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Kenosha

Represent our resistance

Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manor of our revolution. But more usually we must do battle where we are standing.

-Audre Lorde

The Biden-Harris team flipped Wisconsin. Over 1,630,570 citizens gave Biden 50% of the vote. Trump, receiving 49% of the vote, that is, over 1,610,030, came in second. Trump lost, according to the votes. Wisconsin is blue for Biden.

But I still see red!

Like most Black Americans, I’ve seen red for a very long time. To paraphrase Dave Chappelle, I’ve been Black long enough to discern a pattern - of red. The red spreading westward, left in its wake Indigenous people, falling and trampled upon. The Africans, my ancestors, saw it for sure. Newly arrived to these shores to be chained and abused with whips, the red filled them with terror so that for hundreds of years, old hands in the cotton fields picked the buds, signing of the red.

There's a reason to discredit activist for justice, to disseminate ignorance, to ignore the presence of armed militia groups. It is to deny white violence and at the same time, justify white violence.

After Reconstruction, the strung up is surrounded, hearing voices he can no longer see because of all the agitated and gurgling red blocking his windpipe. And years later, the voice on the phone, a white man, taunts the 14-year-old Sunday school secretary, struggling to hear, to understand: “Three minutes.” Time stops for four little girls, lying among concrete and brick.

Ella Baker, Diane Nash warned about it as did Sojourner and Frederick Douglass before them. Wilmington. Tulsa. Ida B. Wells in Memphis takes to the road after the fellow citizens informed her with the threat of death that it was best to leave home behind. John Lewis is covered in it on Pettus Bridge - and it’s more than his own blood. No longer confined to Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, or Louisiana, Malcolm finds it New York, Dr. King in Chicago, Rodney King, Los Angeles.

Only in a country with so much red would we witness a Steve Bannon conjuring for the restoration of a Medieval practice, the beheading of Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institution of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and Christopher Wray (Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations)!

Only in a country with so much red would we witness a senator requesting that all the votes from Pennsylvania be thrown out!

A few days before, fellow citizens carrying long rifles gathered at the polling facility in Maricopa County, coming in the night to warn election poll workers of how much better it would be for them, fellow Americans, if the votes favored Trump!

Those more than 72 million Americans stood at the polls last week with Trump on their minds. Biden, at the time of this writing, has 5 million more votes than Trump in the national election. The highest ever! Not, please, no more white nationalists establishing policies to separate over 600 Latinx children, 200 of which are babies and toddlers, from their parents. Not, no more Blacks parents forced to accept as a given the shooting of their unarmed children.

The concern for these Latinx and Black children were not on the minds of those Americans who voted for Trump.

That’s the red I see today as I write this piece.

It’s the morning of the presidential election, November 3, 2020, and a van service for seniors has picked me up from the northside of Kenosha. It’s a driver I’ve had, on a few other occasions, a driver seemingly determined that I hear the rants of a local radio host. And the radio is loud, so loud that I actually can’t hear through the volume distortion to know what the rant is about this morning. In the past, I’ve listened to a caller and a host heap praise on Robert E. Lee and his military skills! The two seemed to forget the man served on the losing side!

But, given all the red on a 2020 election map…

I’m looking out the window, but out of the corner of my eye, I see the driver’s right arm reach out. The volume now is so loud I think there must be speakers somewhere behind me. Doesn’t this qualify as a form of torture?

Then I see the remains of something extraordinary. I strain against the loudness of the radio to think on what I’m seeing outside the van window.

In the wake of the police shooting of a 28-year-old Jacob Blake, on August 23, 2020, ordinary citizens Black and white, along with Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other community organizations from Milwaukee, protested in the streets of Kenosha. The protests in downtown and in the Uptown area went on for days and drew not only outraged allies to the cause of justice and organizers and activist-minded citizens, but also militia groups. Some businesses and vehicles were set ablaze. Owners of downtown businesses began boarding up doors and windows.

Read the dissemination campaign on right-wing news sites. The message is, the Black Lives Matter activists are the agents of violence! BLM activists are looters!

There’s a reason to discredit activists for justice, to disseminate ignorance, to ignore the presence of armed militia groups. It is to deny white violence and at the same time, justify white violence.

Since August 23, 2020, I’ve had only one conversation with a white resident about George Floyd, about the difficulty we both had in watching Floyd succumb to eight minutes and forty-six seconds of Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck. Only one person! No one has spoken to me about Jacob Blake right here in Kenosha!

Was Floyd actually murdered? Did the Kenosha Police really shoot Blake? Really?

The gaslighting began as soon as the last bullet hit Blake’s body! The harassment escalated. During the days of protests, residents where I lived at the time, tried to “educate” me about Black people, “your people,” destroying Kenosha. “Looters!, Looters! Looters!” Looting, consequential looting, has been an American pastime.

On a grand imperialist scale with insurmountable damage, lives have been lost from Africa, to the Philippines, to Chile… For a barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia, how many innocent children had their lives stolen in Yemen last week, last month, last year?

Nonetheless, the narrative of Black and Latinx “looting” goes hand-in-hand with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. The perception of a rampant conspiracy instigated by the “left” on behalf of people of color serves to stir in white Americans a fear that their very existence will be snuffed out by “aliens,” “hulks,” “terrorists.”

