I spent Memorial Day Weekend at the beach. I chose not to engage in the silly Twitter war over whether or not saying “Happy Memorial Day” is appropriate. Instead, I enjoyed my family and watched the Memorial Day concert from Washington and some documentaries about World War II with my Dad.
The weekend felt like the official end of the pandemic. The beach was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. Tents lined the strand for as far as the eye could see. Despite rather chilly weather for the end of May, plenty of people were in the water. Across the bridge, cars filled parking lots as tourists headed for ice cream, beachwear, and souvenirs.
I made a grocery store run to pick a handful items, including another bag of Tate’s cookies. On the way, I passed a roadside shop set up in a black trailer. Flags flew from the top and a large banner read “The Silent Majority.” Tee-shirts lined the side and two assault weapons sat mounted on a table in front. It was mainly a pro-gun, pro-military, pro-police stand that featured shirts with quotes from Reagan warning about the dangers of socialism. They were blasting country rock from the speakers and, while the paraphernalia didn’t mention Trump, a large blown-out “Trump 2020” sign shared the otherwise empty lot. As the music blared and the line of flags waved in the breeze, all I could think is “They are neither silent nor the majority.”
At the grocery store, the aisles were full of shoppers, about half with masks and half without. (As someone fully vaccinated, I went maskless.) Once I gathered my few items, I started looking for a checkout line to enter. The place was a bit chaotic with lines winding into aisles and shopping baskets spilling over with food and drinks.
I moved toward a line that read, “Express lane: About 12 items or less.” That seemed to fit me. I got in line but noticed, a few people ahead of me, a middle-aged man wearing an American flag tank top had far more than 12 items in his overflowing cart. Still, it was just one cart and most people either carried baskets or had their goods in their hands.
A man with a very large white mustache and muttonchops wheeled in behind me with a cart carrying a 12-pack of O’Doul’s Amber and a 12-pack of IPA beer along with a bag or two of chips. I looked at him and nodded. He shook his head and said in low Southern drawl, “It’s been crazy like this all week. I thought it would let up at some point.”
I tilted my head toward the man who had the full cart in the express lane and said, “Looks like he’s got a lot more than 12 items.” He looked toward the front of the line and replied in a soft tone, “Well, he’s Black. They got rights, ya know.” I knew the man with the cart was White and then noticed that the cashier was checking out a dark-skinned man who looked more Hispanic than Black. The guy corrected himself. “No, he’s Mexican. He’s got more rights.”
I started to say something, but decided better of it. Clearly, this man assumed that we were part of a club that did not include people who looked different from us. He believed “those people” received special rights that were denied us. In fact, the person who felt entitled was the guy who shared our skin color and decided he could enter the express lane with a basket containing dozens of items, not just a dozen.
The mustachioed man and the Silent Majority folks believe that they are under assault by Black and Brown people aided by a federal government that would confer special rights on them. But Silent Majority has never been attacked. Attacks are what happened in the Greenwood section of Tulsa 100 years ago. Attacks are what happened in Wilmington in 1898. Attacks happened in places across the country like Rosewood, FL, Elaine, AR, Slocum, TX, and countless other towns when Black people were murdered, had their property stolen, their means of production destroyed, and nobody was held accountable. On the contrary, the victims were blamed for their own oppression. The true stories of those injustices were buried by the people who wrote our histories and mandated our school curriculums.
Attacks are what happened at the Capitol on January 6. The people who sympathize with or apologize for the attackers want us to forget. The same forces that buried our history for more than a century are pushing legislation that would continue to ignore atrocities and their long-term effects on the people who suffered. And they want us to forget that our Capitol and our government were under assault by people who would destroy our democracy.
This time, we should adopt an old mantra of the neo-Confederates and say, “Hell no, I ain’t fergettin’!”