Legendary comedian D.L. Hughley uses his "hilarious yet soul-shaking" (Black Enterprise) humor to confront racism's unjust impact on the health and wellbeing of Blacks and minorities. White people love survival guides. But have you noticed they’re always about ridiculous activities in locations far from home, with chapters like “How to Survive an Avalanche" or "How to Live on Bugs in the Jungle.” Huh?! You know who really needs a survival guide? Black and brown Americans. For surviving their own damn country! Minority populations wake up every day in a battle for their health and safety. Thankfully, legendary activist-comedian D.L. Hughley offers How to Survive America...
Publisher: Custom House (June 15, 2021) Pages: 240 pages ISBN-10: 0063072750 ISBN-13: 978-0063072756 ASIN: B08K91X4VB
Doug Moe is a comedic actor and writer, originally from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. His book “Man Vs Child: One Dad’s Guide to the Weirdness of Parenting” was named one of Amazon’s Best Humor Books of 2017. (“Moe describes the awed affection new fathers may have for their children with relatable humor and genuine insight, offering a promising resource for the curious and the clueless.” -The New Yorker) He is the co-author of three books for D.L. Hughley: “How to Survive America,” “Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace” and the New York Times Bestseller “How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People” (“A satirical but apt addition to the culture’s fraught conversation about race.” – New York Times Book Review). He’s a longtime performer and instructor at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. On TV, you’ve seen him in “Inside Amy Schumer,” “30 Rock” or “Difficult People,” among other places. Twitter: @dougmoe
Although this book is called How to Survive America, it is dedicated to all those who didn’t! Rest well.
America’s Chronic Illness
How do we survive America?
The media’s gonna think I’m being a button-pushing comedian for asking that question so bluntly. But I’m dead serious: Black and brown folks are in a battle for survival every damn day in this country, in a way white people can’t fully comprehend.
Our life expectancy is a full three years less than white Americans. The very air we breathe is more polluted, our water is more contaminated, our local food options are toxic, and our jobs are underpaid. Folks where I grew up in South Central L.A. aren’t jogging to the local Whole Foods for a smoothie. Even if they could afford it, odds are they’d have early stage lung cancer by the time they got there. Black people have higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and other risk factors, owing in no small part to adverse environmental factors. Despite the obvious need, the quality of our health care is tragically inadequate. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans have the highest death rate from most cancers and the lowest survival length. Our kidneys fail us at three times the rate of whites. Damn, even our kidneys are profiling us.
Still alive? Well, even the healthiest among us gotta be careful out there. Our communities are statistically less safe than the average, and yet we’re terrorized by the law-enforcement and criminal-justice systems that are supposed to protect us, sending us to prison at five times the rate of whites. Not least, our means of addressing these injustices— voting — is perennially under assault.
It’s enough to drive you crazy. Well, guess what? According to Cigna, we’re 20 percent more likely to report “psychological distress” yet “50 percent less likely to receive counseling or mental health treatment.” It’s almost like the entire country has been structured to kill us. Hmmm.
So, I ask the question again: How do we survive America?
These are perilous times. I began writing this book in 2020. George Floyd’s execution by a white police officer on May 25, 2020, once again spotlighted the systemic racism and police violence that has plagued Black Americans for more than four hundred years. The uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus has devastated the entire country, claiming half a million lives, but disproportionately killing Black and brown Americans. And our government’s reaction was to double down on policies that make the problems worse. Even when the vaccines arrived, we got vaccinated at a lower rate than the rest of America, despite being higher risk.
Right now, in America, Black people are less healthy, earn less money, and have less money saved than white people. And police keep arresting more Black Americans, keep stopping more Black drivers, and keep killing more Black Americans than white Americans.
Who’s to blame?
The answer, dear reader, is shocking. I couldn’t believe it myself. It’s like the twist at the end of an M. Night Shyamalan movie: the killer is us. It’s a classic whodunnit. The bad news is: we done it.
In America, Black people are the number one suspects in our own demise. Whatever bad thing happens to us, it’s because Black people are predisposed to that outcome.
At least that’s what white people would have you believe. If you turn on the news, listen to the pundits and the politicians, it’s the message you hear explicitly and when you read between the lines: you Black people did this to yourselves.
