Live from the Reopened States and First World Countries Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia
June 21, in the Year of Our Lord Twenty Twenty
Submitted by Mr. Booker T. Washington IV., student journalist
It all started with a probe, jammed so far up my nose I saw myself born again. But the rapid testing was indeed swift, and I was given the all clear to join my colleagues in the main auditorium. I didn’t mind bowing to my friend Carnegie, as I plumped down beside him in this brave new world. As for DuBois, who sat on the other side of my pal — a necessary buffer — I settled for a simple nod. We were the only two blacks in AP Calc in our final year at Lawrenceville and had already gotten into it on our college pre-pre-orientation Zoom last weekend. I won’t mention the institution, because we both brought shame to it with the things we said. But mostly him.
We keep crossing paths and it seems DuBois and I were destined to bear witness to this historic moment as well. Early on in our high school careers, we were ferried to the nation’s capital to give our opinion on the matter of slavery reparations. His side, arguing in the affirmative — speaking of, I despise affirmative action — was stacked with the usual constellation of longwinded PhDs and deceitful experts across every discipline. Meanwhile, arguing nay, an island of yours truly and a retired African-American police chief, nobly dug in and held our own. I added a few thousand Twitter followers to my count, and I truly believe we swayed hearts and minds.
More importantly, that’s when I first caught the attention of our beloved Surgeon General, the strapping middle-aged black man stepping up to the podium at this very moment. Though at the zenith of public health and conferred with national authority, he was a bit uncertain in matters of the pen, and so he called upon me, 18 years young, to help him craft something for this urgent time. To speak out to a black America disproportionally ravaged by a new virus. Our great president and country deserve it. And so when he speaks, I also hear myself speak….
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens,
Nearly one in every three citizens in the Reopened States calls himself black American. This is a vast and great confederation, stretching from as far south and east as the House of Mouse, to the Dakotas and Mt. Rushmore, where doubtless a certain new president will soon join its ranks, to the western lands of Idaho potatoes. Those not within its borders want to be, and not just for Waffle House. Far as I know, teleportation hasn’t been invented yet so there’s no way to get between the coasts without going through us. Ponder that.
As I look out onto the crowd, I see some of these hardworking Americans now, and have seen more still during these past few days on the Exposition floor, working the concession stands, sweeping floors, checking temperatures, and just being pleasant. Lately, we’ve called them “essential workers,” to draw a light on them. But it’s obvious to me that everyone here has always known how vital these great Americans are. And it is my hope that this Exposition, convened at first because of the scourge of virus, will bring about an even more profound cure in the form of a deeper friendship between the races. Maybe suffering has a silver lining.
Elsewhere, we’ve heard a somewhat different narrative. That somehow work isn’t noble. That we should wait and see and shelter in place, instead of do, and build, and worry about the rest of that shit later.
No, the great, great, great, great, great grandsons and daughters of slaves will never accept being idle!
I submit to you, a parable: A group of sickly construction workers wandering the streets for many hours, eventually sighted a hospital. ‘Air, air, we need air!,’ they cried out. The answer from the friendly well-appointed hospital at once came back, ‘Cast down your lungs where they are!’ The sliding doors slid shut and the desperate men continued on to a second hospital, now frothing at the mouth ‘Air, air, we need air!, And again they were turned away ‘Cast down your lungs where they are!’ And a third and fourth fifth hospital, not even at 50 percent capacity at this point — unlike the waning lung capacity of our men — all responding in sing song unison ‘Cast down your lungs where they are!’
Cast it down in Uber and Amazon Fresh, in nannying and doormaning, and as a bus driver and subway conductor. And while we can talk about the alleged sins of the Reopened States, which for some odd reason have a lot of overlap with the old Confederacy, when it comes to commerce and industry, the black man has the best chance to make something of himself right here and right now — this very Exposition is proof!
Let’s face it, most high yellow, 6 foot 1 basketball-playing, smooth-talking pot smokers cannot ascend to the presidency. For the lot of us, essential work is our only work. And it’s time we go back to work. So, I say it again, cast down your lungs where you are and I’m sure your Big Mama would totally cosign!
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention. I saw him. In the bathroom. The din of the Surgeon General’s reception, well my reception, still going. But I had to duck away. That envious bastard DuBois hucked some shit at me. Literal shit. So I left the boisterous auditorium to clean myself up before my ascension. And when I walked out of the bathroom stall, there he was…. Bald, but no less mighty. Actually, it takes strength for everyone to know it’s a toupee but still wear it unabashedly. Reprising the hairpiece, he took a comb and ran it through, only the comb disintegrated on contact. Damn, he’s making magic great again, too. I approached the sink at a loss for words and hoping he’d make the first move.
Instead, he handed me his towel and skedaddled.