Hardcore rock musician and radio host Henry Rollins wrote a column for L.A. Weekly this week highlighting the trials black Americans face every day. In the piece, Rollins asserts that there are "two Americas" and that the people who ignore this are blinded by privilege that allows them to escape negative racial stigma.
He begins by mentioning the recent police shootings in Texas and the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, both of whom were killed by police officers. These events, he claims, were made worse when commentators like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani began spreading "propaganda" about the sociopolitical climate in the country.
After five police officers were killed in Dallas on the same evening as a Black Lives Matter rally, Giuliani called the social movement "inherently racist" because it blames law enforcement for complex social problems within the black community.
The despicable litanies of willfully ignorant denial and misinformation I have heard spouted in the last several days by pieces of s*** like Rudy Giuliani all but ensure that things will get worse. The mainstream media outlets allow this utter crap to slide by unchallenged and, by doing so, legitimize falsehoods that could get people killed. Ratings-based, 24/7, for-profit media is the complete death of true journalism and a catapult for propaganda.
"If white America experienced a fraction of what black America deals with regarding law enforcement, incarceration, the court system, employment and countless other facts of life, they would immediately and collectively lose their minds," Rollins asserts.
The foul-mouthed radio host goes on to describe his childhood growing up in Washington, D.C., and the racial tension he experienced as a white kid attending a mostly African-American school. He claims to have first observed the divide between "White America" and "Black America" as early as third grade.
He recalls a story from his early musical career to help explain the prejudice black artists would encounter. In 1991, Rollins played the first Lollapalooza tour. During that summer, he spent a lot of time hanging out with the rapper Ice-T and his bandmates.
On days off, or when our buses would pull into the same place, we would eat together. All his guys wore gold. I have no idea what a necklace is worth, but it all looked expensive to me. When we went into places, white patrons and staff tripped on these guys. This is when I understood one of the reasons for the visible display of wealth. My whiteness assured them that I could pay for my meal. Ice-T and his guys had to demonstrate their ability to pay by literally wearing a show of wealth.
"I’m an educated, Caucasian, heterosexual male," Rollins writes. "Does this ensure I will have success and live the American Dream? Obviously it doesn’t, but it damn sure drops me on second base with a great opportunity to steal third."
"I live solidly in one of the Americas but have been aware of other Americas for decades," he continues. He notes that in the wake of the recent tragedy in Dallas and highly publicized police-involved shootings across the country, a favored solution of politicians has been to stress the need for all Americans to "come together."
"To that I say, 'You first, motherf*****,'" he writes.
Rollins then charges everyday Americans with the task of being "amazing all the time" and actively seeking to understand those living in a different cultural, economic and political environment. Only this, he claims, will mend the divide.
"Don’t wait for your government," he writes. "It’s a broken machine that can only deliver damaged goods. Prejudice coats the mechanics of the USA’s OS. Attempts to clean the parts are attacked as big-government, special-interest meddling."
"Equality, tolerance and decency are not inherently American or human traits. They are values you choose to adopt and use or not," he concludes. "So, be amazing all the time."