A Matter of Survival


By Oscar H. Blayton

Denial can be deadly.

I have heard narratives of Jews in the path of the Nazi onslaught who simply could not believe that Hitler’s followers could possibly be as bad as many had warned.  And now I am hearing people of color refusing to believe that a terrible storm of racism is brewing in America.

The grotesque four-year performance of Donald Trump in the White House has given license to the worst elements among the American population to act out their fear and hatred of anyone they do not perceive to be like them.  It’s time to stop listening to pundits and politicians who, while wringing their hands, proclaim, “This is not who we are.” This is exactly who we are. Actions speak louder than words and we are witnesses to centuries of racist, hateful actions.  America is a country built on stolen land with slave labor. The principle used to justify this has never been anything other than “might makes right.” Or put another way, if you have the power to kill people, you can take their land and make them work for free.

While this is a country born of injustice and built upon unfairness, it is addicted to its self-portrait as a haven of heavenly perfection. And until we acknowledge this, we are all in grave danger. From before the time of the earliest Quaker abolitionists, there has been a struggle for the soul of this nation, brought on by the imposition of misery of one people for the aggrandizement of another. This is America’s past – and its present. There has never been true justice and equality in this country. And not a living, breathing soul believes otherwise.  Our social order has always demanded that this fact be ignored, but now the situation has turned more deadly.

There has never been a time in America when people of color have not been in danger of being killed violently by state sanctioned callousness or mob brutality. But now, Trump has increased this danger by turning the Supreme Court into a gaggle of partisan hacks eager to do the bidding of bigots and far-right zealots and push this nation into an abyss of intolerance. This corruption at the highest level of our judiciary pollutes and weakens our entire judicial system. Recent decisions by courts across the country have signaled that hard-fought legal victories and protections for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable populations will be rolled back.

In the midst of this storm of bigotry and sexism, a smiling Joe Biden assures the global community that America is “back” as a world leader in human rights, while ignoring the fact that the rest of the world is laughing up its sleeves at this notion.  Donald Trump and his followers are a rip in the seat of America’s pants. And while we strut around with our chest puffed up, everyone can see our dirty drawers. While Donald Trump, the individual, may not find his way back to the White House, the plague he has unleashed on America undoubtedly will. Because it is not the incompetent buffoon that is Donald Trump that is so threatening. It is the fact that so many Americans would vote for someone like him.

This is the time for action, and we who face this danger don’t need pretend allies who only lend headshaking, tongue clucking or heavy sighs. Real allies will challenge their aunties and grannies, and their MAGA hat-wearing mommas, who routinely flock to the polls to vote for every Trump-like politician willing to press forward white supremacy grievance agendas.

Unfortunately, Joe Biden has proven to be a pretend ally. Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.  Joe Biden showed us who he was when he was chums with segregationists.  He showed us who he was when he opposed busing to integrate schools.  He showed us who he was when he voted to bar the use of federal funds for abortions.  He showed us who he was with his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

He showed us who he was when he drafted the 1994 crime bill that resulted in the United States having the world’s highest incarceration rate, while disproportionately impacting people of color.  Biden has shown us that when it comes to building a better world, he is all talk and little action.  And we are paying the price for allowing the Democratic Party to sell us a B-Lister like Biden as a suitable president.

Greta Thunberg said it all about Joe Biden when she eloquently stated, “Build Back Better – Blah, Blah, Blah.”  As America enters a period of “Massive Resistance 2.0,” our national leaders are failing us.  They have allowed patriotism to metastasize into a form of “trans-cultural belligerence” that supports attacking individuals because they are different.

White supremacists have always mistreated people of color in America; and now they want to eliminate critical race theory because it brings that history to light. Bigotry is in America’s DNA and white supremacists want to deny it so they can pretend and feel good about themselves. They want to treat racism as a two-dimensional social problem that can be stuck on a bumper sticker and just as easily solved.

But racism is a dynamic process that is as complex as the human brain. It is a form of denial to keep the perception of racism corralled within the trope of the robed KKK bigot, while it is our culture of racism that leads to murder, rape, plunder and every other atrocity imaginable. The logical consequence to this denial is the eventual elimination of all marginalized communities.

This is a matter of survival. People of color and other marginalized communities must stop denying the true nature of the culture in which we live, and how little our self-proclaimed leaders do to change this culture. And now the question is will we survive or not?  

Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia. His earlier commentaries may be found at