My grandmother never lived to witness Trump’s inauguration. She died of multiple organ failure a few days before, declining so rapidly that she was effectively dead for twenty-four hours before her heart finally quit. She didn’t vote in the final election of her life, either, believing, rightly, that both of the candidates were too repulsive to deserve anyone’s support. Was she lucky to miss out on the psychic shockwave, elusive yet pervasive, that has rocked this nation in the three subsequent years? That, I can’t say, but when the news media is overloaded with grisly absurdities and comic grotesqueries (not an uncommon state of affairs, these days), she is usually the first person to come to my mind: “Holy fucking Christ, I’m glad Grammy isn’t around to see this.”
She was around, though, to see plenty in her nearly-ninety years. She saw a cop in South Carolina shoot Walter Scott three times in the back; it would have been quite the challenge to shoot him in the chest, as he was running away from the cop and towards the street. The cop, now a murderer, informed his masters that Scott tried to steal one of his weapons, but a video recording of the crime, captured without the murderer’s knowledge, exposed both his lie and his attempt to plant evidence of it. Wikipedia alleges that this scandal generated “a widespread controversy”, but I don’t recall anyone discussing it more than once, or for more than one day. In any case, Walter Scott did not become a (white) household name, unlike Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, two murdered men who dwarfed Scott in mass media coverage.
My grandmother had no stomach for violence, nor did she have a fixed view of colored Americans. Commenting on Scott’s demise, she asked my sister: “What do you think of the intelligence of the blacks?” Grimacing in disgusted disbelief, my father answered for her: “There’s plenty of dumbass white people, mom! Oh my God!” This, mind you, was a few years after she scolded my aunt, her daughter, for advising my sister to date white men only. “Oh, stop it!” my grandmother said with a dismissive flap of her hand. “This isn’t thirty or forty years ago. This is a different time!” Indeed, it was a very different time: America’s first black president had just ended a successful re-election campaign, much to the delight of my aunt and uncle on the other side of my family tree. They think Barack Obama was the greatest president in American history, and they will tell anyone who cares to listen—including my cousin, whom they disowned when she married a black man, but whom they welcomed back into their lives after she divorced him.