The Spirit of Kashiya Nwanguma
November 1, 2020: I slept all day on Halloween, so I’m up at 3.15am, when this Trump/Pence commercial comes on TV. The extreme dislike I’ve had for someone I don’t know personally know but who affects my life personally got really clear… clearer than it’s ever been. I not only work in government, but I’m a student of Constitutional Law and a advocate for the total liberation of Black people from racist systems in America. I’m a feminist. I’m always rooting for everybody Black. I’m a humanist. I’m an empath. In my 43 years, the last four have been some of the most difficult to watch play out socially. It all goes back to Kashiya Nwanguma.
While positive representation matters so people can envision themselves in their dreams, representation in negative situations can lead you to envision yourself in your biggest nightmare.
In March of 2016, Donald Trump held a rally in Kentucky. Like most of his rallies, there were protesters calling him out as a racist, booing him, the regular, and his militia of poor to working class angry White people who felt like the American Dream was denied them by some affirmative action program. He instructed the crowd to “get them out”, and the White male crowd began to mob, surround, push, shove, and manhandle three of the protestors. All three claimed some form of assault happened on the rally floor. One stated he was punched in the torso, one stated she was pushed and shoved, and the third, Kashiya Nwanguma, stated she too was pushed and shoved, which you can clearly see in all the videos of the event, towards the exit by the mob and called racial and sexist epithets. She filed suit against Trump after the incident. One of the most violent was in a MAGA hat, was Matthew Heimbach, a known white nationalist, who was charged with assault and battery. Another defendant, a Veteran, apologized for his actions. The ring leader, your President and his campaign were charged with incitement of a riot, negligence, and vicarious liability. Trump was found guilty of inciting a riot.
Watching that woman who looks like me and many of the people closest to me, started this period of intense reflection for me about the space in which I occupy as a Black woman. I am the mother of a Black son, who was younger than Tamir Rice, a 12 year old shot dead by police while playing with a toy gun in a park in 2014. I am highly educated and successful, the very person those mobs of White men see as their direct threat. I am outspoken, assertive, and I speak up for myself and others who may be silenced, especially in the face of racism and sexism and the delicate but real intersection of that discrimination. I am also a threat at work, armed with more knowledge, skill, and talents than the majority of my counterparts, especially those who make the decisions about who will sit beside them to compete for further promotional and leadership opportunities. My resumé and skill set outperform them by leaps and bounds, but I’m not given the same opportunity as the mediocre white women and white men around me. I often feel pushed and shoved towards the exit by a mob of white people. I hear “get her out” everytime they deny me an opportunity for no other reason than I’m Black, female, smart, and unapologetic about it. I am Kashiya Nwanguma.
The Presidency of Donald Trump has been a stark reminder that we are both a threat and unwanted. They will push us out, and if that doesn’t work they will pack the courts with people who will deny us our rights, and if that doesn’t work, they’ll sanction police to kill us in the streets, behind bars when we speak up and protest their mistreatment, or in our own homes when they scare us out of our sleep. These things are not new, but technology has given us the ability to videotape them and share them on every social media platform over and over so we all see it happening, sometimes in real time. The availability of these direct messages of hatred has been both eye opening and simultaneously difficult to consume on what seems to be sometimes a daily and sometimes a weekly basis. We are able to find out who the victims and perpetrators are in a matter of minutes. We are able to see the victim’s mistakes flashed before us like justification and their history of protest and activism that sealed their fate like so many of our heroes before them. We also get to see these racist monster’s manifestos and hate group participation live and in living color in a matter of minutes. These things didn’t start in 2016 but they certainly have been amplified.
Here’s the thing… we have the ability to show that we are not the same Americans who enslaved millions of people for hundreds of years. We are not the same America that put holes in humans with high pressure water hoses because they simply wanted to be treated with respect and dignity. We are not the same America that planned the execution of every Black hero that gave us hope in times of despair. There are certainly some of us who are those same people, but the majority of us have evolved past those times. We cannot sit around and allow the least of us to represent the best of us anymore. The American Dream is a fallacy because the systems of racism in place do not allow ALL AMERICANS to reap the success from the seeds of excellence they sow. However, we can redefine the American Dream, and it can morph and change over time. Right now, let’s start with this… Let’s construct an America where the laws and policies reflect the desires of the best of us and not the worst of us, where respect, humanity, and freedom from the -isms that allow some to be treated less well than the others are our guiding goals. Because this shit going on right now… is some bullshit.
The best of us won’t vote for a man who instructs a crowd to get protestors out by violence, but particularly not one who instructs White men to push and shove a Black woman like a rag doll, who admits to touching women without consent, and who has commented he would date his daughter. The best of us won’t vote for a man who says suburbanites (read: White middle class) should be afraid of urban (read: Black poor) people ruining their neighborhoods and infiltrating their schools. The best of us don’t vote for a man who says a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and left long standing health implications with millions is a blessing. The best of us don’t vote for a man who can’t simply say white supremacy is horrible and children should not be separated from their parents and left in cages for crossing a border. The worst of us will and then attempt to justify it with arguments about the economy and politics.
Donald Trump is not a politician. He has said so several times. He’s a business man who once hated the mere idea that in his America, a Black man… a handsome and articulate one at that… could elevate to the highest position of leadership as his businesses failed and went bankrupt, his intelligence was questioned, his hair piece ran away from his face, and his waistline disappeared. He is President because he was angry a Black man was President, so much so he incited the white supremacists into voting for him claiming to care about their economic and personal interests… when all he really wanted was for Eeny, Meeny, Miny, and Moe to put bullets in their rifles, put on their hoods or riot gear, light their tiki torches, lace up their steel toe boots, and catch a nigger by the toe.
They caught Kashiya Nwanguma… and she put on her cape, activated her Black Girl Magic, sued the shit out of them, and called them out. So in the infinitely dynamic spirit of Kashiya Nwanguma, let’s #sayhername while she is alive and well, and take the pushes and shoves we have endured and make our gold cuffs, our ballot and our lasso, our vote, and catch a racist by the toe… and when he hollers, which he will, we will sing in harmony…
“Bone, bone, bone, bone, bone, bone Now tell me whatcha gonna do
When there ain’t no where to run
When judgment comes for you”
Tuesday, November 3rd, I’ll see you at the crossroads!