A Black Man in America

Race and Politics

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Sean Yoes

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

I was on vacation last week, but more accurately I was on a mission.

My lady Morine and I drove to seven cities in seven days: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, Santa Fe, Williams, (The Grand Canyon) and San Diego. The overarching mission was to get her to a place called Pala, California where her father, a pedestrian, had been killed by an automobile in a hit and run incident of dubious circumstances back in 2015. I agreed to drive Morine those 3,000 miles through deserts and valleys and mountains and metropolises to spiritually release the space in California where her father was killed in the early morning hours of July 19, 2015. Although she and her family still seek justice in the death of her dad, it was most important to me that Morine received just a little peace and some closure in traveling to that arid region in the mountains of Southern California. That was the most important aspect of our odyssey across America.

But, as we made our trek across the nation, I was reminded just how physically beautiful and awe inspiring our country is.

However, as we close in on the most consequential presidential election in history, in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken nearly a quarter million Americans, the reality America is also ugly and grotesque is inescapable. 

As we traveled through the state of Missouri near the Illinois border, specifically between the rural towns of Hannibal and Brookfield and the lush farmland of the state, there was no doubt we were in Trump Country.

Trump campaign signs proliferate the rural landscape of the state (although there were more than a smattering of Biden/Harris signs as well. We also saw at least one Confederate flag flying ingloriously next to an American flag. Tragically, these days in 2020, it seems hard to discern between the two. Also along that yawning green countryside we traveled over a body of water called “Coons Creek.” All in all the sojourn through Missouri provided stark evidence that there are enclaves of unwavering support for the worst and perhaps most criminal president in U.S. history.

There was at least one glimmer of joy in Missouri for me: my beloved Raiders stomped the Kansas City Chiefs on the day (Oct. 11) I stepped foot in Kansas City for the first time in my life.

Back to politics…

Political sign counting is a dubious science. Sometimes the number of signs displayed in any given state, city or town seems like a clear indicator of which way the political winds are blowing. Yet, in ruby red Kansas we saw no Trump signs until we approached the middle of the state. Maybe that’s just because Kansas knows who she is and isn’t thirsty to prove her loyalty to Trump. Or maybe Kansas, despite its dyed-in-the-wool Republican DNA, really isn’t into Trump that much.

As we rolled through the middle of America it was also evident that Black people and people of color are very much a numerical minority beyond the urban centers of the East and West coasts.

Yet, the further West we traveled the demographics of America shifted decidedly. Making the transition from Kansas to Colorado you start seeing many Brown faces and we saw even more Latinx Americans as we made our way into New (Old) Mexico.

The rugged beauty of the American West is literally breathtakig and rivals the most glorious vistas on earth.

Yet, as we crossed into California and entered the Imperial Valley, I was reminded of those Latinx immigrants documented and undocumented who do the dirty, necessary work many other Americans won’t do. I also remembered the heinous immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration that led to the caging of children and the separation of thousands of those children from their parents.

America is a beautiful, deadly mess.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Senior Reporter and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.