Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

By the Ones We Left Behind

The Apache Indians are divided into six sub tribes. To one of these, the Be-don-ko-he, I belong.

Our tribe inhabited that region of [Arizona and New Mexico] mountainous country which lies west from the east line of Arizona, and south from the head waters of the Gila River.
East of us lived the Chi-hé-nné (Ojo Caliente), (Hot Springs) Apaches. Our tribe never had any difficulty with them. Victorio, their chief, was always a friend to me. He always helped our tribe when we asked him for help. He lost his life in the defense of the rights of his people. He was a good man and a brave warrior. His son Charlie now lives here in this reservation with us.
North of us lived the White Mountain Apaches. They were not always on the best of terms with our tribe, yet we seldom had any war with them. I knew their chief, Hash-ka-á-í-la, personally, and I considered him a good warrior. Their range was next to that of the Navajo Indians, who were not of the same blood as the Apaches. We held councils with all Apache tribes, but never with the Navajo Indians. However, we traded with them and sometimes visited them.
To the west of our country ranged the Chi-e-á-hen Apaches. They had two chiefs within my time, Co-si-to and Co-da-hoo-yah. They were friendly, but not intimate with our tribe.
South of us lived the Cho-kon-en (Chiricahua) Apaches, whose chief in the old days was Cochise and later his son, Naiche. This tribe was always on the most friendly terms with us. We were often in camp and on the trail together. Naiche, who was my companion in arms, is now my companion in bondage.
To the south and west of us lived the Ned-ní Apaches. Their chief was Whoa, called by the Mexicans Capitan Whoa. They were our firm friends. The land of this tribe lies partly in Old Mexico and partly in Arizona. Whoa and I often camped and fought side by side as brothers. My enemies were his enemies, my friends his friends. He is dead now, but his son Asa is interpreting this story for me.
Still the four tribes (Bedonkóhe, Chokónen, Chihénné, and Nední), who were fast friends in the days of freedom, cling together as they decrease in number. Only the destruction of all our people would dissolve our bonds of friendship.

We are vanishing from the earth, yet I cannot think we are useless or Ussen would not have created us. He created all tribes of men and certainly had a righteous purpose in creating each.
For each tribe of men Ussen created He also made a home. In the land created for any particular tribe. He placed whatever would be best for the welfare of that tribe.
When Ussen created the Apaches He also created their homes in the West. He gave to them such grain, fruits, and game as they needed to eat. To restore their health when disease attacked them. He made many different herbs to grow. He taught them where to find these herbs, and how to prepare them for medicine. He gave them a pleasant climate and all they needed for clothing and shelter was at hand.

Thus it was in the beginning: the Apaches and their homes each created for the other by Ussen himself. When they are taken from these homes they sicken and die. How long will it be until it is said, there are no Apaches?”

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Photograph by E. Rinehart, 1898

—by Chief Geronimo, as taken down by S.M. Barrett

 

North Dakota Latest Introduced Bills, and the Scalp Bounty

Sometimes a crucial distinction lies merely on the tactic, and not the sentiment.

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[A bill that state GOP Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced would exempt drivers from liability if they accidentally hit a pedestrian, according to the Bismarck Tribune. House Bill 1203 was written up in direct response to groups of protesters blocking roadways, Kempenich told the paper. He claims protesters were seen jumping out in front of vehicles.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Kempenich said. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.

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Another measure would make it a crime for adults to wear masks nearly across the board, while another would allow the state to sue the federal government over millions in extra police costs, according to ABC News.”]  Read the full report | The Huffington Post

Now, let’s draw an analogy (with a practice poorly documented and sensationalized):

[Beginning in the 1830s, two Mexican states (Sonora and Chihuahua) authorized scalp bounties against Apache Indians, but these were as controversial in Mexico as they had been in the British colonies.

In New Mexico and Arizona, the state governments never approved scalp bounties, but some county officials revived and increased the old Apache scalp bounties that had been used by the former Mexican states. A report from the New York Times in 1885 (the most recent source I know of that documents scalp bounties) offers the following passage that shows the mentality of those who justified the practice:

From time immemorial all border countries have offered bounties for bear and wolf scalps and other animals that destroyed the pioneer’s stock or molested his family. Why, therefore, asks the Arizona settler, should not the authorities place a reward upon the head of the terrible Apache, who murders the white man’s family and steals his stock like the wolves?

