Existential Conflict of Black People in 2020.

by: L. David Stewart, ABD

First let me say thank you for the well wishes of what I have been dealing with in terms of dealing with my terminally ill father. Humbly and greatly appreciated. That said, if he was coherent, he would tell me I have a duty and responsibility…that said…here we go!

For context, I am a Black man, who with blue collar roots, straddle various socioeconomic and political stratospheres from trade associations to fraternal organizations of which I am member of. I have been blessed to have multiple degrees and currently in the midst of completing my dissertation for my Doctorate. I am what folks identify as a Christian, my politics are independent, but above all and first. I AM A BLACK MAN.

So it is here where I start. Another Black man was killed by police. The trauma porn of seeing it wears heavy on me personally. People insert respectability politics into the discussion as if Black people in the 20th century were not lynched in suits and dress shoes.

The last few days, while grieving my father’s pending death, I have taken moments to maintain awareness of the world around me and have observed various dichotomies, such as:

A group of Black people who state that looting and rioting don’t do ANYTHING for the cause but verify that we are savage and we need to think in terms of economic development.

A group of Black people who feel like this country is not ours, these cities are not ours, and burn it all to the ground.

Another group who feel that we need to be smart and be careful what we do because it is a tool to get us out of our places of progress and that engaging only hurts.

And last, a group that remains silent with no opinion because well it doesn’t impact them.

Sit down…for what I am going to say.


Yep, they absolutely in are! There is a truth in each answer. The bigger issue is that when everyone is right, no one listens.

The truth is that when we do riot, we cause damage to neighborhoods, but most of those neighborhoods, we are not home owners, and due to redlining and other tactical devices of racism, such as purposeful denial of credit and loans for entrepreneurs, the owners of the businesses in most cases do not look like us. The residents rent or own, but have awful terms in terms of mortgages and the COVID19 situation is revealing that many are losing or have lost jobs so they have nothing to lose anyway. Statistics have shown the value and savings of Black people in this country to be abysmal at best, so what is there to lose? With Reverse White Flight prevalent in many cities, and the destruction of the “projects” throughout the many cities in the late 20th and early 21st century, modern urban renewal involves moving “empty nesters” back to the city and moving many Black families to the suburbs…so again what are we losing?

To the group that feels rioting is voice of the unheard (quoting Brother Martin Luther King aka MLK), there is truth in that. Many have wanted the American dream the way as we were taught. Work hard, get a degree, get a good job, and still not good enough. This country repeatedly slaps us with violence and we are told to champion MLK like principals when in truth at one point Martin Luther King himself carried a pistol to deal with adversity. Ironically many who quote MLK, are descendants of the very people who hated him when he was alive. Death has a way of making certain groups accept you as a Black person. Martyrdom makes you respectable (unless you are Malcolm X and even death his words scare people, but I digress). We are told to “go high” when the go low. How can we go high when there is literally a knee on your neck for nine minutes not allowing to breathe let alone go high? The system as observed in the very same city of Minneapolis convicted a former cop Mohammed Noor (a person of color) for accidentally shooting a white woman, and swiftly received 12.5 years in prison. Meanwhile in a reversed situation in the same city George Floyd, was killed by a cop with undue aggressive force, and recorded and autopsy is stating that he was not killed by the cop outright! What do you expect ANY group of people to do? Contrary to popular belief Black people want the same thing everyone else want: Financial mobility, stability, a safe place to raise kids, and not to be hunted like animals and to be respected. BOTH men and women. So it is with vitriolic disrespect that we respond with when we hear people speak more of buildings being burned by multi-national corporations that are ensured are valued more than a life!

To the group that feels we need to be smart in our movements as a whole. That is true also. However what defines smart? Move in silence? Riot? Vote? What is moving smart? In this case smart is subjective, and dependent on your socioeconomic, religious and experiential perspectives all concurrent. How do you tell a group of people who feel hunted to not respond? Does the gazelle move smart when said gazelle has watched mother father, brother and sister be devoured? Even a roach has sense enough to evade in the midst of a bigger opponent. Are we not worth more than a common cockroach?

Lastly, the quiet group. They are right in their own way too. For SOME, not all, that are well off in the Black community, this does not directly impact them or they benefit from it. Engaging impacts their “way of life”. Way of life in this context means, that for instance, they are good, bills paid, they come and go as they please. Life is good. Why risk a job, or life, or their check because well, it doesn’t impact them? Separated from Blue collar struggles of other Blacks, they dine and enjoy high society, and depending they are even accepted by the various antagonistic individuals the majority of Blacks speak of. Maybe they are a well known entertainer, athlete, or just doing well. They are the exception to their non Black colleagues and associates. They feel they fought to get there, so you should do the same!

So now what…

To non-Black people. I say this with love, compassion, respect, and truth: WE ARE ALL NOT THE SAME. BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT HOMOGENIZED.

To Black people, say this with love, compassion, respect, and truth: WE ARE ALL NOT THE SAME. BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT HOMOGENIZED.

Many colleagues feel that we as Black people all need to be on the “same page”. Truth is that will NEVER happen. It didn’t happen during slavery, it didn’t happen during Jim Crow. What did happen was a few were willing to make ultimate sacrifices and that motivated others and empowered them to contribute in their own right to a movement. No different than now.

Many colleagues feel that we need the perfect candidate or leader. Truth is none of them are perfect, and as sure as we can find reasons to support we can find very valid flaws in them as people.

My question, I ask is what are you willing to sacrifice, negotiate, or tolerate in order to deal with the issue at hand: CONSISTENT FEAR IMPOSED BY THE CONSTANT SLAUGHTER OF BLACK AND BROWN MEN AND WOMEN AT THE HANDS OF POWER HUNGRY OFFICERS? PERIOD.

Your income won’t save you!

Your ability to dress won’t save you!

Your degrees won’t save you!

Your support of Democrats or Republicans won’t save you!

Your living in the suburbs or downtown high rises won’t save you!

Before you shrug your shoulders, think about this. What if a woman accuses you of harming them and calls the cops and explicitly informs the police you are African-American?

What if you get stopped one day and you comply and you end of with a knee on your neck one day?

What if your son or daughter is shot and killed and the officer “feared for their life”?

What if your love one was killed, and all that is discussed is their one mistake of smoking weed or a misdemeanor is plastered all over the news to paint them as a menace to society?

What if?

Thing is…it can..happen!

So to conclude. Black people, we can grieve, we can riot, we can vote and we can do nothing. We can do all of that an more.

To non-Black people. If you care, listen. If you care, help us tell your less enlightened colleagues about our story. The victim should have to tell the oppressor while they shouldn’t be oppressed. Because if we do, the victim will rise up and justly give the oppressor that they have received!


Now what?