How Did We Get Here?

Walter Mwasi Williams III
5 min readNov 12, 2020
Image by Barbara Rosner from Pixabay

“How did we get here?”

This is a question I repeatedly hear and read these days.

It began after Trump’s election but has echoed on ever since. The question was repeated after the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally. It is asked each time we witness cops around this nation brutalize or murder Black women, men, and children. It is a chorus as Latine children are locked away in inhumane conditions.

“How did we get here?”

It never ceases now. Always puzzled, astonished, and horrified. This is a question raised from countless Americans who can no longer recognize their compatriots or country, all seemingly twisted by wanton cruelty, into grotesque, unfamiliar shapes. They cannot understand how the U.S has reached this terrible place of mindless hate, anger, and increasing violence.

The truth is unkind. We have always been here. This is not a new hatred. This hate is old and virulent. It is the bedrock the U.S has sat firmly upon since its founding. We never truly left what began with the genocide of Indigenous Tribes and the exploitation of enslaved Africans. My grandparents faced this sort of hatred, so have my parents, I have, and I fear so will my own child.

I believe this disbelief stems from the reality that many Cis, Hetero, White men and women have not faced this old hate before. Even if one knows about it, there is a vast difference between witnessing and experiencing it. This is not judgement or blame. It is acknowledging the frank reality that this sort of bottomless, irrational, seething, empty hatred, is normally reserved for Blacks, Jews, Indigenous people, other PoCs, and the LGBTQ community. Now, this hate has mutated to include even Whites who simply do not want Trump in office.

This is the sort of threatening, barely concealed, often violent hatred Black and Brown people have been writing about for generations in the U.S. I am not writing this to be flippant or to mock your anxieties if you fear violence is imminent. I am explaining, many Americans, have always lived with this fear. We must resist the temptation of returning to “normalcy” where a false peace is highly seductive after so much chaos. We must acknowledge and confront our past to better our future.

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