Malcolm X once said –
No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver — no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.
High school was the first time I read that quote. I was in the midst of studying the Harlem Renaissance. My English teacher at the time saw something in my writing that reminded her of Coutee Cullen and suggested that I read some of his poems. She’d also noticed my complete lack of enthusiasm around any other literature we’d read, from any time period or any author. I’d finally found a voice I could relate to and something in American history that made me want to learn more. I was already a fan of Jazz, but learning about the cultural and significant impact of African-Americans during this time period, the push back of a system that had for years stolen the voice of the oppressed; I was hooked.
This lead to much deeper exploration – Malcolm and Martin’s less popular speeches, understanding the Black Panther Party, Nina Simone, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Bell Hooks… you get the point. For once, there was something I was learning that made sense to me, written in a voice and from places I could understand. Anger, frustration, pride, resistance, and exhaustion. I remember reading Jonathon Kozol’s “Savage Inequalities” and wondering how America had allowed the East St. Louis school system to exist in that manner.
This was high school. I had woken up. Probably a bit too soon.
Countee Cullen’s poem “Yet Do I Marvel” ended with this thought –
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
Those two lines summed up all the anger, frustration, pride, resistance, and exhaustion I’d felt as a child. (I was first called a nigger at the age of 5) The continuous uphill battle of having a voice, wanting to change the world, wanting to be seen as equal, wanting to actually be free; all while being black.
Baldwin wrote –
To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
Those words started ringing true in 1619, long before he wrote them, and still ring true to this day. You see, being awake or “woke” to what America really thinks about Blacks, African-Americans, Negroes or The Negro, is tough. It’s damn exhausting. And I’m tired. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve actually recited the national anthem. I stood, arms at my side, silently when played at sporting events or on which ever campus event I was at. No one noticed because I looked the part of a patriotic American. But I’m tired, tired of putting on the happy face of false patriotism. Tired of being the token black guy and walking on egg shells to not burden others with the reality of America. Tired of having to have dual personalities and not be too black, when clearly…it’s who I am.
So I’m taking a seat, with Rosa, and Kaepernick, and Ali, and numerous others who’ve decided that to maintain the status quo is to remain voiceless. I’m going to sit on the sidelines and let America figure things out. The thing is, taking a seat and not participating in the ceremony of American patriotism is the most American thing one can do. There is a problem, that needs to be addressed. Rather than continue to pretend things are ok and getting better, I’m going to take a seat and start to call attention to it. I’m going to use my voice.
Don’t worry, I’ll still share photos and blog about tech and everything else, I’m just going to blog about all the things that matter to me now. If that offends you, if you think I’m adding to the problem, If you think me unpatriotic, I share with you the following. I wrote following Charlottesville. Until America takes care if it’s racist problem, I will continue to call it out (and it’s numerous other problems) and continue to offend you. You can act accordingly.
“This isn’t us”
“Hatred has no place here”
“This isn’t the America I know”
“They don’t represent us”
Bullshit. They are America. They are the ‘great’ MAGA wants to return to. Hatred, bigotry, violence, oppression, and discrimination are what made American. They are institutional. They are the American way. They are embedded in the fabric of this country. From the first slave to Philando Castile, America has made its stance on Black lives very clear.
1618 – 1623 – The Great Migration. New world population grows from 450 to 4000. Mortality rate was high (disease, malnutrition, and resistance from Native Americans for stealing their land) and colonies were in need of laborers.
1619 – First kidnapped and enslaved Africans come to Jamestown, VA. They were considered indentured servants, as were most ‘slaves’ world wide up until then. This meant freedom after 7 years, adequate shelter, food, etc. It also meant if an enslaved woman had a child with a man who wasn’t a slave; the child was born free. While many were African, most were Irish, Scottish, English and German. Many agreed to indentured servitude to pay off debt for passage to the “new world.”
1630’s – African statuses begin changing from I.S. to chattel slaves. Slaves were actual property who could be bought, sold, traded or inherited.
Slavery becomes a racial and caste system.
1640 – First African I.S. sentenced to slavery.
1641 – Massachusetts is the first colony to legally recognize slavery. Others followed.
1650 – Negroes were not allowed to have arms or ammunition.
1656 – Virginia codified chattel slavery.
1662 – Virginia Colony adopted ‘partus sequitur ventrem’, meaning that a child status now comes from the mother’s status. English and other men could now rape slaves and not have to worry about claiming the child.
1667 – Virginia – Baptism no longer counts as a means of being considered for freedom.
1682 – Virginia – Slaves bought by Christians are no longer considered Christians when purchased. (thus can’t be citizens and have no rights)
1705 – Virginia – all ‘servants imported’ and brought into the country, who wasn’t a Christian in their home country, shall be counted as a slave. “A Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves … shall be held to be real estate.”
During the 1700’s, the number of slaves on British ships to British colonies goes from 5000 to 45000 a year. They become number one in slave trafficking. The demand for labor, climate, growing land ‘acquisitions’ and attraction of making money without the work lead to an increase of slaves being bought and trafficked
“For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour.” – Thomas Jefferson
1712 – New York Slave revolt – ends with 21 slaves burned to death.
1739 – Stono River, SC – rebellion ends with captured slaves being decapitated and heads placed on spikes along the road.
1787 – Constitution includes the three-fifths compromise – Southern states wanted slaves to count as part of the population, giving them more political power. The North agreed to three-fifths. They also agreed to allow states to continue the ‘importing’ of slaves and that escaped slaves in the north had to be returned.
There was far less agriculture in the north, so slavery wasn’t all that profitable. Even the south started to see it less profitable because of tobacco prices.
1793 – Eli Whitney creates the cotton gin. Slaves become profitable again.
1857 – Dred Scott Decision – Slaves were subhuman property with no rights of citizenship.
1861 – the Confederate States of America formed and seceded to preserve slavery, states’ rights and political liberty for Whites. They want to keep control of slavery and its profits. They also want the government (the north) to stay out of their business. Thus begins the civil war.
1862 – Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation – frees all slave, including those in states still in rebellion.
1865 – 13th amendment outlaws the practice of slavery. Unless the person has been convicted of a crime…
December 24, 1865 – The KKK was founded.
I could continue, but I think you get the picture. We, Black people, have never been more than a political commodity to this country. This country has never, of its own volition, acted with compassion towards Black people. Only through protest, rebellion, revolution, and resistance have We ever gotten anything from this country. Every date you could try to fill in, history will show the truth.
So, in searching your souls as to what you can do and how we can move forward and how we got here. Admit that we’ve always been here. Admit that America is a country founded on bigotry, slavery, theft, rape, and discrimination. Admit that we have problems we keep sweeping under the rug and refusing to face. Once you take America off its high and mighty pedestal and realize it’s really the backs of all those this country has beat down over the years, then we can talk about a solution.
“The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” — Zig Zigler
No rush, take your time. You’ll find me next Marshawn and Kap while you sort things out.