Some colonial governments in the British North American colonies enacted  scalp bounties early in the 1700s, in the context of war between  Britain and France. They wanted to create an incentive for frontier  settlers to kill Indians who were allied with the French enemy. In  practice, though, colonial Indian killers were careless about the distinction  between “friendly” and “hostile” Indians. As the white population  expanded, so did demand for land, and this was the material motive  behind most killing of Indians, whether sanctioned by authority or not…. ]  Read the full article | Quora

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Not Taught in Schools | The Mountain Meadow Massacre of 1857

The Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857 remains one of the most controversial events in the history of the American West, and it is called “the darkest deed of the 19th century.” It was a murder of 120 men, women, and children, ordered and planned by southern Utah’s Mormon settlers (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church).

The massacre began on the 5th of September 1857, when a wagon train loaded with emigrants from Arkansas and heading to California was attacked in southern Utah. The attackers were members of the Utah Territorial Militia from the Iron County district, and a few Paiute Native Americans.

Members of the militia were sworn to secrecy. A plan was set to blame the massacre on the Native Americans. But it didn’t go as planned.

Read the full story: Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 | The Vintage News

 

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Christopher Kit Fancher (survivor of the Mountain Meadows massacre) | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death in 1877. He founded Salt Lake City and he served as the first governor of the Utah Territory. Young also led the foundings of the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. He had many nicknames, among the most popular being “American Moses” (alternatively, the “Modern Moses” or “Mormon Moses”),because, like the biblical figure, Young led his followers, the Mormon pioneers, in an exodus through a desert, to what they saw as a promised land | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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John D. Lee, constable, judge, and Indian Agent. Having conspired in advance with his immediate commander, Isaac C. Haight, Lee led the initial assault and falsely offered emigrants safe passage prior to their mile-long march to the field where they were ultimately massacred. He was the only participant convicted | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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Philip Klingensmith, a Bishop in the church and a private in the militia. He participated in the killings, and later turned state’s evidence against his fellows, after leaving the church | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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Isaac C. Haight was an early convert to the Latter Day Saint Movement, a colonist of the American West, Battalion Commander, remembered as a major conspirator of the Mountain Meadows massacre, died 1886 Arizona | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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George A. Smith, an Apostle who met the Baker–Fancher party before touring Parowan and neighboring settlements before the massacre | Wikipedia/Public Domain

 

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The scene at Lee’s execution by Utah firing squad on March 23, 1877. Lee is seated, next to his coffin | Wikipedia/Public Domain

Analogies

Political cartoonist John Knott had little sympathy for the U.S. Congress’ indecision when it came to the Wagner-Rogers Child Refugee Bill, a piece of 1939 legislation that would have opened slots for 20,000 German refugee children to enter the United States. The bill was opposed by anti-immigrant organizations and never became a law. Tens of thousands of German Jewish children went on to die in concentration camps.

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University of Texas

“But it Does me no Injury For my Neighbor to Say There are Twenty Gods or no God. It Neither Picks my Pocket nor Breaks my Leg.”

The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record

America’s True History of Religious Tolerance | SMITHSONIAN

[From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”

First, a little overlooked history: the initial encounter between Europeans in the future United States came with the establishment of a Huguenot (French Protestant) colony in 1564 at Fort Caroline (near modern Jacksonville, Florida). More than half a century before the Mayflower set sail, French pilgrims had come to America in search of religious freedom.

The Spanish had other ideas. In 1565, they established a forward operating base at St. Augustine and proceeded to wipe out the Fort Caroline colony. The Spanish commander, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, wrote to the Spanish King Philip II that he had “hanged all those we had found in [Fort Caroline] because…they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.” When hundreds of survivors of a shipwrecked French fleet washed up on the beaches of Florida, they were put to the sword, beside a river the Spanish called Matanzas (“slaughters”). In other words, the first encounter between European Christians in America ended in a blood bath.

The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.

The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.

Throughout the colonial era, Anglo-American antipathy toward Catholics—especially French and Spanish Catholics—was pronounced and often reflected in the sermons of such famous clerics as Cotton Mather and in statutes that discriminated against Catholics in matters of property and voting. Anti-Catholic feelings even contributed to the revolutionary mood in America after King George III extended an olive branch to French Catholics in Canada with the Quebec Act of 1774, which recognized their religion.

When George Washington dispatched Benedict Arnold on a mission to court French Canadians’ support for the American Revolution in 1775, he cautioned Arnold not to let their religion get in the way. “Prudence, policy and a true Christian Spirit,” Washington advised, “will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors, without insulting them.” (After Arnold betrayed the American cause, he publicly cited America’s alliance with Catholic France as one of his reasons for doing so.)

