As we make our way through the beginnings of a New Year, there is this consensus of having a chance to “start over”. Ventures, opportunities and new undertakings all feel like things that need to happen. For me, this blog is just one of the many ways I figured would be great to make my presence known and kind of renew myself. But as a writer there’s always the age old question of, “what do I write about?” This isn’t the same process as one of my books or poems. I have to stay interesting and engaging, but while always remaining true to myself and beliefs. So, as I sit here annoyingly tapping my finger on the desk, a topic that has been plaguing me for quite a long time resurfaces: the value placed on Black lives in America. If you’ve already proceeded with the exasperated eye roll, then maybe you didn’t stumble upon this blog by accident. I’ve spent so much time trying to explain the mix of outrage and fear of the African descended in this country, and the fact there are still some people that don’t get it is frustrating. And let’s be honest, unless you have witnessed it, our reality may be a difficult one to grasp because you don’t live in our shoes. Now before I begin, let me clarify my use of the word you for propriety’s sake. I use the word you because Black American’s, well the majority of us anyway, don’t need someone to tell us how it feels to be us. So I don’t mean to use this pronoun as a condescending term; I’m using it to simply address you…the reader that may not necessarily be of the same ethnic background as myself and possibly unaware regarding the struggles of being as such. So now, let’s jump right into it. Since roughly 1619, slavery was an integrated part of American society, and no laws or rights prior to its documented abolition pertained to the enslaved people. Slaves were considered property, and therefore treated less than human. They were bred, separated, sold, beaten, broken and always reminded of how inferior they were. After centuries of living this way (the slave vs. the privileged), a type of racial conditioning evolved. Whatever pride and self-love the Africans possessed before reaching American soil was quickly beaten out and replaced with fear and obedience. There were several milestones that had to take place in order for the African descended to reach the level of freedom that we’re at now. First and foremost, they had to want and actually fight to be free. And even though the technicality of abolition and freedom took place, it was barely acknowledged by those that held the position of oppressor. It was said that black people were free, but yet they did not have the same freedoms as other Americans. When I go out and have to use the restroom the only things I’m concerned with are: is it clean, is there toilet paper, and does the door latch work. Never have I had to be concerned with whether it’s for black or white people; but there was a time when it did matter. After slavery ended, the idea of segregation was still a rampant factor. To be honest, racial separation was something that had gone on for centuries. There was no way that America was going to cohesively jump into the boat together and sing kumbaya. So, once again, there was a fight to be had to surpass another milestone that distanced Black people further from the pain and stigmas of slavery. The next step that came was the civil rights movement. At one point, being free was the term for the preverbal band aid used to cover slavery. The United States said, “Hey, you’re free. Just don’t do these things that everyone else can do and we’ll get along great.” This completely negated the term free. So the Black (or African American) population had to fight for that next level of freedom that said, “If everyone in this country is considered American, then we should be able to do the same things everyone else does.” All of these events were steps in the succession of steps that led us to where we are as Black/African Americans today. But through all of this fight and all of this history so many people overlook one poignant fact: the process of slavery was ingrained into the whole concept of America. Several things have happened. The slave/master mentality, though not as prominent as it once was, has still trickled down and made it’s presence known. It almost seems as though the genetics of the pre-abolition mentality has become a virus, passing itself from host to host throughout the decades. Another detriment is America’s refusal to acknowledge its past. I am constantly seeing a meme or post telling me to never forget something, but the second I choose to discuss slavery, oppression, genocide or the slave mentality, I’m told to “get over it”, “it was so long ago” and “stop bringing it up.” I feel that this is another form of conditioning that has taken place: to make it socially unacceptable or frowned upon if slavery, or anything of the like, is brought up. In the past I have often thought about what triggers people to bring up the past. What causes those hurt to continue reliving that hurt that may be decades old? What causes the granddaughter to bear that same cross that her grandmother bore ninety plus years ago? Well for me, it’s often been the lack of acknowledgement or closure by the other party. That wound is open and not even a gauze pad was offered to aid in the healing process. America ended slavery and said “I’m sorry, I’m going to take care of you for the years of free labor, pain and abuse I inflicted upon you.” Then as soon as the time to uphold promises came, America had conveniently forgotten everything.
I often look at the Black community and am pained by what I see. To have overcome so much, but to have settled for so little, is a heartbreaking reality that I am visually and mentally subjected to every day. As a people we have fought and overcome, but deep down, we have still retained some semblance of the broken minds and bodies of our ancestors. If you’ve ever read the Willie Lynch letter, you’ll understand where I am going with this (if you haven’t, please do so while you await Never Forget the Forgotten, Part II). There is so much I want to share, and I want to hear your thoughts as well…but to truly take in knowledge, it’s best to do so a little at a time. Therefore, I am breaking this post up into parts, and I hope that you can take in each one with a fresh mind and eyes. This is a dialogue that, no matter how they have told us to be quiet, needs to happen. And here, in this safe place, is where I can make sure it does.