What to Do When Your Country Turns Into a Dumpster Fire

Michael Harriot
·10 mins read

America is America-ing again.

As a certain coronavirus-y occupant of the White House brazenly intensifies his all-out assault on the Constitution, media, truth, law, order, equality, democracy and everything this beloved country supposedly stands for, our fellow Americans find themselves in a state of confusion and outright despair after wrongly assuming a free supply of “liberty and justice for all” was included in their membership package.

For years, political scientists, historians and a well-regarded organization called “Every Black person who ever existed” have diagnosed America with a neurological condition colloquially known as “being fucked up.” If you, or someone you know, watched the presidential debate and now suffer from the condition experts have termed What Happened to the Illusion of Truth, Equality, National Exceptionalism and Superiority Syndrome (WHITENESS), have no fear, your friendly neighborhood negroes are here.

Luckily (for you, not for us. This shit kinda hurts), Black people have acquired a few useful survival skills born from 401 years of navigating chaos and disorder in a country that ignores our concerns; tramples on our rights and historically called for white supremacists to “stand by” whenever we asked the nation to stop being so damn racist. So, to address the concerns of those who are beginning to suspect that their country might be trash, The Root has created this handy-dandy, eight-step guide to help our Caucasian counterparts survive and—dare I say—thrive, under these adverse conditions.

You may feel overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading dumpster fire that you are currently inhaling but as someone whose been there, let me assure you:

You get used to it.

Step 1: Accept that your country might be trash.

I was Colin Kaepernick’s protest-years-old when I realized that some people actually believe that bullshit in the national anthem. Look, I imagine it feels good to romanticize the past but if you squint really hard at any history book during the twilight’s last gleaming, you might discover that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814, when America allowed still the state-sanctioned practice of enslaving Black people.

The U.S. would continue to permit its citizens to purchase human beings for another half-century, long after Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands stopped that slavery bullshit. While racism exists in varying forms everywhere, those countries didn’t replicate the uniquely American versions of Jim Crow, color-based disenfranchisement and legalized second-class citizenship that still exist in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

To be fair, I was disappointed when I learned that Minnesota didn’t have berets made out of raspberries, crying doves or a single inch of purple precipitation.

Step 2: Realize you’re part of the problem.

Are you outraged that everyone is mute while the current administration tries to sabotage vote-by-mail efforts? Were you frazzled by a clarion call to MAGAmuffin poll watchers?

Well, you probably should’ve said something when Georgia’s Republicans purged 200,000 ballots in Georgia. I bet you cried when they tossed another 209,000 over registrations in Wisconsin. How about when they reduced early voting hours in Ohio? Did you say something about the “poll tax” on Florida felons? Did you share the study that shows Black people wait longer to vote? How did you react when all those Black votes vanished in Georgia?

I know, I know—those incidents of voter suppression didn’t affect you.

Those purges, poll taxes and disappearing votes mostly affected Black people, so you probably didn’t say anything. Perhaps that’s why the country wasn’t up in arms. That’s actually a good point.

But if you silently watched watching someone plan a robbery, you can’t cry when they take your shit.

There have been many corrupt, racist liars who tried to destroy America. There will always be corrupt, racist liars who will try to destroy America. But this country won’t be destroyed by corruption, racism, or lies. It will be because someone recognized the corruption, racism and lies and said:

“___________ .”

Step 3: Stop loving America so damn much.

You were rightfully appalled when Trump shouted out a violent white supremacist group in front of 70 million Americans. Aside from the fact that The Root has been reporting on the Proud Boys and similar groups for nearly four years, who even knew they existed?

Of course, those violent, right-wing extremists didn’t spontaneously manifest themselves into existence. They probably came from the right-wing militias who claim to want to “protect the Constitution.” Or maybe they came from the innocuous far-right groups whom the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have been warning us about for years.

The nativist movement of the 1830s, the Ku Klux Klan, the nativist movement of the 1920s, the Nazi movement, segregation movement and the alt-right all evolved from supposedly “patriotic” groups who were intent on protecting American values and keeping “America First.”

But America isn’t lines on a map or words on a piece of parchment. America is just people. Whenever someone cloaks themselves in the false flag of “love for country” or refers to themself as a “patriot,” they are usually preparing to grab their tiki torches and long guns so they can ignite a dumpster fire and start killing people who don’t look like them.

Step 4: Don’t fan the flames.

Even if you don’t agree that Black lives matter; even if you don’t like seasoning, even if you refuse to accept the infinite amount of studies proving systemic racism exists in voting, policing, criminal justice, education and healthcare, why would you fight against addressing these problems?

