Opinion

Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time’ has arrived, and it burns inexorably toward liberation – Baptist News Global

In a blatant demonstration of cultural incompetence, the Donald J. Trump re-election campaign knowingly scheduled its first public rally since March 2 on Juneteenth, the holiday celebrated joyously by African Americans each June 19th since 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger informed the enslaved population of Galveston, Texas, that “all slaves are free.” Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two-and-a-half years earlier, word had been effectively kept from enslaved black Texans until then. Jubilation ensued!

“The protesters, unlike Trump and his reelection-obsessed sycophants, see white supremacy for the evil it is rather than something that makes America ‘great.’”

Trump’s campaign deliberately chose Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the site for its inaugural MAGA rally of this renewed election season. It chose to resume public campaigning in a city whose history includes the 1921 massacre of at least 300 black citizens and the deliberate razing of their Greenwood neighborhood.

The announcement came as black people and their allies from across the United States are engaged in daily protests about abusive and homicidal behavior by law enforcement officers toward black and brown people.

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The Trump campaign chose Tulsa and Juneteenth as the site and date to celebrate its white supremacist agenda as American citizens unite to protest the 2020 lynchings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

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Trump and his handlers deliberately picked Tulsa and Juneteenth to deflect attention from the president’s incompetent and dishonest leadership concerning the coronavirus pandemic and his fascist responses to the nationwide protests about oppressive police conduct and all forms of systemic racism.

As some Pentagon leaders express support for the black liberation struggle and regret about their complicity in Trump’s recent Gestapo-like responses to peaceful protesters in Washington’s Lafayette Square, Trump’s re-election campaign hopes to use the Tulsa MAGA campaign appearance to stoke the fears, anxieties and resentments of a base constituency largely populated by white supremacists and white religious nationalists, including an overwhelming majority of conservative white evangelicals.

James Baldwin declared in his 1963 classic work, The Fire Next Time, that:

“[T]here is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure. And it is clear that white Americans are not simply unwilling to effect those changes; they are, in the main, so slothful have they become, unable even to envision them. It must be added that the Negro himself no longer believes in the good faith of white Americans – if indeed, he ever could have.”

Donald Trump’s base constituency of white supremacists, white religious nationalists and white neo-fundamental capitalists certainly bears out Baldwin’s point.

Baldwin did not envision the thousands of white allies who have flooded streets across the country since George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25. He did not envision white elders locking arms with black youth to condemn systemic racism in law enforcement. He did not envision that white leaders of the U.S. military would openly distance themselves from a racist president whose vicious idiocy and bigotry would be denounced openly by white people from around the world.

“The intimidation and ‘domination’ tactics will not work. People will not cower and be bullied by those tactics any longer.”

However, Baldwin was able to envision a black liberation struggle defined by joy, momentum and righteous rage. That is why he wrote in 1963 about “the fire next time.” That time has arrived: no more water; no more rainbow signs. It’s the fire this time, and it burns inexorably toward liberation. #BlackLivesMatter

So, when Trump tried to appropriate the memory of George Floyd by quipping, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that is happening for our country” as he bragged about the nation’s most recent jobs report, his flippant audacity triggered more protests.

The protesters who fill the streets of the nation, and indeed the world, in solidarity with Floyd’s grieving family and countless other grieving families whose lives are permanently scarred by abusive and homicidal police conduct, and in search of the kind of justice that might possibly make America “great” or even vaguely tilted toward decency for the first time in its bloody, white supremacist, militarist, capitalist, imperialist history, see things differently. The protesters see it differently because they, unlike Trump and his reelection-obsessed sycophants, see white supremacy for the evil it is rather than something that makes America “great.”

Let’s call things what they are. The 1921 slaughter of hundreds of black men, women and children in Tulsa was a massacre, not a riot. The report released by Human Rights Watch just five days after Floyd’s murder, titled “The Case for Reparations in Tulsa, Oklahoma: A Human Rights Argument,” makes this distinction clear as day. Likewise, as people across the globe rise up to declare that Black Lives Matter and that they will not endure or be complicit in racist, white supremacist oppression such as that perpetrated by police every day across the U.S., let’s call their actions what they are: protest, freedom struggle and revolution, not rioting, looting or “disobedience” to the authorities.

Trump’s plan to stage a massive rally in Tulsa, of all places, on June 19th, of all dates, was announced with full knowledge that people of color have disproportionately been infected and sickened and have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which his administration’s failures have stoked through bluster, worship of profits above lives (especially as the pandemic hits communities of color hardest) and outright lies. Later rescheduling the event to June 20 does nothing to change this fact.

As the freedom struggle rises against abusive and homicidal law enforcement cheered on by Trump, who praises militarized policing responses and stormtroopers, let’s call the MAGA rally in Tulsa what it is: a bald attempt to use the optics of political campaigning as a costume for Trump’s white supremacist obsession to intimidate, silence, discourage and ultimately break those who fight for freedom and racial justice.

We have news for Trump and his MAGA campaign, courtesy of James Baldwin. The intimidation and “domination” tactics will not work. People will not cower and be bullied by those tactics any longer.

“The 1921 slaughter of hundreds of black men, women and children in Tulsa was a massacre, not a riot.”

There will be no rainbow this time because justice-seeking and justice-loving people will not be placated by water, be it the water of kum-ba-yah “We Shall Overcome” appeals, the water of symbolic gestures and testimonials from corporate and political actors after decades of injustice, or the water of Academy-award-worthy tearful apologies.

There will be no rainbow because there is no more water.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy declared that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. It’s the fire this time.

 

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