ‘took their country back.’ We knew the country was divided. We knew Black America and White America were two separate entities. We knew Trump and his supporters — “They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook” — We didn’t underestimate whiteness. We feared it. We were scared of them pulling us backwards in one night, putting a sour note at the end of our run. We dreaded the return of the good old days, of seeing the most powerful white symbol in the oval, a white man. The last one who held office still leaves a bitter taste in our mouth. The fact that an inexperienced and insolent white man beat a qualified white woman who was favored and expected to win, was simply a lashing out. It was white preservation and supremacy at full force. Van Jones said it perfectly, “This was a white lash. This was a white lash against a changing country. It was a white lash against a Black President, in part.”
And wildly enough, we are stunned. As if the reverie of a two-term, eight-year Obama presidency has not been marred by the frequent nightmares of Black bodies being shot and killed on public display. As if Joshua Beal is not another hashtag casket to be carried out by the Black social media community this week. It’s not that we slept on the possibilities of a Trumped Up America, or we didn’t think white people would vote for such a man, we knew they would. We’re just afraid of an Obama-less America. We fell in love with seeing ourselves, talking about ourselves and embracing these beautiful notions of Black empowerment, Black love and being woke. In spite of all the pain and frustration, we found our voices, and there is no turning back from this level of awareness.
This is only season one of Atlanta, Insecure and Luke Cage. The new Smithsonian has only been open for a couple of months. Solange’s album is still on repeat. Alright is the Black national anthem of today. The movement is just getting started, again. Now, is the time we must decide what we will do with all this [Black] power. This is a for us, by us moment. This is not a moment of defeat, but a moment of discovery. There’s no need to run, but to step up to the challenge. We must continue to come together and unite our communities. White Flight and White Lash will continue to impact America. But in 2017, who will have the biggest affect on Black America?
Get up. Go to work. Support our leaders. Support our movements. Support our communities. Support Black business. Continue raising your voice. Challenge those in power. Hold those with platforms accountable. Continue to fight.The Obama journey was one of audacity and hope, and that chapter is coming to a close. We’ve graduated from hope, and we are where we are now, because of a long-standing history of audacity.
We wanted a seat at the table, and we got it. Now what? Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech today, but Black America will not.