Does anyone remember when gospel met hip hop or even youth culture generally and tried their holy best to sound palatable? Do you remember the Game Boy beats that were the foundation for this choir sound? No? Well, let’s take a trip back, shall we?:
Killers of the Flower Moon is a strange read. I walked into it hoping to learn about a time and incident in history I knew nothing about. I hoped to learn about the Osage Nation, the people, their culture. And to some extent, I did. I met Mollie Burkhart and her family early in the book’s pages. David Grann mentioned other Osage individuals who had were killed during the Reign of Terror. Somewhere along the line, however, it felt as if we were leaving the Osage Nation, its members and its culture, behind.
A little less than half of this book is about the birth of the FBI and its investigation into the Osage murders. Mollie Burkhart, her family, and other members of the Osage Nation take a backseat to Tom White, his familial background and his fearless pursuit of what Grann believes is only one perpetrator of the Osage murders. Yet, we discover at the end that while there were twenty-four murders accounted for there were, in fact, “countless other killings”—and likely many other perpetrators—that were never investigated. As a reader, this felt like more of a shocking afterthought than the reality of the Osage people.
I’m well aware that this book’s flaws are likely a result of the miscarriage of justice during the Reign of Terror. It’s hard for me, however, to ignore the quieting of the Osage people’s voices in this narrative. This wasn’t just a few strange deaths. It wasn’t just an FBI investigation. For the members of the Osage Nation, it seemed death became their reality and is a pain they have yet to recover from:
The town and the street were empty, and beyond them the prairie, too. “This land is saturated with blood,” Webb said. For a moment, she fell silent, and we could hear the leaves of the blackjacks rattling restlessly in the wind. Then she repeated what God told Cain after he killed Abel: “The blood cries out from the ground.”
He don’t know how hard it is to be black. He can’t even imagine somethin’ harder than what he doin’. I could tell him but he wouldn’t believe it.
~ From Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley
Every once in a while I lay down my armor for a moment and wonder what peace would look like. Sometimes it’s a glancing thought. Other times it’s an extended conversation with a friend. It’s hard, when you finally realize what this world is, to step back and visualize what the world could be. But you try.
The problem is simple: there’s no desire for understanding. Every human has their own struggles, their own pain, their own stories. It takes an open, patient human being to hear of another’s pain, listen and believe it.
Let it begin, let Adam in
Step one: original sin
Underneath the leaves, Adam found Eve
Both of them found something sweet under the apple tree
Then it was over, roads divide
Step two: learning how to lie
Let me ask a question to present day
How the hell did Eve end up with all the damn blame?
All the damn blame
Black women are different. Indian women are different. Hispanic women are different. Native American women are different. Palestinian women are different. Muslim women are different. Biracial women are different. The armor is different. The source is complicated. The mode of survival twisted and more confusing with each cultural intrusion.
The morning air still smelled of smoke. Wood ash mainly but there was also the acrid stench of burnt plastic and paint. And even though I knew it couldn’t be true, I thought I caught a whiff of putrid flesh from under the rubble across the street. The hardware store and Bernard’s Stationery Store were both completely gutted. The Gonzalez Market had been looted but only a part of its roof had been scorched. The corner building, however, Lucky Dime Liquors, had been burned to the ground. Manny Massman was down in the rubble with his two sons, kicking the metal fixtures. At one point the middle-aged store owner lowered his head and cried. His sons put their hands on his shoulders.
~ From Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley
I’m free but I’m focused, I’m green but I’m wise
I’m hard but I’m friendly, baby
I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chicken shit
I’m sick but I’m pretty babyAnd what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano