Oscar Blayton Esq
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.

As the Titanic was sinking after colliding with an iceberg in 1912, the poor among the passengers, trapped below deck, were drowning as the wealthy made their way to lifeboats. 

It is always the disadvantaged who suffer first and suffer the most. 

Since America has begun to sink after crashing into the Trump presidency, the disadvantaged in this country have begun to drown in the flood of white supremacy, patriarchy and other forms of hate-inspired abuse. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The Trump presidency has polluted the federal courts with conservative judges bent on turning back the clock on women’s rights, voting rights and every other civil right won through the hard-fought legal battles of the past 60 years. And with the federal courts being seeded with bigots of every stripe, it will be very difficult to reverse the momentum of this country’s march backward into the moral desert that America is again becoming. 

The first waves of the invasion against our humanity have begun. Those Americans deemed “less deserving” are being victimized by bigoted schemes to strip away their voting rights. People of color seeking better lives by immigrating to this country are being denied entry in an obvious plot to keep America as white as possible. 

The disgrace of a man who lounges in the White House is the son of a Ku Klux Klan member, so should we expect any different? 

America is sinking like the Titanic and what can we do about it? One possible answer is that we become more self-reliant – politically, economically and culturally. 

A crude poem found its way into Black culture just after the Titanic sank. It was during the height of the Jim Crow era and African Americans were being severely marginalized in the North and pushed back as close to the condition of slavery as possible in the South. The poem was “Shine.” Shine was the antithetical “Negro” of the early 20th century. In the ghettos of Chicago and the cotton fields of Mississippi, Shine was known as a “Bad N*****” by people who, in an act of defiance, embraced a painfully derogatory word and made it their own as an act of resistance. 

There are many versions of the poem, but in all, Shine is a lowly worker on the luxury liner when it begins to sink. Being denied a seat on a lifeboat, he jumps overboard and begins to swim. The ship’s captain pleads for Shine to save him, but Shine swims on. A rich white woman offers him forbidden sex to save her, but Shine swims on. He overcomes numerous dangers along the way, but by the time news of the Titanic reaches America, Shine is in a bar in Harlem enjoying a drink. 

This commentary is too short to cite all the metaphors in the poem illustrating the impediments confronting African Americans, but the takeaway is that we must rely on ourselves. 

Many African Americans have dubbed the post civil rights era as the “Second Reconstruction” because of the doors that opened to us in education and employment.  But that era is coming to a close. False friends and ineffectual allies will leave us to fend for ourselves. But we must persevere and continue to move forward with our true friends and allies and our sense of self-reliance. 

Difficult days are ahead, but this is not a time for weeping and self-pity. It is time to brace ourselves and throw everything we have into the struggle.