In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.

In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”

Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every…man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

As a Christian, Madison also noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, “disavows a dependence on the powers of this world…for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”

Recognizing the idea of America as a refuge for the protester or rebel, Madison also argued that Henry’s proposal was “a departure from that generous policy, which offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country.”

After long debate, Patrick Henry’s bill was defeated, with the opposition outnumbering supporters 12 to 1. Instead, the Virginia legislature took up Jefferson’s plan for the separation of church and state. In 1786, the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, modified somewhat from Jefferson’s original draft, became law. The act is one of three accomplishments Jefferson included on his tombstone, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (He omitted his presidency of the United States.) After the bill was passed, Jefferson proudly wrote that the law “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. The men who fought the Revolution may have thanked Providence and attended church regularly—or not. But they also fought a war against a country in which the head of state was the head of the church. Knowing well the history of religious warfare that led to America’s settlement, they clearly understood both the dangers of that system and of sectarian conflict.

It was the recognition of that divisive past by the founders—notably Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison—that secured America as a secular republic. As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. …For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

He was addressing the members of America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (where his letter is read aloud every August). In closing, he wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

As for Adams and Jefferson, they would disagree vehemently over policy, but on the question of religious freedom they were united. “In their seventies,” Jacoby writes, “with a friendship that had survived serious political conflicts, Adams and Jefferson could look back with satisfaction on what they both considered their greatest achievement—their role in establishing a secular government whose legislators would never be required, or permitted, to rule on the legality of theological views.”

Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

While some of America’s early leaders were models of virtuous tolerance, American attitudes were slow to change. The anti-Catholicism of America’s Calvinist past found new voice in the 19th century. The belief widely held and preached by some of the most prominent ministers in America was that Catholics would, if permitted, turn America over to the pope. Anti-Catholic venom was part of the typical American school day, along with Bible readings. In Massachusetts, a convent—coincidentally near the site of the Bunker Hill Monument—was burned to the ground in 1834 by an anti-Catholic mob incited by reports that young women were being abused in the convent school. In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, anti-Catholic sentiment, combined with the country’s anti-immigrant mood, fueled the Bible Riots of 1844, in which houses were torched, two Catholic churches were destroyed and at least 20 people were killed.

At about the same time, Joseph Smith founded a new American religion—and soon met with the wrath of the mainstream Protestant majority. In 1832, a mob tarred and feathered him, marking the beginning of a long battle between Christian America and Smith’s Mormonism. In October 1838, after a series of conflicts over land and religious tension, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered that all Mormons be expelled from his state. Three days later, rogue militiamen massacred 17 church members, including children, at the Mormon settlement of Haun’s Mill. In 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum while they were jailed in Carthage, Illinois. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

Even as late as 1960, Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy felt compelled to make a major speech declaring that his loyalty was to America, not the pope. (And as recently as the 2008 Republican primary campaign, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney felt compelled to address the suspicions still directed toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Of course, America’s anti-Semitism was practiced institutionally as well as socially for decades. With the great threat of “godless” Communism looming in the 1950s, the country’s fear of atheism also reached new heights.

America can still be, as Madison perceived the nation in 1785, “an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion.” But recognizing that deep religious discord has been part of America’s social DNA is a healthy and necessary step. When we acknowledge that dark past, perhaps the nation will return to that “promised…lustre” of which Madison so grandiloquently wrote.]

KING: Why I’ll Never Stand Again for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ | JENNINGS: Why I Stand for the National Anthem

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Monday, August 29, 2016, 1:02 PM
There is more in the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. It goes like this:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In a dream world the bread is super soft, like the Wonder Bread of my childhood, and the sandwich will have crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam, and a cup of cold milk to go with it.

Maybe PB&J isn’t your favorite sandwich, but I want you to imagine your favorite comfort food for a moment. Maybe it’s a hamburger, a piece of pie, or a fruit smoothie. Whatever it is, just imagine yourself enjoying the very best version of your very favorite food.

It’s perfectly delicious. Then, imagine yourself glancing up on the wall and seeing that the restaurant had a score of C minuses on their health inspection. Then you go to the restroom and it’s filthy. A man emerges from the stall having followed by the foulest odor you’ve ever smelled in your life, and you notice he’s still wearing his apron from the kitchen. Then, the unthinkable happens — the man who made your comfort food walks right past the sink and doesn’t even wash his hands.

