February. The month of love and Black History Month. It seems that we would have so much to celebrate, especially Black History Month.
Black History month this year, was fraught with so much drama and crisis involving black folks, that I was apprehensive about logging on to even my facebook account. My concern was that I’d see yet another instance of violence or hate directed towards us. Even more painful, I’d bear witness to yet more of our collective apathy. Some things are just too painful to watch.
I saw a post today involving a black man and police harrassment and brutality. One of the comments posted 4 words that spoke volumes to me. Are you angry yet? Apparently not.
Two years ago, it was Trayvon Martin’s murder. This year, we had the murder trial of Michael Dunn – the killer of young Jordan Davis. Sprinkled in, we’ve had all measures of crime and disrespect; and no one of us is immune. From the average black man walking down the street -all the way up to the disrespectful treatment of our Commander In Chief – The President of the United States, Barack Obama – talked about and treated like no other president treated in history. It pisses me off that we aren’t angry yet.
I’m trying to figure out why our numbers are so lopsided. The percentage of African Americans there are in the population in the whole United States is 13%. Think about the same folks percentage currently in the prison population: 39% and the percentage of Black college students: 14% It makes me worry.
I don’t understand why we as a people have grown so complacent. We are losing the gains made by the generations before us that sacrificed so that we would have a better life. We are losing our grip by refusing to STAND OUR GROUND and fight for our rights. We didn’t lose “the fight” we just haven’t shown up for it – yet. While we are thinking about if we are angry yet, they are taking bits and pieces of important victories by default. Everytime a crazy vigilante or cop decides that the threat of black skin is sufficient reason to shoot someone’s child without provocation – and are exonerated, we lose a little bit of our confidence. Everytime an African American is unjustly arrested and convicted; Everytime a black convicted criminal is given a maximum sentence, compared to a white convicted criminal for an equal or greater offense; Everytime one of these things happens, we lose some of our respect for one another.
Sure, we stew in our anger, post on facebook and grumble under our collective breaths, almost acting as though someone might hear us and punish us. That is certainly what the powers that be are counting on. We’ll grumble a little, maybe tear up some of our own stuff but probably only for as long as it takes for us to scroll to another post, switch a channel – and then we lose our collective steam. The fight pretty much conditioned out of us. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!! If we don’t get angry, and do it in a collective, unified manner, we stand to lose so much. Our rights, the rights of our children; and even just for folks unable to advocate for themselves is cause enough to get angry. Apathy is costing us. We are forgetting how to fight. It’s costing us respect. It’s costing us our rights. In too many cases, it’s costing us our freedom, our drive and our ability to defend ourselves. Freedom, is much too costly and precious to give back without a fight.
Next time you scroll through facebook or some other media site, and you see yet another of those posts, ask yourself: Am I Angry Yet?
Yesterday, I had an “awakening” of sorts. I watched a rather provacative video post of a young black woman initially asking why are we (black women) so argumentative? She said that we define ourselves by conflict. She goes on to compare black women to some “ultra violent gangster that is so mean he could find the insult in a bouquet of roses” That is how she views black women. Wow. I’ve NEVER had anyone perceive me in this manner and I was offended.
My friend, Muhjahid Woodson-Quahhar, posted the video and basically dared folks to comment. I’d seen the video clip earlier during the weekend, and so I started reading the comments posted. I was shocked. I actually went back and watched the video again – just to make sure I’d viewed the same clip. The majority of folks that posted a response, said that she’d basically “hit the nail on the head”.
After I’d watched the clip a second time, I had to comment. Basically, my comment went sort of like this: “While even a broken clock is correct twice a day, the generalization (to me) is insulting. It’s no more true than saying that all white women are docile or all white folks hate black people. Sure, I’ve met black women that would be considered angry (and probably justified for whatever reason in their pissitivity) – but that isn’t my experience with most. Generalizations are basically a means to perpetuate by (my guess is) well meaning folks like this and they are dangerous. They tend to feed into the characterizations that fuel animosity and divisive behavior – and for what? What is the purpose? SMDH.
While there were a few women that agreed, I was upset that the majority of men that commented, in agreement with this woman. After giving what she said some thought, I BECAME an angry black woman. I was angry for a couple of reasons. One of the things she did was show a clip of a basketball game, where LeBron James goes off on another player and then later, is caught by the cameras apologizing to that player. A big deal is made of that clip, not just by the commentator, but also by our girl making the post. The analogy (in my opinion) was a poor one. Basically, she tells us that we need to learn to sit down and apologize and then shut up. That if we just STHU (Shut The Hell Up) and listen to black men, and defer to them, our lives will be worth living, because these men will want to be with us. WTH?!!!! She goes on to say that we don’t do that with white men? Oh, and my personal favorites, Fifty percent of all black women have herpes (who the hell gave it to them???), we (black women) wander through life aimlessly and we have no point, no direction and no decent maternal guidance to give us direction. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Here’s my problem in a nutshell with her post. It’s divisive, it’s wrong and it does NOTHING to foster a possible peaceable and meaningful conversation. It seems (to me) the purpose of her post, is not to really start a supportive dialogue; but to embarrass and tear down. And do it in a way that will actually produce the very result that she supposedly takes issue with. While it does propagate certain conversations, it doesn’t do it without belittling the thread that has kept many families intact, in the face of adversity throughout history: The Black Woman.
