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Talking Story 
by Polo

If settled America raises their smartphones right now, if you tap F then A then L …

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #14 (July 18, 2016), page 7.

New America and settled America’s black and white family fight

I want to be part of this discussion. I want to participate in solving this national problem.

Indeed, our immigrant communities long to help ease, maybe even help end, this excruciating family fight between black and white America.

We know a lot about family fights. We know about how awful we all can be, to those nearest us. We came here as refugees from our very own bitter Arab, African, Asian, Slavic, and Latin-American family fights. Our own heart-bruising and bone-breaking ones.

We are grateful, our children and our children’s children are grateful, for refuge in this rich northwest corner of a continent so carefully cultivated by 140 centuries of indigenous ancestors and elders. We are indebted to urban America for a state of governance and commerce that daily grants us great relief from our families’ grief. I mean this, sincerely.

So much works so well here, but a few big things don’t. We wake to these on the morning news. We wake to each next ferocious struggle — asymmetrical, excessive — between these black and white arms of the American family.

Of course, we cannot know our African-American neighbors’ 400 years of suffering here — institutionalized ugliness that honest scholars must now admit actually began in Puritan New England, in America’s spiritual core. Not on her cotton and tobacco plantations, not in her southern economy. No, New America will never know your families’ sorrow.

Our community has never been property, openly sold and legally shipped for nation building. We have, however, like many of River City’s 70 or so ethnic streams, been enslaved in our former homeland. Our father, his brothers and boy cousins built railroads in sodden Thai jungles, they made iron ball bearings on Nagasaki assembly lines. Our pop’s sisters and girl cousins slaved to death serving the angry appetites of Imperial Japan’s army.

We’re able to help

Our men and boys eventually came home to their parents, after America liberated our East Indies. But not our women, not our girls. Not ever. They still lie in unsanctified soil, somewhere. No one knows where to find them. It is these lovely souls’ unspeakable humiliation that gets us as near as we’ll ever get to our African-American sisters’ and brothers’ pain. Not near enough, ampun’illaah — may Allah have mercy on us all. Never near enough.

Immigrant Americans are able to help because U.S. history, because those deep institutionalized ruts, cut by rage and denial, cut deeper by recrimination, running from America’s foundations, have not embittered us. No, not yet.

We’re able to help because African-America’s grief has not yet paralyzed us. Not in the way America’s wheels, this otherwise kind and creative nation’s wheels, lock every next time there’s another terrible collision between President Thomas Jefferson’s white and black children.

If settled America raises their smartphones right now, in your homes and offices, in Starbucks’ long morning coffee lines; if you tap F then A then L — Google Maps will quickly auto-fill "Falcon Heights." The same’s true for a hundred head-on black and white collisions — the one on the Edmund Pettus Bridge; the one on Detroit’s despairing streets; the one right after Rodney King’s L.A. beating; the one after OJ’s slo-mo I-405 freeway chase; the tragic crashes now simply abbreviated as "Katrina," as "Charleston," as "Ferguson." And "Dallas." These code names are not yet known to New America.

We want to help. Immigrant Americans do, jah tentu (sure we do). And just as surely, we’re ready to commit our banks and banks of social, cultural, and spiritual capital. Our tenderness. The kind of human knowing and tending this angry and exhausted nation so urgently needs, presidential-election-year theater notwithstanding.

Let us contribute to constructing us all a new American narrative.

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