What one Black man wants Kansans to know about watching the insurrection

January 23, 2021 3:43 am

Protesters enter the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Matthew L. Kane is a doctoral student and adjunct professor at a university in Kansas. 

To: You

From: A Black man

It’s been more than two weeks and I still don’t know where to begin.

On Jan. 6, I was supposed to study for an exam I had to pass to reach the next phase of my PhD program. But what I needed to do was quell my anxieties about the state of our country and my place in it.

So I watched the faces of United States representatives and senators. They had one job: to certify legally recognized election results. However, some slammed fists to podiums in boisterous opposition on behalf of the American people who doubted our election — doubts they had insidiously brought to life, nursed and promulgated. It felt like the world had stopped for a mob of predominantly White men and women trespassing through federal land, assaulting officers and planting bombs.

As a Black man living in the United States, let me take a moment to speak to you.

Did you know this mob marched one day after Jacob Blake, who will need a wheelchair for the rest of his life, discovered the officer who shot him received no charges? Did you know this attack on the capitol was two weeks after Andre Hill was shot in his garage and bled out in his own driveway? How about that we’ve gone almost 10 months without justice for Breonna Taylor — did you know that?

Centuries of Black Americans who in many ways continue to be enslaved, killed, subjugated and systematically held down right before your eyes receive no credence from you. And yet, this is what you storm Capitol Hill for? Your supposed “fraudulent election,” which couldn’t find the legal backing to be accepted in 61 courts, including those led by judges appointed by the man you follow so vehemently.

You who don’t bat an eye when a man’s neck is rested on for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. You who defend a teenager for “protecting” property with an illegally carried assault rifle that took the lives of two people. You who get touted as “patriots” while desecrating our country and receive “very special” reverence from the leader of the free world. Yes, you. What does your privilege taste like? This Black man wants to know.

You held online public chats of your malicious intentions and despite federal intelligence of security threats, police were suddenly “unprepared” for you. When just months ago the National Guard poured into the street when mostly Black people marched to protect Black life from police brutality.

Let me ask you, how am I supposed to feel in the red state of Kansas, where the same flags that flew during an insurrection decorate bumpers and front yards? I need another withdrawal from the bank of Black resiliency whenever I drive past houses and cars of people who proudly flaunt flags that are diametrically opposed to my humanity. It’s here where your president’s flag, Gadsden flags and Confederate flags representing people who sought to put my ancestors in shackles are considered innocuous and given that Midwestern welcome as they fly high.

I can’t help but wonder what that hospitable reassurance is like. I’ll share a piece of myself with you: I thought I’d gotten used to the fear of walking with my hood up until Trayvon Martin. I promise I was close to feeling confident jogging through the park alone until Ahmaud Arbery. Like many people of color, I got so good at lying to myself in an almost delusional belief that I was safe enough to just live, but now I mourn the loss of what little peace my heart held.

Let me be clear, I don’t want your privilege. You have given us all a lesson of how the poisonous side effects are clearly blinding. Your actions that day, what led to them and what will follow are not just about race by any means, but as people of color have been saying for generations, it is inescapably interwoven. I see these actions and I want to say things I can’t say.

I want to eviscerate every one of your hollow-shelled arguments that justify your racist actions and symbols. But I would lose my self. And that is not my practice; love is.

But weeks have passed, and the practice is hard, and I still find myself searching for where to begin. Calls for unity echo in my ear, but is it OK that I can’t shake the fear you’ve spent more time deep in conspiracies instead of hearing the cries of the people you’ve stepped on?

One day I hope you awaken and realize how your words and actions flaunt a toxic privilege that kills. One day I hope you hear me. However, it’s not my job to educate you. That’s your work.

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Matthew L. Kane
Matthew L. Kane

Matthew L. Kane (he/his/him) is a doctoral student and adjunct professor at a university in Kansas. He is involved in various social justice and liberation-based causes throughout the state.