It’s the same old story since the beginning of this country: Black people in America are predisposed toward ruin. No matter what happens to us, it was our fault. If Black people are slaves, it must be our fault. If police continue to brutalize us, it must be our fault. If Black Americans die from COVID at higher rates, it must be our fault. From the Founding Fathers until now, we’re always at fault. We’re built for it. We’re culpable for it.
Ahmaud Arbery didn’t die from being hunted down by gun-toting vigilantes; he died from attacking the gunman. George Floyd didn’t die from a police officer kneeling on his neck; he had preexisting conditions. If you lost your job, if you got sick, if you don’t have money: it’s your own damn fault.
And that’s because Black Americans are suspect. We’re culturally corrupt, socially corrupt, and immoral.
Or we gotta be, right? Otherwise, how can you explain all the continued injustice? How can you explain the way we’ve been treated? If a Black guy gets killed by the police, he must have been to blame for his own death in some way! Because if he wasn’t, that would mean that the whole system is fucked up.
White people bend over backward to not be held accountable for the system that they set up and perpetuate. They elected Donald Trump and then excused his racism at every turn and enabled his lies, because they are comfortable in these lies. For four hundred years, white people have told themselves lies to smooth over uncomfortable truths. They’ve lied to perpetuate white supremacy and preserve their dominance over Black lives. They’ve justified their cruelty and victimization of Black people by painting Black people as immoral, genetically defective, predisposed to be weak of mind and character. To be more fit to live as slaves than to live as free men. And once free, to stay second-class citizens.
But it wasn’t until George Floyd’s death that a lot of white Americans were willing to look at the disease America is afflicted with. Maybe it had something to do with everyone being quarantined during the COVID crisis and having nothing to watch on TV. Oh, there’s no more Real Housewives ? Let’s see what’s on Twitter . . . Oh shit, what the fuck is this?!
America is sick. That much is clear. Because when a white police officer is willing to put his knee on a guy’s neck and choke him to death on camera, all the while with people pleading with him to stop, what else can you call it but a disease? If it’s just “a few bad apples,” how come we keep seeing all these bad apples all the time? Maybe the whole fucking bushel is bad, right?
But Black people have known this. We’ve been saying this for years. The police are the way they are because they’ve been built that way. They are predisposed to be violent toward Black people, to humiliate them, to dominate and abuse them. George Floyd’s death was caught on tape, but so many others have been too. How many of these videos do we have to see to confirm that the rot is core-deep?
It wasn’t too long ago that we were all living in “postracial America” instead of “pro-racist America.” I thought Obama changed everything? His election was supposed to be proof that we had entered a future of racial harmony, that the forces of bigotry and racism had been overcome. Remem ber when John McCain was confronted by a woman who said that Obama was some kind of secret Muslim terrorist and he pushed back on her, insisting that Obama was a “decent family man”? It was a new era.
And Obamacare got passed! Millions of people finally had access to health care, and Americans could no longer be denied health insurance for having preexisting conditions.
Unfortunately, Obama wasn’t the end of racism in America because all the Obamacare in the world couldn’t fix America’s main preexisting condition: racism. In fact, even Obama himself says in his new book, A Promised Land, that he thinks his presidency brought up entrenched fears of Black people, exacerbating tensions: “It was as if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted. . . . For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, [Trump] promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.” Obama’s administration sucker-punched a lot of white people and drove them crazy. Trump’s election was the expression of this white anxiety. What Black people are actually suffering from is not a predisposition, but a preexisting condition: racism. Racism is America’s chronic illness and white supremacy, not Black inferiority, is the cause.
Now America has to decide if she’s going to take her medicine.
We gotta put America under the microscope. Because maybe now is finally the time that white people can listen to a diagnosis they might not like. Damn, I wish it hadn’t taken Trump fucking up our country and killing more than five hundred thousand people, but maybe now they’ll listen. When you go to the doctor, you describe your symptoms and get an examination. If you’re lucky, maybe you just get an X-ray. Worst case, the doctor grabs your junk and makes you cough. Or he puts his finger up your butt. Yeah, it can get nasty. But America can keep on having problems, or we can try to fix shit right now. It may not be pleasant, but the United States needs a thorough exam. Is America finally willing to let me grab its junk?
Hop up on the table. This may hurt a bit.