I went home to Georgia for a family reunion over the weekend, to the town about which a newspaper article published in 1972 began: "Social Circle, Ga., hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity in North Georgia, is a tense, armed camp this week as blacks prepare to resist further white terrorism that has included night riding, fire-bombings of homes and a church, and an apparent assassination attempt on a newly-appointed black city councilman."
One of the heroes fighting the system back then, whose mother's house was firebombed in an attempt to intimidate him, was honored by the family during the reunion — the same family that also honored 10 others who were veterans or currently serve in the military or in law enforcement.
Earlier in the day we had visited the cemetery on land that has been in the family since 1874. But even as we channeled the spirits of the ancestors and took stock of what they had done to secure a future for the likes of us, we were not entirely worry-free. Someone had noticed white folks taking a little too much interest in us as they slowly drove by. One mother was adamant that her adult black sons not be left behind watching over the cars while a bunch of us hiked up the hill to the cemetery. You just never know.
At once we were ensconced in the past and looking to the future — new marriages, new businesses, new babies, new collegians. We were honoring the uniforms and wary of them, too. That's what it's like when you are a black person in these United States. Your normal always comes with a heavy dose of being on edge. Your patriotic ardor always comes with a qualifier.
As recent history has borne out in one caught-on-video death after another, the essence of blackness makes one a threat to nervous-nelly white people — some of them with guns, or badges and guns.
I can support the black lives matter movement and also respect men and women in blue who respect their oath to protect and serve people who look like me. I can demand justice when trigger-happy cops kill blacks they deem suspicious just because they exist, just because they drive certain cars or just because they have wide noses. I can mourn the loss of cops' lives when they are targeted for execution by crazed individuals like Micah Johnson in Dallas last week and Ismaaiyl Brinsley in New York City a couple of years ago. But I can also inquire into what drove them to this craziness and wonder what we as a society could have done to prevent this.
I can note that a lot of blacks are killed by blacks and a lot of whites are killed by whites and not let that observation distract me from the main issue at hand: why cops, no matter what their color, treat blacks so differently than they do other people.
This process of being able to see beyond either-or is called using all parts of your brain and every ounce of your humanity. More people should try that.
Some people are so stuck in the white-is-good, black-is-evil view of life that they hear the chant "Black Lives Matter!" and immediately fear a modern-day slave uprising against the master class. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, just exposed one more area of his ignorance when he said on "Face the Nation" Sunday, "When you say black lives matter, that's inherently racist." No. "Black Lives Matter!" is an in-your-face demand that everyone acknowledge that black lives matter the way that white lives matter. Cops took white Dylann Roof to Burger King to calm him down after he murdered nine black peoples at Bible study in a Charleston, S.C., church. Cops killed black Alton Sterling for selling CDs in Baton Rouge last week, and black Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes in New York two years ago.
Like a lot of people, I am in no mood for idiots this week. Like a lot of people, my spirit is in turmoil. We cannot survive as a nation with repetitions of what we went through last week in Baton Rouge, in Falcon Heights, Minn.; and in Dallas.
E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, is the journalist in residence at Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism and Communication. Her column runs every other Wednesday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.