California Burnin’: It is Sad that I Don’t Care
The news this week has been filled with fire. Literally, fire! The wild fires in California have consumed conversations and the images of the fires have been forever imbedded in the minds of those who picked-up a newspaper this week. It was definitely a front page story not to be missed! Nonetheless, I was not overwhelmingly fazed by the tragic stories of people losing their homes. I could not identify with their pain. Believe me; I tried while watching a lady fall to her knees in complete heartache when her address was read over an intercom system. The reading of her address was the Red Cross’s way of informing her and others that their homes were demolished by this act of nature.
An act of nature – but considered an act of God by holy-rollers: “These are the end of times”. How I have heard this since I was a toddler! From Reverend James Cleveland to Minister Louis Farrakhan. This message of doom has been irresponsibly blurted out with a vengeance for far too long. I guess the “end days” are among us…STILL? I wonder when Jesus is really coming back.
As I thought about these so-called end of times, I became increasingly puzzled by my dismissive and nonchalant attitude. Shouldn’t I be torn-up by lives being ripped apart? I certainly understand that people are losing material items, but homes are sanctuaries. They are shrines. Homes in some cases are all people have to link themselves to family history. Cherished generational items truly make-up a home. These are homes, not the sitcom set for Fred Sanford’s junk yard. For me, every item in my place is of monumental value. The books, pictures, and heirlooms are only a few mementos that make me who I am.
If you are reading you know that I am a black man. Some say too black. When I mentioned this word (black) as I audio recorded this commentary I began to reflect on this demised color. After thinking for awhile a revelation was received. I began to piece together why I am not empathizing with the Californians who lost everything. I thought I would be too shameful to admit this: The reason I am not distraught over million dollar homes going up in a blaze is because the people I noticed on CNN did not look like me. They were/are white. Unlike the black American citizens - not refugees – of the Gulf Coast. The people from the swamp’s East and West Bank have lips like mine. Their noses are like mine. They were/are victims of a devastating storm that shocked the world. I can relate to them through years of black pain and struggle.
Over 900,000 people were evacuated. Over 480,000 acres burned or on fire (that’s 645 square miles). 19 reported fires. 7,000 firemen and women battling the blazes. 8 dead. Countless people are expected to be injured. One billion dollars worth of damage. Over 1,600 homes destroyed by one of God’s biblical weapons of wrath (punishment) – and I am not feeling remorseful at all. Not one ounce of sympathetic feelings for these people who are strangers just like every black person I watched thread through Lake Pontchartrain flood waters back in September of 2005. Did skin color alone connect me to Mrs. Etouffee? If this is the case, I find it interesting considering I and several other black people are occasionally quick to interject classism within the black race: poor ghetto blacks vs. financially stable blacks. Meaning: Well-to-do blacks can careless about destitute blacks. But, during the saga of Katrina I and those other polished black folk were suddenly ‘feeling’ for New Orleans’ poor blacks. Hypocrisy again?
Should I be concerned by my lack of loving pity for California’s newly traumatized? Could I be so mean-spirited and possibly racist that I can’t show any level of human kinship? Lord, I am wanting to know what you have created, or a better question, what have I become? I do want to care, even as I understand that COUNTLESS white folk were unmoved by the images of Katrina, the beating of Rodney King, the injustice of Jena 6, the killing of Medgar Evers, the rape and torture of Megan Williams, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the slaying of four little girls as they participated in Sunday school activities, and the senseless hanging of black men, women, and children, but my conscious and emotions will not allow me too mourn with my fellow Americans. Why?
I am a product of racism. America’s racism has shaped my opinions, beliefs, and day to day thoughts. I am what you, America, have produced: A man who was waiting on you to react the way you are now responding when a huge hurricane by the name of Katrina hit land in black New Orleans. The 9th Ward. And, as a result of your neglectful inaction I am harden. So hard, my television is not getting its usual play of news because I just don’t care about expensive homes owned by mostly white people going up in flames. I don’t care about 12,000 men, women, and children having to flock into a stadium. I just don’t care as a result of what you have proven and done to me and my people. America, you have confirmed that you will abandon black folk whenever and wherever. So, please know that when you don’t see black people crying or attempting to assist, try to understand that our lack of a caring response is of your making.
Ya reap what ya sow in this world. You, America, have reaped a class of people who do not identify with your tragedies. And yet, you continue to sow. This is your fault, not ours!
Consequently, it is my responsibility to change my heart in spite of Babylon’s flagrant disregard. It is me who has to forgive. It is me that needs to be compassionate. If I do these things my soul and thinking will be in line with what God ultimately wants: Love for thy Neighbor. Since I am not in accordance with what God desires from all of us I am wrong. Dead wrong!
I am confident that I am not the only black person feeling this way. I am confident some white people will not understand.
Written by Muata. Inspired by my mother: “Brian, these people will bounce back before you know it because the government will rescue them, and then the government will claim that the reason they were so responsive is a reflection of lessons learned from the Katrina aftermath. Whatever!”
My challenging and controversial book, Exposing Christianity, My Way of Sharing an Alternative to the Church’s Truth can be purchased at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/.