You leave the restaurant in disgust. As you stand outside without even finishing your meal, you see the world’s largest rat dart out from under a gaping hole by the restaurant door. You are now completely undone. You are “call the health department and post an angry one-star review on Yelp” level undone. You don’t even want your money back. You just want to get the hell away from there. Your new dream come true would be to have one of those “Men in Black” wands waved over your face so that you could forget the implications of the meal you just ate.

Would you ever go back to the restaurant? Of course you wouldn’t.

To me, right now, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I used to love it, but now I regret ever going anywhere near it. The man who made it — who uses the bathroom in his apron and doesn’t wash his hands, is the author of our national anthem, Francis Scott Key, who, as it turns out, was a terrible human being.

Now that I have learned the truth about our national anthem and its author, I’ll never stand up for it again.

First off, the song, which was originally written as a poem, didn’t become our national anthem until 1931 — which was 117 years after Key wrote it. Most of us have no true idea what in the hell we’ve been hearing or singing all these years, but as it turns out, Key’s full poem actually has a third stanza which few of us have ever heard. In it, he openly celebrates the murder of slaves. Yes, really.

While it has always been known that the song was written during American slavery and that when those words about this nation being the “land of the free” didn’t apply to the millions who had been held in bondage, few of us had any idea that the song itself was rooted in the celebration of slavery and the murder of Africans in America, who were being hired by the British military to give them strength not only in the War of 1812, but in the Battle of Fort McHenry of 1814. These black men were called the Corps of Colonial Marines and they served valiantly for the British military. Key despised them. He was glad to see them experience terror and death in war — to the point that he wrote a poem about it. That poem is now our national anthem.

While I fundamentally reject the notion that anyone who owned other human beings was either good, moral, or decent, Francis Scott Key left absolutely no doubt that he was a stone cold bigot. He came from generations of plantation owning bigots. They got wealthy off of it. Key, as District Attorney of Washington, fought for slavery and against abolitionists every chance he got. Even when Africans in D.C. were injured or murdered, he stood strong against justice for them. He openly spoke racist words against Africans in America. Key said that they were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

While San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem because of the overflowing abundance of modern day injustice in America, he has helped bring to light the fact that this song and its author are deeply rooted in violent white supremacy.

I will never stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” another day in my damn life. I don’t care where I am or who’s watching. The statue of the racist Cecil Rhodes, which stood tall in South Africa as a painful relic from white supremacists until March of 2015, was finally removed once and for all. It should’ve never been erected. It should’ve been removed a very long time ago, student leaders made it clear that they had had enough.

Like Kaepernick, I’ve had enough of injustice in America and I’ve had enough of anthems written by bigots. Colin Kaepernick has provided a spark.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” should’ve never been made into our national anthem. That President Woodrow Wilson, widely thought to be one of the most bigoted presidents ever elected, chose it as our national anthem, is painfully telling as well. We must do away with it like South Africans did away with their monument to Cecil Rhodes. We must do away with it like South Carolina did with the Confederate Flag over their state house.

Of course, removing the culture of white supremacy does not necessarily remove its effects, but we must simultaneously and passionately address both. I’m joining Colin Kaepernick, who joined in with the spirit of Rosa Parks, by standing up for our rights by sitting down. I hope you join us.

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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Saturday, August 27, 2016, 6:49 PM

On Saturday, Jennings explained to the News that he’ll continue to stand for the national anthem. Jennings, 31, grew up in Virginia, and has strongly advocated for Black Lives Matter, so he understands much of the strife between the African-American community and police, understands the struggle against racism in the United States.

But the running back described himself as an “optimist,” and while some may see a nation that’s dishonoring its flag and its anthem, Jennings prefers to draw hope from the lyrics and history of that anthem: “I would say that it’s nice to know that we live in a country where sitting down during the anthem won’t land you in jail or worse. But I personally choose to stand and honor the anthem for what I hold it to represent to me.

I understand how back during that time when slavery was LEGAL, Francis (Scott) Key wrote the poem he entitled ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ based on his personal views and experiences with the war. When America decided to make the first verse of it our National Anthem, they left the controversial third verse out.

I’m an optimist. I figure if it was the intention of our founding fathers to keep America a nation of slaves, then it wouldn’t have chosen a song where all four verses end with ‘the land of the FREE and the home of the brave’ instead of ‘land of the free, home of the SLAVE.’

“Hey! I wish they would have kept verse four in, which says that heaven rescued us, God’s power preserved us and in God is our trust. But we don’t always get what we want, do we? I’m a black man who is free to achieve my dreams because I live in America and trust in God.”