Slavery IS A Choice. Now, Fix Your Face And Keep Reading… (Part 2/2)

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sound like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all?”


Sooooooo…

After watching the two interviews I mentioned in the previous post, I came to the conclusion that, yes, slavery was…AND STILL IS…a choice.

[Insert unbothered face here, bwahahahahaha!!!]

What made the enslavement of our people so effective wasn’t its physical brutality.  The beating, raping, and killing of our ancestors were only a means to an end.  It all served to instill a specific mentality.  In order for slavery to accomplish its goal, we, the enslaved, would have to be made to believe that we were inferior and incapable of anything substantive.  We had to believe that we were less than our masters. We had to be forcefully severed from everything that identified us as sons and daughters of our Mother Land; our dress, our language, our culture, and our spirituality, among many other things.  Their aim was to break us so thoroughly that we could never put ourselves back together.  Our oppressors executed this well, except for one problem…

It didn’t work completely.  AND IT NEVER WILL.

And this leads me to my first argument about why slavery was a choice: Too many of our foremothers and forefathers fought back.  From the moment we saw ourselves fighting for our survival on our home soil, to the moment we were hoarded onto slave ships, to the moment we were herded off those ships, and beyond, our resistance to bondage has been documented, not just by us, but by our oppressors.  From the Amistad slave boat rebellion to the Haitian Revolution, from Nat Turner to Harriet Tubman, from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X, MLK, Jr, and everywhere outside and in between, we’ve shown a willingness to fight for our lives.

I CANNOT, in good conscience, sit here and let y’all so called defenders of the Black race push this ideology that our people were powerless in their situation.

Nat-Turner.jpg

The whole “mind control” argument, in my mind, casts aside the people who stood up and resisted in whatever way they could.  This line of “defense” asserts that the slaves were so thoroughly brainwashed that it made it impossible to choose to resist or escape.  Anyone peddling that train of thought might as well say that our most celebrated heroes, in any era of slavery, were simply anomalies.  They must have been sick.  How could they possibly resist such mind control so much so that they try to leave?  Drapetomania much…?

This defense dismisses the intellectual capacity of our people.  For starters, let’s be clear: “slaves” weren’t taken from Africa.  Doctors, spiritual healers, priests, scholars, queens, kings, artisans, warriors, and many other people of prestige were among the innumerable souls kidnapped from their homelands.

They.  Didn’t.  Kid.  Nap.  Dummies.

Our people fought and died to keep our history, knowledge of self, and dignity alive through generations of the most brutal treatment in history.  Total annihilation of our people would have been the only way Willie Lynch could have subjugated us.

This “choice” the slaves had to make wasn’t an easy one.  Escape could bring punishment and death not only to the escapee, but to those he/she left behind.  Retribution usually awaited those who stayed behind.  Would it have been selfish for a slave to remain in captivity, understanding that it was all but inevitable that nothing would change for him/her or his/her family for perhaps generations to come?  Or would it have been more selfish to make a run for it?  Should one go alone or should one take his/her family?

Simply asking, “what would you have done?” verifies that you also believe slavery is a choice.

And no, I don’t know what I would have done back then.  I wouldn’t expect you to know, either.

When I say slavery is a choice, it isn’t something I say lightly.  A choice is a choice, no matter how dire the options are, and I don’t blame them with either selection, because we wouldn’t be here if they made the wrong choice.

FullSizeRender

I can’t end this without addressing the Black social media #IfSlaveryWasAChoice clapback.  As I mentioned before, the pushback was hilarious, and I definitely saved a bunch of those memes and shared even more.   I know we meant well, but our response revealed something deep within our collective psyche that we need to dig up and confront.

It revealed a sort of hopelessness, hidden behind satire and humor, that we still cling to, that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we won’t ever shake our chains completely loose.  There’s a definite air of contempt for any line of thought that even suggests that we may have assisted in our continued capture, absolving our oppressors of any guilt and responsibility for our past and current state.

…the NERVE of y’all to think I’d let’em off that easily.

We’re still in a mental state of slavery, one that discourages us from getting uncomfortable.  It holds our hopes and dreams hostage.  It restrains us and our families.  And it convinces us that it’s the safest, most surefire way to live.  We’ve seen in our history countless examples of how our leaders have been violently dispatched without having pointed a single firearm in any direction.  This type of terror seeks to keep us in submission, to accept crumbs when there’s enough out here for everyone to eat well.