So in the red county of Kenosha, fear and the need to conceal the truth justifies campaigns of harassment and gaslighting as I experienced from fellow tenants and management alike - until I moved from that village in Kenosha County! So much for anti-discrimination disclaimers when keeping the county “safe” is what matters!

Black lives matter because in America, they don’t matter, and whites in those red counties and states throughout America know this in their hearts. We know from years of reading student papers that the dining room table is a place where the word, “nigger,” is uttered frequently. The “absent” subject conjures a landscape of the familiar.

For more than 70 million Americans, the lives of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people threatens the stability of the United States itself!

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No one in this sea of red is willing to concede a loss!

In the meantime, in the City of Kenosha, “a third of Black residents live below the poverty line,” according to a National Public Radio (NPR) report, many earning, when there’s a job, half of the earnings of white workers. In Kenosha, there’s a lack of jobs, and opportunities are lacking.”

The report continues: “It’s not just that Black Kenoshans are worse off than their white neighbors; it’s that they’re worse off than almost anywhere else in the country on almost every measure.”

There’s a history of “poor relations with Kenosha Police, according to Black residents interviewed. And these residents notice that man in the White House “inciting hate.”

“In a county that Donald Trump won by just 255 votes four years ago,” according to the NPR report, “in a state he unexpectedly and narrowly won, the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the protests and violence that followed are likely to influence election results from Kenosha’s city hall to the White House.”

And it did!

Out the window was something unexpected in this city. It wasn’t red; it wasn’t blue. Could it have been Black and Latinx and white?

On every single boarded window and door was a message to the viewer:

Black Lives Matter and Justice!

Justice for Jake!

All Black Lives Matter!

Here Comes the Sun!

On the boarded up entrance to the Joe McCarthy Transit Center, spray painted in black, is the abbreviation, “BLM.”

And on a good many of the boarded up buildings, the message read, Peace! Love! Unity! Kenosha Unity!

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, in this most deadly year of the pandemic for people of color, these monuments of graffiti testify to the truth of resistance: That those infernal blocks of red on a map of the United States have met their match! Black Americans, Black woman, Latinx women, Indigenous women are rising together, standing, alive, resisting! Here’s a glimpse of an empowering vision for the next coming years. On those monuments of graffiti is recognition that those blocks of red diminish the possibility of ever building a country dedicated to democracy and to freedom for all.

Yes, we’ve seen it; we don’t like it! And it won’t be acceptable anymore!

Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!

And then the whitewashing! This is America, it has to come! One step forward, two steps back. Whites, who don’t live in the Uptown area, began painting over the message about justice. Black Lives Matter covered over becomes, Unity! Love! Kenosha Strong!

Residents where I lived at the time, tried to “educate” me about Black people, “your people,” destroying Kenosha. “Looters!, Looters!

And who or what represents Kenosha! It’s a divided America in miniature, willfully nodding to a narrative that erases pleas for justice, for democracy.

Outright hate would seem to win the day, except on the day Wisconsin’s votes gave the Biden-Harris team a blue state, I checked Kenosha’s vote tally. In the red of Kenosha County, where Trump racked up 44,972 (51%) votes to Biden’s 42,191 (48%), Republican representative Samatha Kerkman, attributes Trump’s last-minute visit to Kenosha for favorable outcome - favorable for residents concerned about “public safety” (Kenosha News). Trump, the representative suggests, showed Kenoshans that “he cared,” as they did, about “safety.” “Our area was in crisis and he came.”

Wow! I recall, or maybe I was imagining things, this same Trump, the man concerned with the “safety” of Kenoshans, openly defending Kyle Rittenhouse, a white supremacist who fatally shot two Kenoshans and seriously injured another. Law and order rhetoric, however, is reserved for wrapping around the necks of Black Americans.

The narrative doesn’t speak of anyone’s concern about the safety of Black citizens. After all, the protests happened because a member of the community, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha Police. And when Blacks craft their own narrative around the pursuit of justice, it’s smeared in violence of whiteness.

Kenosha County’s largest demographics is white, by 87%. Of this number, according to Kenosha News, 75%, aged 25 and older, are “non-college-educated whites.” In this sea of red, Biden received only 34% of the vote to Trump’s 60%. Nonetheless, the City of Kenosha went blue. Absentee and early voters are sending the Biden-Harris team to the White House! In Kenosha, Trump received 19,566 votes while 26,158 votes were cast for the Biden-Harris.

The anger and focus on injustice paid off!

But there is still this sea of red to consider.

I’m not suggesting that America further embrace a culture of white supremacy or values of the cold and callous. As journalist and Democracy Now! co-hostJuan Gonz��lez points out, white women cast more votes for Trump in this 2020 presidential election (54%) than they did in 2016 (52%). More white Americans voted for Trump, 72 million plus, than did in 2016. Is the message from this sea of red that millions of Americans identify with a harden culture dedicated to inflicting cruelty on children of color, on women, on people of color, on the LGBTQ community, on the imprisoned, on the unemployed, on the homeless, on the uninsured, on the hungry?

No we can’t embrace hate. We can’t embrace people who are quite comfortable with the suffering, indeed, the death of others. A survival of the fittest mentality isn’t a principle of Democracy. Stand with and work with Black and Latinx and Indigenous women. At stake is the fate of Earth, the fate of all humanity.

Are we ready?

Lenore Daniels
Black Commentator