Updated: Jul 14, 2020
"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
--Ida B. Wells-Barnett
After consulting with a military veteran, Colin Kaepernick followed his advice. He knelt during the national anthem in silent, peaceful protest against police killing unarmed black men and the apartheid-like conditions that have been imposed on black people in America for centuries. MAGA Bully Trump took issue. He arrogantly hijacked Kaepernick’s Constitutional rights and the “good ole boy” NFL owners banished the brother from the professional football Plantation. Predictably, mainstream America claimed, “We just don’t understand.” They wonder, “Why are black people still so angry?” White people have lied to themselves for so long, they have deluded themselves into not believing the things black people see, experience and cannot forget.
We saw the Police white-man kneel on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. We saw three other Policemen stand by, as their brother officer knee-choked a handcuffed black man to death. White America has always believed black people look menacing. We can’t be surprised white policemen, in particular, but, the police in general, see danger when they see us. But this is not just about black men. Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson were black women. Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice were killed before they could grow up to become men. We have seen video of a little five-year-old black girl being arrested at school because adult-teacher white people called the police to say she was “out of control.” Black people are endangered precisely because we live in the United States.
James Baldwin wrote, “The Fire Next Time.” Enough people refused to listen, and The Next Time has exploded into This Now Time. If he were alive today, Malcolm would say, “The chickens have come home to roost.” The rage and fury we are seeing is real. It has origins. A blinding anger is in our bones. I have always felt it aching inside. I just didn’t know how to describe it, until I entered the Slave House in Badagry, Nigeria. I stood before the Christian grave marker of Chief Sunbo Mobee—an African seller of “slaves.” No words to describe the pain you feel, deep down inside the male dungeon at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana; a dungeon built beneath an English church. No thing to hold the searing anguish that consumes you, standing inside the female dungeon at Ghana’s Elmina Castle.
This pain is ancestral. It has been passed up from generation to generation. We are now seeing it in a generation that is saying enough is enough. They are saying, you will hear us. They are saying, we will make it stop. What we are witnessing is the same, but it is also different. History is always in the process of becoming. It does not repeat itself. History can only pass by us. For this generation, the Civil Rights Era is something that was only mentioned during Black History Month at school. They don’t know Tommy Smith and John Carlos. They know Colin Kaepernick. They know Lebron. They don’t know Harry Belafonte. They know Jay-Z. They know Beyoncé. They know Kendrick Lamar. They know Black Panther.
Even though they don’t know her name, the spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer is in them. She said, “When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody gonna speak out for you.” She said, “You can pray until you faint, but if you don’t get up and try to do something, God is not gonna put it in your lap.” Hamer was “woke” before “stay woke.” She said, “Whether you have a PH.D. or no D, we in this bag together. And whether you from Morehouse or Nohouse, we still in this bag together. Not to fight to try to liberate ourselves from the men – this is another trick to get us fighting among ourselves – but to work together with the black man, then we will have a better chance to just act as human beings, and to be treated as human beings in our sick society.”
The Hip Hop generations are in the streets, and the white kids, the Asian kids, the Latino Kids, the LGBTQ kids have followed them. They are marching in Toronto, in London, in Berlin. Young people are watching in Ghana. They are watching in South Africa. They are watching in China. They are watching in Brazil. They are watching in Mexico. Young people are watching all around the world. Malcolm X is a picture on a tee shirt to them, but his spirit is in them. He taught, “I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.”
Colin Kaepernick was the peaceful warning, but America refused to take heed. Sadly, it took a global pandemic to make Americans finally acknowledge a truth that has always been true in America. Black people, Indigenous people, peoples of color have always been subjugated, exploited and demeaned in white people’s world. The so-called advanced nations, including the United States, are all guilty. This is not an indictment, so much as it is to point out the place where true reconciliation and healing must begin. Without the rioters wreaking havoc, there would be no discussion of the depth of the real problems. Without the peaceful demonstrations, there would be no recognition of what it will take to begin putting shattered black lives back together.
Yes, black people are hurting. The nation is reeling. Is healing possible? It was not until I stood in the open Door of No Return in the House of Slaves on Senegal’s Goree Island, that I was finally able to lay this burden down. It took the ultimate return to Ancestral lands to begin to put the shattered pieces of myself back together. Last year, more than a million people of African descent traveled to Ghana to participate in the historic, Year of the Return. Mainstream media chose to not report the significance or the implications of that year long pilgrimage. If a meaningful end to this volcanic social eruption is to be achieved, genuine spiritual healing must take place.
Maya Angelou once told me, “Bitterness gives nothing back.” She was trying to teach me, hating white people is not the answer. Hating white people has only led us to hating ourselves. It is finally time for Europeans and peoples of European descent to look into the mirror; to look into the true nature of the fears that have poisoned so many of them. The European nations that engaged in the Slave Trade and in the brutal colonization of the African continent have never really acknowledged or apologized for their criminal behavior. The United States has never formally acknowledged or atoned for its institutional role in slavery and Jim Crow apartheid. No serious discussion of reparations has ever taken place. No genuine effort has ever really been made to undo the endemic damage done to black people.
The young people that have taken over the streets are saying to America, “We are not interested in just hearing you say the right things. We are watching what you do next.” They are watching to see if their leaders will really say what they mean, and if they will really mean what they say. America has never been the America it says it is on paper. People are marching and fires are burning all over the country, in a fashion we have never seen before. Yes, a bright Black light is shining on White Darkness. The whole world is watching to see, "What is the real United States going to do?"