The response to Kanye’s words, in my mind, proved that we still have a long way to go to convince our masses that, if we work together, we can wage the kind of war that will eventually end our subservience.

So, when I say slavery is a choice, it has nothing in common with any politically conservative, Fox News-esque ideology.  It is the most empowering thing I can say to my fellow Black man, in America, and the world over.  It’s saying that we have the power to deliver what it is we seek: freedom, for ourselves, for our families, and for our future.  No situation is hopeless.

‘Ye reminds me of so much of Andre from “Get Out.”  When you hear him speak, you know something is off.  But just when you think all is lost, he yells with his proverbial last breath…

“Get out.  Get out.  GET THE FUCK OUT!

Kanye’s “slavery is a choice” may be his “Get Out” moment. Make your choice, Chris.

I love y’all.

#BlessedBeTheGrind

Black Identity Extremist: Is Black The New Terrorist?

Roger Goodell wrote an impassioned, yet misguided plea to NFL Chief Execs and Club Presidents to compel their players stand for the National Anthem.  In the letter, he claims he and the League cares for the players concerns and opinions….

*Needle-on-the-record scratch*

You know what?  F-(Bleeeeep!!!)-k all that.  I got a bigger fish to fry here.  LET’S GO!!!

auto-2392167_1920.jpg

On August of this year, the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI published an Intelligence Assessment.  The 12-page report obtained by Foreign Policy has coined what is soon to be a new dog-whistle term for any Black person in America who speaks out against injustice:

Black Identity Extremist.

Maybe it’s just me, but we’re about thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to being labeled as “terrorists” for advocating on our own behalf.

The very first sentence reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.”

Perceptions… of police… brutality….

Almost immediately, decades of documented police brutality and racial profiling are summarily dismissed as “perceptions.”  They’re labeled as such because, in the eyes of the law, these officers who were put on trial were exonerated.  Some of these officers avoided incarceration for shooting and killing unarmed Black people.  If a law enforcement official can confront a citizen, confirm they’re unarmed, gain their compliance, shoot and kill him/her, AND HAVE IT JUSTIFIED UNDER THE LAW WHILE THE WORLD WATCHES, it’s not a “perception,” it’s a REALITY.

It’s a reality that I, and people who look like me, have to be extraordinarily nonaggressive in order to possibly survive an encounter with an extraordinarily aggressive officer.  Don’t our tax dollars pay for training officers to keep their cool while on-duty?  Does that training include throwing out all that knowledge when encountering Blacks?

#ImAskinForMyPeople

The assessment labels groups that the government considers to be dangerous and more prone to act out violently against police.  You can read the report and find out who they are.  I’ll say this much: as of now, it’s only limited to a few small groups and are a clear minority in the overall movement of Black empowerment and social justice.  They don’t have a history of violence against the government, but they will be attacked as though they’ve been public enemy #1, through both media and politics.  I highly recommend and strongly suggest you research these organizations for yourself, and come to your own conclusions, before mainstream media and the government formulate it for you.

quote-the-media-s-the-most-powerful-entity-on-earth-they-have-the-power-to-make-the-innocent-malcolm-x-18-45-32.jpg

The assessment goes on to list six incidences of retaliatory police attacks since the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown, a Black, unarmed eighteen-year-old brother, in Ferguson, Missouri.  This particular incident is seen as the catalyst for the six examples or retaliatory acts against police.

Again, the tunnel vision in this report is mind-boggling.  In my mind, it’s a clear attempt to isolate and fragment an otherwise clear and contiguous history of violence and profiling against Black people.  It’s as though everything and everyone lived in perfect harmony until this one minor incident occurred, and now everyone’s blowing it out of proportion.  Apparently, no one had enough patience to list at least six murders of Black men, women, and children at the hands of police.  Don’t worry, here’s at least 75 to get you started.

I strongly believe that laws are created to enforce cultural beliefs.  The laws created by the United States of America are no different.  They reinforce a culture of disdain and disrespect of Black people.  Any law that goes against the dominant culture gets slowly eroded over time.  You need look no further than the 2013 Supreme Court ruling regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for a recent example.

This counterterrorism assessment is yet another document in a long line of documents written with the purpose of chiseling away at any semblance of Black empowerment.  America’s history has shown us, time and again, that it will go to great lengths to sabotage and disintegrate any movement that seeks to level the playing field for us.  Eventually, the list of the few organizations named will grow to include almost any organization, and people, who speak out publically.  Every act of violence against police by a Black person will be attributed to them in the court of dominant cultural public opinion.

