Is The Summer Of ’16 This Generation’s Turbulent Sixties?
Summer of 2016 is proving itself to be both a scary and wondrous time to be alive.
Not to get all deep here, but consciousness is shifting. Folks are either waking up or going crazy, but one thing is for sure: they are mad as hell and aren’t taking it (whatever “it” is) anymore.
You don’t believe me when I say that the summer of ’16 is hotter than a Do the Right Thing sequel?
Well then, let’s review the tapes:
- It all started when NOAA declared May 2016 to be “the warmest May on record” for the globe, making it the 13th consecutive warmest month on record.
- Then Donald Trump officially won enough delegates for the Republican nomination on campaign pledges to “Make America Great Again” by deporting all the Mexicans, either surveilling or jailing all of the Muslims he deemed terrorists, and building a wall around American borders. Oh, he also pledged to give jobs to all of the criminal Black people.
- Then Black men en masse started reconsidering their expatriation plans to Brazil after the public health alert that is the ZIKA virus.
- Then Prince unexpectedly passed on.
- Then Muhammad Ali passed.
- Then Harambe the gorilla started a race and animal rights war online.
- Then a dingo, disguised as an alligator at a Walt Disney resort, tried to eat a baby.
- Then, tragically, over 50 partygoers at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., were shot and killed by either a homophobic Islamist extremist, or the police.
- Then Ghana went underwater, but like a tree in a forest, nobody heard about it.
- Then a bunch of Congressional Democrats held a sit-in, vowing to not leave until America had real gun control. And then they went on vacation.
- Then the UK left the European Union amidst a vote based, in part, on pro-nationalist and anti-immigration (colored people) sentiments.
- Then there were the ISIL and ISIL network bombings in Baghdad, Jordan, Yemen, Bangladesh, Somalia, Turkey and Malaysia, all during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Then a Black man named Alton Sterling was shot point-blank range by Baton Rouge, La. police. The incident was caught on tape.
- Then two days later and over 1,300 miles away, another Black man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by Falcon Heights, Minn. police. His death was captured on Facebook Live.
- Then, before we could properly grieve his death, eleven cops were shot – five fatally – after snipers opened fire on Dallas police during a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter.
- Then, today, we learned that the sniper is reportedly a Black man – not a right-wing White dude as everyone suspected.
And we’re only in July, folks.
There is no denying that these are some turbulent times we are living in. But as hot as it is right now, the truth is, everything moves in cycles. And this country has been here before.
It was called the sixties.
It all started with the election of John F. Kennedy as president of the United States in November of 1960. Young, suave, smart and progressive, some might say he was the Barack Obama of his time. Like Obama, his journey to the White House was aided by a new technology. In his case, it was television, which helped to distinguish him apart from Vice President Richard Nixon and score him points with young voters.
And like Obama, Kennedy would inherit a global war. But in Kennedy’s case, it would be a war against communism. This war would result in the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and a near nuclear fight with Russia. And also like Obama, Kennedy would have to deal with domestic tensions at home, courtesy of the Civil Rights Movement in which Black folks took to the streets en masse to demand an end to segregation and discrimination in society. Although sympathetic, Kennedy, like Obama, would be reluctant to take a stance on the issue mainly out of concern of upsetting Southern White democrats.
Tragically, his capitation to Southern Democrats wouldn’t matter as Kennedy would be assassinated by a Southern Democrat while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas in November of 1963. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, would also be assassinated. Ironically, it would be Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southern Democrat who was sworn in to serve the rest of Kennedy’s term, who would pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
However LBJ’s good work would be overshadowed by the escalation in Vietnam, which would mount a fierce opposition both overseas and more domestically for years to come. Through the remainder of the ’60s and into the mid-’70s, the world would have to endure a truly bizarre journey through terrorist attacks, political hijackings and domestic bombings, including several across America, as well as another assassination of a Kennedy, massive protests and mass shootings on college campuses, the killing of Martin’s Dream and Malcolm’s self-determination, the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, the rise of COINTELPRO, and the birth of S.W.A.T., Watergate and the impeachment of a president, among other things.
And like many of us are today, I’m willing to bet that just as many folks were staring at their newly invented televisions, wondering to themselves, “What the heck is going on?”
You know, some say that growth comes through challenges. And as turbulent as the sixties were, a lot of good came out of the era (and the one after it). Segregation ended. Blacks gained the right to vote. We had Black power, unity, love and afros, too. Perhaps, like the ’60s, the summer of ’16 is just our time of transition. Perhaps, after all of the strife, protesting, fighting and dying, we will shed the old ways to make room for a new consciousness. Perhaps, we will come out of all of this a better and more united people.
But then again, it does kind of feel like we are still fighting some of the same battles we have been fighting since the ’60s. If anything, it proves that nothing is really new and very little has changed. And maybe, just maybe, we are all on an unstoppable collision course to self-destruction.
At this point, I really don’t know. But the ride is truly an amazing one.
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and queen of unpopular opinions from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.