The world has changed and it’s been a long time coming. An awakening has occurred; an amazing, loud, and unsettling awakening in the United States and in other parts of the world.
The death of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a White police officer isn’t anything new. In fact, in the time that I began writing this piece, another Black man (Rayshard Brooks) suffered the same fate as George Floyd. Not in the same manner of death, but with the same outcome.
What has changed is the use of our smartphones in a manner where they have become an extension of our eyes and ears in broadcasting these crimes. Even now seeing the video of George Floyd suffering under the knee of the officer is extremely painful to watch and as an impulse, I want to turn away or change the channel. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s a natural reaction, though at the same time, it’s that pain and suffering Black and Brown people have been dealing with for centuries. The very image of Floyd and the police officer, to me, is symbolic of racism and oppression in America. And when a spoiled child is disciplined for their behavior, some (White) folks are acting out and even making a mockery of this gruesome event. Everyone is now waking up to the truth of a slightly altered world.
In my most humble opinion the Civil Rights Act in the 60s was really just a band-aid, to keep “the Coloreds” happy. Yes, it made it illegal to discriminate in public places, enforced segregation in public schools, and made it against the law for employers to discriminate. This was great at first glance, but it never fixed or even addressed the real source of the problem, the mentality behind racism and bigotry. Sadly, that has continued to fester and grow unchecked like flesh-eating bacteria hopping from one host to another infecting more weak minded souls and dissolving any residual common sense in the process.
When I was a small child, I didn’t really pay attention to skin color. That’s not to say that I wasn’t aware, just in my household nothing was ever said to make me think differently. I was a military brat in Virginia and in my world, all was well. It wasn’t until my later years when my mother would take my older sister and me to North Carolina to visit relatives via Greyhound that we experienced racism in its various forms. In Laurinburg, NC, we learned that “Black” folks stayed within a certain area of this small town and we alway say yes ma’am/yes sir when you address White adults here. The Ku Klux Klan was known to have a presence and since we were the outsiders, we did what we could to blend in. The area where Blacks lived and were, was impoverished and many places still used outhouses. Coming from the bubble of a military base in Virginia, it was like taking a ride back in time. My grandmother’s house was small and heated by kerosene and a wood burning stove that was always kept stoked. That combined smell today, still brings me back to those days.
Returning home back to Hampton, Virginia was a breath of fresh air and for the first time, my little six year old brain was processing that we, and people that looked like me were different. At John Tyler Elementary school, the knowledge of that difference was compounded by several little White boys pointing at me calling me a “Nigger” and then laughing about it. I had heard the word before, but it had never been directed to me before. It was painful. When my older sister and I arrived home from school, I told my mother what the White boys called me. She sat my sister and I down and explained to us that we are Negroes and that our great grandmother and great grandfather were slaves. My mother was calm as she painstakingly broke down our “Black” history. She said that some White people use the “N-word” for people like us to make themselves feel better and for us to feel less than. She went on to say that I (we) should just ignore anyone that calls us that in the future.
Later she and my father would buy my sister and me the board game, “The Black Experience”. This board game was designed to create pride and educate it’s players about Black life; education beyond an existence of picking cotton and slavery. The game featured the usual anchor figures such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was and is so much of our Black (American) history and heritage that was never taught to us in school. Even in high school (Go! Mt. Carmel Sundevils) during the early 80s, the breadth of my American history curriculum was limited to the similar range of iconic Black trailblazers. As a minority, our (Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, and Native Hawaiians) collective histories have been altered, concealed, and intentionally omitted. Almost to say, that is all you can accomplish. There was no Black Studies course at the time to fill in the blanks of my ancestral education.
Now almost 40 years later, more information is finally available confirming the contributions of Black (African) Americans to this country that weren’t commonly known. I never learned about the prosperous Black town of Greenwood in Tulsa, OK and the ensuing massacre of 1921 that razed town to the ground. Or the amazing Black women (Kathrine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson) who helped launch America into the space race (pun intended). Today, I think about all the lost potential of little Black boys and Black girls had they known of the amazing things our people did and what they could have aspired to be. All minority children deserve to feel represented in the images they see daily on television or more importantly, through images in books referencing historical significance. It’s really cliched to say that our children are the future, but tomorrow has to start now!
I am a Black man often having less than in my life, I am shackled with a history that has been branded on our backs by a population that has viewed me (and others like me) as less than, that we are animals, dumb, and are no good. I am vilified, falsely accused and imprisoned. I am drugged by your powdery poison to suppress me and numb me into submission. I wear the marks of your justice on my neck. My pride, honor, and color I shall take to the grave.
I am undeniably NOT less than, but GREATER than you can imagine. I AM A BLACK MAN
#Blacklivesmatter #georgefloyd #Armaudarbery #breonnataylor #rayshardbrooks #blacktranslivesmatter