That opinion will influence the politics.  The politics will influence the legislation.  The legislation will influence the injustice.  The injustice will influence the outrage.  The outrage will influence the acts of violence.  The acts of violence will influence public opinion….

Do you see where this is going?

I don’t endorse the killing of police.  But as a Black man in America, I understand the rage that we feel when we see our own people murdered by the officials who swear to serve and protect us from harm.  We’re told to entrust our lives to them, but too often they take our lives, and are summarily justified according to the law.

I’ve chosen to focus my negative energy into building us up economically, in order to increase positive, wealth-generating contact among ourselves, and to regain control of our interactions with, and detrimental dependency upon, everyone else to provide necessary services to us.

All of you soon-to-be-labeled BIEs should do the same.  I love you.

Oh, snap…I forgot to mention COINTELPRO

#BlessedBeTheGrind

 

 

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 5: Politics

The Declaration of Independence was unanimously signed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776.

On July 5th, 1776, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.

On June 21st, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th (and deciding) state to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America.

On June 22nd, 1788, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.

The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1865 following the Civil War, outlawed slavery for all people EXCEPT convicted felons.  Three years later, the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States.  The 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 grants voting rights to all people without respect to race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Of these three amendments, the 13th is the most important in terms of how America uses its laws to continue our oppression in other forms.  “Black Code” laws and variations of those laws legally upheld segregation and unequal treatment of Black people for decades.  It allowed for harsher prosecution of Black criminals, leading to disproportionately high conviction and incarceration rates, and providing over a century of data to support the “fact” that Blacks deserve the treatment they receive from law enforcement.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction…”

angola.jpg

(Picture source: http://solitarywatch.com/2011/07/28/gods-own-warden-inside-angola-prison/)

Keep in mind, from a federal standpoint, women still didn’t have the right to vote.  That didn’t come until the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.  So only our men could vote.

Long story short: The cost of your freedom was NEARLY ALL OF YOUR FREEDOM.

The Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” and no piece of legislation is allowed to stand in opposition to it.  All the legislations, statues, and lesser documents, including the ones that restricted our freedoms, were in agreement with this constitution. America’s history has shown, unequivocally that THESE LAWS ONLY CHANGE WHEN WHITE AMERICA FEELS THREATENED ECONOMICALLY.

Had Black people not rebelled through violence and escape from plantations, causing untold millions of dollars in damages to property (including themselves, because they were considered property), we’d probably still be slaves today.  Had Black people not been so economically prosperous during the latter half of the Jim Crow Era, to the point of organizing and sustaining targeted economic actions against legalized segregation, we’d still be drinking out of “Colored Only” water fountains and giving up front seats on public buses.

The reason American politics is a threat to the Black Man in America is because we, as a group, believe that it will cure our economic woes.  “Voting for the right politician will help us get out of our rut.”  “The next election is the most important election.”  And on the day after Election Day, we’re thrown on the backburner, left to wonder in amazement at how we got nothing out of the deal.

Wash.  Rinse.  Dry.  Fold.  Store.  Use.  Repeat.

hobo-315961_1280.jpg

A big deal was made within the Black community about voting during 2016 election cycle.  Two candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump, fought for the presidency soon to be vacated by Barack Obama.  Neither of the two candidates were good choices for Black people.

Donald Trump…well, we know his history.  He touted it as a source of pride throughout the election with impunity.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was considered by many to be the more palatable choice.  As First Lady to former president Bill Clinton, she supported his 1994 Crime Bill, which drove already high rates of incarcerated Black people into the outer reaches of space.  She was also seen on video referring to gang members (read: Black people) as “superpredators” who needed to be brought to heel.

No remorse for her support of that crime bill or her own statements was shown until she needed our vote.  And Black folks FLOCKED to her as though she could do no wrong, the same we were fooled into thinking Bill Clinton was our first “black president” because he played the saxophone on “The Arsenio Show.”

“You have to vote!  Our ancestors died for your right to vote!”

You know what my ancestors DIDN’T DIE FOR?  Me to settle for mediocre and to just hope that someone will “be nice to us.”  Or to settle for “the lesser of two evils.”  I didn’t vote in this election for those reasons.

