“When I dream, I dream in color. . . Show me a child who never has seen, a vision that shows what his life really means. I’ll give you so many good reasons to capture a dream.”
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the Language of Birds, a commentary on issues impacting the Black community. In almost every ancient culture there is reference to a form of communication called the Language of Birds. While often defined as a “sacred language,” it is also called an un-language or a language of un-saying. Too often things are not said but inferred, purposefully structured in order to detract and/or confuse. This column will provide an opinionated translation of what, why and how issues occur and their consequence for Black America.
The nation is running out of adjectives to describe the current President of the United States. Many have grown more anxious and concerned over his racist, jingoistic, xenophobic, and misogynistic approach to governing that has moved far beyond rhetoric to actionable policy.
The president’s actions negatively impact many things most Americans hold sacred, from healthcare to the environment to criminal justice reform to the fight over immigration.
So when the president delivered his 2018 State of the Union Address recently, although most were neither surprised nor shocked by his blustering self-aggrandizement, Americans of right-mind and right- consciousness were nonetheless disturbed by his use of dog whistles and blatant attempts to further complicate the immigration debate by obvious race-baiting. He sought to establish a false choice between the “Dreamers” and an African American community whose journey toward justice and equality is deeply rooted in a motivating and activating “Dream.”
When you work aggressively to bolster your own racist ideology and legislative philosophy deeply rooted in extreme nationalism by attempting to pit one racial minority against another—you will fail. You will fail because Dreamers of all races, religions, and national origins in America are the essence of the “Dream” as defined by the world’s most revered Dreamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King said, “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective . . . No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone…”
In celebration of her husband’s memory King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, once reminded the nation of who her husband considered part of the Dream, “Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America,” she said.
The president’s dog whistle was heard loud and clear during his address, though he wrapped it in a thinly veiled twist. “For decades,” Trump proclaimed, “open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans.”
This comment came on the heels of him taking credit for the continued drop in Black unemployment, though he neglected to explain the reduction is actually a continuation of the trend established under former President Obama, and is in alignment with improvements in unemployment across all races and that the gap between African American workers and Whites Americans persists.
He made a tried and true racist attempt to place a wedge between minority groups, by inferring if the country could only get rid of these immigrants, Black people could have better lives and more jobs. Blacks are not falling for this.
Another example of his white supremacist thinking and failed attempt to foster conflict between the races occurred when he conflated the “Dreamers” with members of the international gang and drug cartel MS-13, when he exploited the tragic loss of two African American families whose loved ones were brutally murdered by members of MS-13.
The subliminal idea he sought to plant was that illegal Brown people are murdering Black people and they must be stopped. It was both shameless and disingenuous; Dreamers are subject to rigorous vetting, and studies have shown again and again that immigrants commit far fewer crimes than American citizens in general. MS-13 is accountable for these tragic deaths, not the Dreamers.
Perhaps the most egregious and disgusting attempt by Trump to strain relations between Black and Brown communities and force others to pick sides and fragment the coalition of those fighting on behalf of Dreamers, was when he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are ‘Dreamers’ too.”
This dog whistle was clear. Trump asked America to choose between the Dreamers and the Dream—he knew this was a false choice but tossed it out to the glee of his white supremacist base of supporters.
Most Americans, however, will not be deterred. They understand the Dream as painted by King more than fifty years ago; they understand and embrace the meaning of the words he penned on scraps of paper in a Birmingham jail, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…”
In the final analysis, as Trump seeks to divide and conquer with blistering tough talk and dog whistles of hate, American resistance to Trump and his policies has grown. Americans know they must resist Trump and his penchant for tough talk.
We resist because history has taught us and King reminded us that, “toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
Whatever your politics or passion, what is happening in America today is too important to sit idly by. President Obama reminded us, “We must be the change . . .” Join the conversation however you can. Attend a local meeting, volunteer on an election campaign, weigh in by phone, letter or text and let your elected representatives know where you stand on important issues—speak the Language of Birds.Feature photo by Mark AbramsonStephanie Williams, Features WriterStephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.