“Common Sense: Of the Origin and Design of Systemic Racism in America in General, with concise Remarks on the Recent actions committed Against African American Inhabitants” is an unpublished, unshared, unfinished pamphlet written by a 17-year-old frightened teenager from Portsmouth, R.I. I was just about to graduate high school and go off to Roger Williams University a mere glance across the water from where I worked on this project the most. The senseless, race-driven killings that took place in both late 2014 and the first half of 2015 invoked within me a sense of duty to ensure the protection of my fellow brothers and sisters. But I never completed what I set out to do. Whether I was optimistic that by the time I would eventually finish writing it that it wouldn’t be needed anymore or that I felt my voice on the topic was not appropriate or that I lacked adequate knowledge and therefore the document would go unnoticed and fail to implement the change I desired in the world, I am not sure. I suspect it to be the latter, but I now know that the former is undoubtedly false. In a world that keeps getting darker, I am praying that we are moving closer to the dawn.
But that isn’t enough. It never has been. Everyone needs to speak out.
I was scrolling through social media the other day, Facebook specifically — an electronic platform perfect for when you want that perfect blend of unchecked misinformation and conspiracy theories — when I came across a post that equated the removal of statues commemorating Confederate officers and proponents of slavery with the erasing of history. Now, can someone please indulge me on the identity of the person who first thought statues are how we record history and that their removal is humanity’s way of erasing it? Cause now I see that delusional way of thinking all the time.
There is a difference between not putting up statues of people — in addition to their removal — and altering textbooks. The difference being Germany still remembers the Holocaust despite there being no Nazi statues in the country but the South still thinks the Civil War was fought over broad philosophical differences and therefore they feel content when waving the Confederate flag.
If people are concerned about the altering of history, don’t look at the removal of statues to quench your anger. Statues depicting those whose pursuit in life was nothing more than to ensure the enforcement of subjugation are but another physical barrier in a series of man-made obstacles designed to keep instilling the horrendous ideology created or otherwise perpetuated by the men they represent to keep those who are not like them down. It is, therefore, our duty as members of a society and advocates for the preservation of our naturally inherited humanitarian instincts that we continue to work in unison toward a better future. It is a vague request, one that may appear obvious enough, but apparently things don’t change just because a few recognize and admit there is a problem.
The glorification of people — if we so choose to continue doing so — should be done in such a way that we as a society can collectively agree on the values the individual in question expressed to be essential and an indicator of righteousness. They should not represent an ideology that bounds others, beats others, enslaves others for the betterment and “progression” of another race.
The Civil War never truly ended. From Jim Crow to voter restrictions and police brutality, there are many battles to be fought not on the battlefields of the past but through dialogue with those in our own communities. There has been too much violence already, but we cannot remain silent any longer. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” as Elie Wiesel said.
I often like to think that my brother CJ, an African American man who I am honored to even know, first made his presence known to those on the pale blue dot we call home as one of the brightest and most magnificent stars in the night sky. After all, he possesses extensive insight in astronomy and astrophysics. I like to think that throughout the early beginnings of mankind’s venture out of the caves and into the new world, peasants and commoners, Gods and Goddesses, and all the animals of the forests and jungles always took the time to worship the beacon in the night sky, for it was said to grant them peace of mind and insights that only one who was truly gifted and creative in the arts would possess. After all, he possesses extensive talent when it comes to painting. I like to think that he is a star on Earth, something we can’t quite characterize but know to be special.
I would like everyone to embrace CJ for the man he is, to bask in the light that he emanates into the world, instead of turning in fear and indifference at the dark pigmentation of his skin.
In our 14 years of knowing one another he has not only shown me the ways of the universe, but also the ways of life. He has brought the beauty and complexity of the night sky to Earth and put it onto canvas for all to witness.
But too often others don’t show him basic respect. But too often he is the one with one eye open, his head tilted just a few degrees off center, prepared for the injustice that has plagued so many before him.
Why do we do this to each other? What is the point of it all?
I suppose there is a reason why we look up at the sky starry-eyed but at the world around us smoggy-eyed, as WAR, the 1960s and ‘70s band, put it.
Why is it that a simple phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” invokes the instinct in some people to find any way to immediately and purposefully undermine it? “All Lives Matter” is not an adequate response. We all know it. Anyone who says it is either harmfully oblivious to the events occurring in the world or disagrees with the fundamental idea that is equality and equity for all people, regardless of race. “Black Lives Matter” simply states the obvious truth, that all people are equal, something a founding document of this nation mightily declares on paper but fails to act upon in the streets, on the hill, and within the judicial system.
We each need to do our part in the hopes that one day our fellow brothers and sisters can finally breathe freely.
Jordan J. Phelan is the managing editor at the Eagle Times. Uncommon sense is a series of editorials offering perspectives on various national and global issues.