It’s one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Surely, progress has been made in the fight for social justice. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was the last major piece of federal legislation to make us, in theory, equal to the rest of America. In practice, however, America continues to do what it’s always done: find ways to skirt its own laws to keep the upper hand in its relationship with its Black citizens.

We have to stop looking to politics as our way up and out.  Given the history of how this country has treated us LEGALLY, I see no hope in relying SOLELY upon our vote.  In a nation where capital fuels politics, a broke person with the power to vote can only elect an official who’ll continue listening to the person with the money.

I love you.  #BlessedBeTheGrind

 

5 Threats to The Black Man In America Part 2: Religion

I’ve been a member of a certain church on the Southside of Fort Wayne literally my entire life.  I was baptized into the faith as an infant, and raised in it.  I attended Christian schools from Kindergarten until I graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School in 2003.

Christian churches have been staples in Black communities all across America since the days of chattel slavery.  The church has been one of the few places where Black people could come and express all the emotions conjured up by the harsh, unforgiving, racist world, and receive a message of hope.  The Nation of Islam, The Hebrew Israelite faith, and many other faith groups have also come into play the past decades.

During the era of legalized segregation, the church played a vital in the lives of the community.  They were more than simply houses of worship.  They provided food and shelter for hungry and homeless souls, funded schools to educate children, and backed the Black business owners that helped create legendary Black Wall Streets in towns all over the country.  The churches cared for the communities they served. And it showed.

But the direction changed after the Civil Rights Movement.

detour-1180794_1920.jpg

Somewhere along the road, the church has lost the spirit to help the Black community.  I believe the church, specifically the Christian church, is hiding behind its religion to shield itself from its economic obligation to its community.

There was a homeless man who came to the church every week asking for money.  The usher who passed out the Divine Service agenda would always offer him canned goods in lieu of money.  One Sunday I finally asked him why we didn’t give him any cash.  His response was that if you give them cash once, they’ll keep coming back.  What bothered me most was that it was ASSUMED that this guy was not going to be a good steward of any money given to him.

I was blind to the fact that the church wasn’t any better of a steward.

With as much money as Black people tithe on any given Sunday, I believe that the Black church is OBLIGATED to put that money to good use in the community.  And I ain’t talking about the “building fund,” either.

The money we tithe every Sunday is being put to use AGAINST US.  Our churches take that money and deposit it into banks.  I’ll make a conservative guess that 99% of all our money is being held in banks that Black people don’t own, in banks where it’s tougher for us to get a business loan, personal loan, or any other type of financial help than for a White person.

That money is being used to give loans to people, businesses, and government agencies that engage in, among other things, the gentrification of Black neighborhoods.

In essence, we’re helping to fund our own demise.

lobbying-161689_960_720

You don’t have to love money in order to use it.  Understanding that you’ll need a lot of it to effect meaningful change in the community doesn’t necessarily make you greedy or sinful.  Our relationship with money must change, because as long as it doesn’t, Black people will suffer.  We should provide for our people by any means necessary, and that includes money, wealth, and ownership.  There’s nothing wrong with using our money for a cause that secures the safety and health of the people.

In the Bible, the love of money is considered to be the root of all evil.  It also tells us that we should be content with just food and clothing.  Both of those ideals can be found in the book of 1 Timothy, the 6th chapter And, if you ask me, it’s no coincidence that servants are also exhorted to obey their masters in the same chapter.

In my mind, it conflicts with the idea of helping others in need.

“But Jesus walked into the temple and drove out all the people who bought and sold inside of it. It’s right there in the Bible…”

Yeah, it’s in there.  But that doesn’t stop you from conducting business in another building.

So why is it such an anathema for us to talk about what Black churches do with our money?  Why is the talk of economic empowerment so vehemently hushed up?  I have a million reasons as to why that is, but not one of them justifies our willingness to allow things to continue on this present course…a course of continual enslavement.

We see pastors everywhere urging their congregations to organize for social and political matters.  We see them march, rally, and protest all types of injustices.  But we rarely see or hear our pastors preach economic empowerment.  There’s so much talk of our people being in poverty, unemployed, uneducated, and under deadly scrutiny of law enforcement, while ALMOST NOTHING is being said to address it other than to pray for better days.

We’re always pushed to seek justice and equality through social means.  The problem is that we’ve achieved as much social equality as is humanly possible in this still-racist society, and we’re STILL in our own hell on earth.