More importantly? It’s wrong – most of the black women that I’ve come in contact with are not side-eyeing me, and waiting to pounce on my facebook, twitter or physically get in my face so that we can argue. Am I saying that she’s 100 % wrong? Absolutely not. Nope, what I’m saying is that it’s unfortunate if that is what she’s come across in her daily dealings with black women. It’s also unfortunate for those that agreed with her, if that is what their daily conversations with black women are like. My experience has been different. She may not agree with the decisions that all black women make when considering starting a family, but it’s their choice to make. Does that mean that they aren’t good mothers, that they don’t have the capacity to nurture? Not at all. But last I checked, it takes 2 to produce a child. The responsibility therefore, lies equally with the parties in play.
I guess if I had a face to face with this young woman, I’d ask her, “besides shutting up and basically becoming mute in a relationship, just so that you can have one, where’s your “equal” time for the black men? Where exactly lies their culpability in the grand scheme of things? Where is your outrage concerning things that would make black women mad and argumentative, like what law enforcement is doing to our sons? How are they affected by the judicial system in this country? Did they lose their homes when they lost their jobs in this horrific economy? There are so many things that could be responsible for someone being in a bad mood. Where is your concern and compassion for your fellow sistahs and brothers? How can we help these women, cause if they’re angry, no doubt there’s a reason. If the future of our race lies within these women’s abilities to produce our future, HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS BETTER?
February is a month of pride for me and I imagine most African Americans. Most of us acknowledge it proudly as the month that was officially recognized in 1976 by the government during the U.S. Bicentennial, when “Negro History Week” was expanded to “Black History Month”. As a personal observance, I, like many (I hope) spend quite a bit of time listening to, reading or watching videos of our former leaders – primarily my favorites, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. This past week, I’ve concentrated on reading and listening to Martin Luther King’s response Letter to the Clergymen, the letter from which his speech Letter from a Birmingham Jail was based. His letter mesmerized me. As concise as his words were, I got caught up in the way that he chose to illustrate his responses to each point of criticism; and he articulated it in ways that left no room for debate as to why lawful or not, the stance and actions he took were the only logical and effective responses amid the circumstances. His letter was brilliant. Another brilliant mind of the time was Malcolm X. I watched and listened to a few of the videos of Malcolm X as he sat in one “hot seat” after another, on panels with aloof and in some cases exasperated Caucasian male panelists, trying to trip up and or discredit him. He never lost his cool, he simply countered with an explanation to their questions with the same patience one would use with a small child.
Though there were more than just these two, these particular men stand out for me because both knew with a certainty that they wouldn’t live into old age – and they were (seemingly) at peace with that. They weren’t just brave, they were leaders because they were unflinchingly focused; they lead by example and expected their flock to acknowledge and follow in kind. Many did, thankfully – and we have those every man and woman heroes to thank for their faith and bravery during a time when information wasn’t instantaneous – and gratification was a long-suffering collective effort.
I belong to a few book clubs on social media that are primarily populated with African Americans that have posted snippets of Black history facts: posts celebrating our historically amazing resilience, ingenuity, bravery, talent and intelligence. Other posts that are simply commentary – reflections about how we as a people are faring since the majority of these contributions occurred decades ago. I read and digest these tidbits, and there seems to be a frequent general consensus: weve made some gains since, but we are losing our footing and collectively, our focus. We don’t seem to know how to fight anymore. We are becoming impotent because we no longer have the leadership to guide us. We are surrounded by a growing segment of our population that has no appreciation for the struggle that has allowed them the instant gratification and freedom that not that long ago, were only dreamt of by their grandmothers, or great grandmothers.
Melancholy is the feeling I get when during the same month, no matter what “mode” of transport I use, whether physical or virtual, I’m hit with a very uncomfortable realization: in our post-racial era, there don’t seem to be any worthy predecessors. That in itself is probably not as scary as what has me even more disturbed: Our community hasn’t had a true leader in decades. As a result, we are faltering and often times appear to be standing still when we should be advancing or at the very least holding up a shield to protect the gains made thus far.
I did receive a glimmer of hopefulness while watching a speech given by Michelle Alexander as she talked about the “New Jim Crow” – not because that’s something to be happy about – but she is young and gifted, intent on disseminating information that needs to be widely dispersed, especially in our communities. She’s passionate about distributing information that more than likely, we wouldn’t be getting if we were waiting for today’s “leaders”.
I’m hoping that glimmer will soon expand to something bigger and increasingly more visible with each passing day. We can’t allow all of the hard work, harder times and the unselfishness of those before us to wither and become forgotten history.