Saturday, August 12, 2023

Fear the chair.


I will never understand the internet. I don't understand what drives clicks and makes one particular story more popular than the other. This story of the brawl in Montgomery, Alabama has captured the imagination of black America in ways that you can't imagine. There are memes, jokes, and articles, which makes the point.  As black folks, we have rallied around the folding chair, and we are so damn proud of our people for not sitting back and taking it anymore when we see injustice unfolding (pun intended) before our eyes. 

If you have been living in a cave, I will give you a quick synopsis. A black security guard was doing his job and trying to keep a private boat out of the docking area while a commercial ferry was approaching. A  bunch of  boaters (who all happened to be white) jumped the poor guy and all hell broke loose. He was trying to hold his own but the numbers were just to much for him. Then, out of nowhere, a bunch of black strangers decided to jump in and help him. One guy literally swam across the harbor to help. He is now affectionately being called Alabama Aqua Man in black circles.  The fight that followed is all over the internet, and the folding chair has now become a symbol of black resistance.

So let's try to analyze what transpired. I have been trying to figure out if this brawl was purely racial or just some citizens feeling bad for some guy that was getting his ass kicked by a bunch of drunks. But then, I have to ask myself: If the guy getting his ass kicked was white, would all those black strangers have stepped in to help? If there were a bunch of black guys beating a single white security guard, would a bunch of black strangers step in to help the white security guard? Would a bunch of white strangers jump in to help the lone white guy getting his ass kicked?  To the latter question I would say no, to the first question, I would say, yes. But I am not so sure, which is what makes this all kind of fascinating to me. 

A quick personal story. I went to high school in Jamaica. It was a boarding school, and there were kids there from all over the world. I had a close friend, Franz Newman, who I hung out with all the time.  (He is living somewhere in Canada now, and I don't think he would mind me using him for this story.) Franz is Jamaican, and proud of it. But he is from a German settlement in the Southern part of the island, and he had blue eyes and blonde hair. I remember him fighting an African American kid who happened to be from New York, and he (Franz) was getting his ass kicked. Who do you think I jumped in and tried to help? Yep, Franz. Why? Because he was Jamaican, and he was my friend. In that moment, my friendship, and my national and ethnic loyalty, took priority over any racial one that I might have. It's complicated, I know. But that was my experience back then, and I was a product of my environment. 

My guess is that because of the times we are living in, black folks have become hypersensitive to these types of interactions. So now, more than ever, we see everything in the context of race. I am also guessing that those white folks who jumped that poor security guard might not have done it if he was a white guy doing his job. So them, too, have become racialists in their every day interactions. It's where we are now as a country. And I suspect, sadly, that we will be seeing a lot more Montgomery, Alabama type racial brawls in the days to come.