Our parents and grandparents fought for social justice.  Now it’s our turn to fight for economic justice.

Our churches need to get their eyes on the ball.

ali-yahya-355089.jpg

Those of us who are Christian need to start asking questions of our church leaders.  You don’t have to make a grand stand and rival your preacher’s sermon.  It may very well be the case that the economic role of the church was honestly never brought up in your congregation.  You could be the catalyst.

Even Jesus was one man.

Economic empowerment can come in many forms.  It can come through scholarships, home ownership programs, job fairs, or building and/or restoration projects of houses and other structures.  Starting a church garden or buying a farm and producing your own crops to feed your congregations and others in the surrounding area is a possibility.  Whatever choice is made is better than no choice at all.

It’s time the church use its God-given abilities to produce God-fearing results.

You don’t have to have all the answers up front.  I know I certainly don’t.  But it’s a conversation that we need to engage in, and I believe it’s the Christian thing to do.  When it’s all said and done, it’s about helping people to be better than they were yesterday.  Doing that helps EVERYONE in our community.

Everyone wins when we take a more holistic, unified approach to our prosperity.  Religion and economics can be separate and equal at the same time.  One can certainly help the other.  We just need to make the connection happen…

#BlessedBeTheGrind

I encourage you to check out Part I of this series if you haven’t yet done so…

My Response to Retired officer Chris Amos’ Open Letter to Colin Kaepernick

(Click here if you have not yet read Officer Chris Amos’s open letter to Colin Kaepernick.)

Officer Amos, your service is truly appreciated.  From what I gathered in your letter, you were involved in a police-action shooting.  You were shot and wounded, and you responded by returning fire.  Unfortunately, a man died.  You were put on paid administrative leave and rehab, and returned to duty.  I’m glad you pulled through.  For that, I am thankful.

Now, let’s get down to business.  Your open letter to Colin Kaepernick DISGUSTS me.

Kaepernick’s protest specifically calls out police brutality.  His protest brings attention to officers who shoot and kill people UNJUSTLY and get away with it.  If you believe your actions were justified, why would you believe that he’s protesting you?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because he IS protesting you.  Your open letter, no matter how well-intentioned, is merely a written version of the response given for as long as America has existed: a response of deflection.

His protest, along with many patriotic Americans, doesn’t just call out the obviously corrupt officers.  He also points the finger at you and your fellow officers who say and do little to root them out.  You speak about all the good that the overwhelming majority of 800,000 officers do for us as though it should be enough to shut us up about the few that do bad.  You deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

What also disgusts me is how you “dig up” your friends who either died or commited suicide in the line of duty, in an attempt to shame him, and by extension all protesters, for showing and voicing their discontent.  Allow your fellow officers to rest in peace!  They died upholding the same laws of this country that you upheld.  Those laws, among other things, grant the right to protest.  You don’t get to pick and choose which rights you care to enforce.  Your personal feelings DO NOT MATTER.  Kaepernick could hate your guts, but if he’s within his rights to do so, you have no choice but to protect him.  Here also, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

To protest, by definition, is to express objection to someone or something.  There’s no acceptable or inoffensive way to engage in it.  Dismissing the REASON for a protest because you don’t like the METHOD is unacceptable.  Dismissing his protest because he’s rich and famous is unacceptable.  You don’t respond by relabeling the protest a larger problem than the one it seeks to address.  But you did just that, and in doing so, you again deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

You made it a clear point in your letter to let us know that an elderly black man assisted you in locating the criminals you were chasing.  His helping you and your partner DOES NOT JUSTIFY YOUR BELIEFS IN ANY WAY.  He was simply doing what all citizens of America are asked to do when crime happens: speak up.  If anything, he and Colin Kaepernick have more in common than you will ever have with either one of them.  Speaking up in a community where decades of mistrust demands that you don’t talk to police is a tough thing to do.  And apparently, so is speaking up about law enforcement not serving and protecting everyone equally.  In this regard, once again, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.  (I’ll spare you, in the interest of time, my opinion of the history of America trotting out individual black people that, knowingly or unknowingly, cosign its agenda of racially-motivated politics, economics, and education.)

At some point we, as a nation, have to stop deflecting.  In the same way we call on other nations to own up to their mistakes, we must also own up to our own.  There’s no shame in that.  The shame comes when we deflect attention away from issues we need to address.  It’s paramount to defending bad behavior.

Sincerely,

Devin Wilson