Can we agree that police kill too many human beings? Why not just try to improve all schools? Shouldn’t everyone have better-paying jobs? Why would anyone want more people in jail or more people dying because they can’t afford healthcare?

Why fight the good shit?

This is not a rhetorical question, I really want to know why anyone would support a murderer, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or repeal a law that increased the number of insured Americans. There are also white people who can’t afford insurance. There are more poor and unemployed white people. You know cops shoot white people too, right?

As the Trumpocalypse devours your beloved country, we will remember how you gathered around the fire and watched us burn. And when we begged you to help us extinguish the flames, you replied:

“Nah. I gotta roast these marshmallows.”

Step 5: Choose a side.

Perhaps this dumpster fire was ignited by people who only consider their needs instead of thinking about the greater good. Whether it’s a global pandemic, “economic anxiety” or the prospect of a post-election free-for-all, you’re going to have to pick a team to represent you in the Great American Shitshow.

The choice isn’t between Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, or even white vs. Black, Indigenous, People of Color Who Use The Correct Bathroom and Have Missionary Sex For Jesus. You have to make a choice between good and evil; right vs. wrong.

Here are your choices:

  • People who believe Black lives matter or people who aren’t bothered by videos of Black people getting shot in the face.

  • Lower taxes or poor people having access to well-funded schools, community resources, living wages, higher education and affordable healthcare.

  • A global pandemic that disproportionately kills poor people or wearing a mask to Walmart.

  • Guns vs. guns—but with some common sense rules.

  • The right to vote or the right to vote if you have an ID, have never committed a crime, are employed by a company that will let you off work, live in a white neighborhood and don’t mind waiting in line.

  • Lawry’s vs. a dash of salt.

Step 6. Do what Black people do.

Now that your country is in flames, you’re gonna need someone to show you how to survive the fire. Although there are many people who have endured hardship and suffering, there is only one group of people whose record proves them worthy of your allegiance.

Team Black people.

This is not to say that white people aren’t survivors. They survived the bloodiest conflict in American history but they were fighting white people. They survived the Great Depression because the New Deal simply took the tax dollars paid by Black America and built the white middle class. They barely make it through the horrific tan suits; terrorist fist bumps and hidden birth certificates during the Obama presidency and all they had to show for it was free health care, a healthy economy, an international climate change agreement a nuclear-free Iran and five Rihanna albums.

Black people, on the other hand, survived slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, separate but equal, Red Summer, redlining, the civil rights movement, Nixon, the War on Drugs, Ronald Reagan, two Bushes and Donald Trump. And we did it with twice the unemployment, unequal schools lower pay, housing inequality, financial discrimination, racial terrorism and no health care.

And, just as she did during Trump’s reign of terror, Rihanna released very little music during Reconstruction.

See? We been doing this shit.

Step 7: Don’t just stand there! Do something!

We know you’re not an experienced firefighter but you can lend a hand by:

  1. Voting for someone who’s not a white nationalist.

  2. Saying something every time you spot a microscopic bit of injustice or inequality.

  3. Not calling the police every time you feel uncomfortable or upset.

  4. Fighting for what’s equality even if it costs you some privilege.

  5. Not reflexively choosing to protect whiteness over righteousness.

  6. Stop buying Katy Perry albums.

  7. Listening to Black women.

  8. Seriously, stop calling the cops all the goddamned time!

  9. More seasoning.

  10. Paying Black people the same thing you pay white people

  11. Supporting diversity and inclusion by raising your hand and asking: “Why are there no Black people here?”

  12. Remember that thing I said about calling the cops? Okay...Just checking.

8. Let it burn.

And finally, I know it feels terrible to watch something you love be destroyed by racism, apathy, hate and incompetence but you have to look at the bright side.

You’re gonna get a brand new country!

Sometimes, you can change a system by enacting fairer rules and injecting equity into the equation. But sometimes you have to raze everything to the ground and start all over. You can’t fix anything without dismantling the parts that are already broken.

This is just the breaking part.

The Founding Fathers were essentially wig-wearing members of antifa. The federal government put down a white supremacist rebellion and we called it a “Civil War.” Examples of previous dumpster fires include the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, the War Between the States and the white supremacists, the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the anti-war movement and every attempt at a reboot of the Fantastic Four.

And if this makes you uncomfortable, there’s also an online version of this article that isn’t filled with as much sarcasm, profanity and “race-baiting,” which eloquently says:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

America has always been trash.

And sometimes, the things that should have been discarded are politely hauled away by people whom we have charged with that task. But there are times when those people don’t do their jobs and the racist, incompetent, corrupt debris starts to stink so bad that some of us can’t take it anymore.

And now, you are “some of us.”

Welcome to the fire.

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