“You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society, which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
“Hold your head as high as you can high enough to see who you are little man. Life sometimes is cold and cruel, baby no one else will tell you so remember that you are Black Gold.”
Esperanza Spalding, “Black Gold”
My spirit has labored over this news, so many opinions and so many concerns. I must be honest I don’t really know where to start or what to say. I simply know that something must be said.
I know that what is about to be shared is of a strong opinion mixed with controversial information and that many will find my thoughts difficult to swallow let alone digest. But I simply know that they must be said.
Since 1619 African bodies have walked on American soil as property classing “the black man and the ox together” (DuBois 18). This classification served to remove the black man’s humanity and inject the notion of his innate animalism, which subsequently condoned his oppressor’s use and misuse of his body for economic, psychological, physical, and sexual exploitation. According to U.S. Supreme Court Judge Roger B. Taney, “No Negro whether slave or free, could ever be considered a citizen of the United States…” This law was instated as a means to maintain the abusive behavior being practiced on the African American body. The combination of this ideology and legislation produced what we have now come to understand as American slavery. The practice of this oppressive institution, due to its psychological nature, has had a lasting impact on both the oppressed and the oppressor; something Willie Lynch anticipated and planned for, “I have a fool proof method for controlling your Black slaves, I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 hundred years.”
For years African American literature has documented the various injustices that resulted from the role of white supremacy and its laws. In the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written by himself, Douglass documents his experience as a slave, and particularly as a slave child whose father was unknown but most likely his mother’s Master. He documents that while on the plantation of a Mr. Gore,
“No matter how innocent a slave might be – it availed him nothing…To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always following the other with immutable certainty. To escape punishment was to escape accusation; and few slaves had the fortune to do either” (Douglass 32).
Here, Douglass documents and displays the heightened suspicion placed on African American people, particularly men. It is with this framework that the reader comes to understand that the Black man has never had an opportunity to be tried, but rather that suspicion and accusation have always been enough to convict.
It is also with this quotation that Douglass displays the correlation between color and conviction. Due to the heightened melanin within the black male body white people believe that there is a heightened level of sexuality, violence, and ignorance. For this reason if anything out of the ordinary happens the first suspicion is directed toward not only the black man, but also the darkest black man. And when that suspicion arises within the heart and mind of white supremacists, due to their ideological beliefs concerning the black man, there is no need to query his actions and whereabouts because he will most likely lie; one must simply punish him with severe beatings or death.
Nearly 170 years later the black man is still viewed with heightened suspicion based on heightened melanin and is seen as having little to no value. According to Kara Brown on Jezebel.com in her article “This is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown” the police kill a black man every 28 hours. With the recent cases of police brutality concerning Eric Garner and Mike Brown communities of all races are forced to wonder why is black male life so easily taken? And why does it seem as though the justice system is in support of such abduction?
With such trending hashtags as “IfTheyGunnedMeDown” on twitter people all over are forced to wonder why photos that reinforce suspicion for criminal activity are used to portray the deceased victim in the media rather than pictures that present black male life outside of drugs, violence, crime, and vulgarity. It’s in the tears, moans, groans, and wails of the mothers, fathers, wives, sisters, brothers, and all of humanity that we hear in the distance the screams and cries of Mamie Till yelling, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” And as the blood of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and so many others stains the concrete and dirt of the American ground it cries out for justice. It cries out for answers. But even greater than that it cries out of the injustice of mis-representation and pleas for reorientation on the part of white supremacist and realization on the part of black men.
Therefore, Black man recognize that any human and society that works tirelessly, from its initiation, to destroy you recognizes something that you obviously have not, and that is that you are valuable. You are worth it. If you were not they would not continuously seek to remove your very presence in every way fashionable from the earth.
You must realize that they have lied to you and told you that because of your skin you are nothing, but actually it is your skin that makes you something.
You must realize that they have lied to you and told you that because of your skin you are dangerous, but actually it is your skin that makes you safe.
You must realize that they have lied to you and told you that because of your skin you are stupid, but actually it is your skin that acknowledges your intelligence.
You must realize that they have lied to you and told you that because of your skin you are bound for prison, but actually it is your skin that wreaks of your potential.
How you ask?
How does your skin command so much authority, so much power?
I’ll tell you!
Your skin is the decoration God chose when He made you in His image. When He knelt into the dust of the ground and formed you and shaped you and breathed His living breath into you and you lived and He said you were good.
Your skin in its chosen hue is a reflection of the image of God and because of this you posses the authority to name your destiny. You possess the equity to unite with your equal and have dominion over the world. You possess the sensibility to converse with the Spirit of God and be led into all truth. You possess the stability to be a shelter and lead those closest to you to The Shelter. You posses so much within you if you would simply unlock the spirit that sinful men have tried to keep bound in chains for centuries; you would rise to the high places where you belong.
But in all of that. If you still query of you worth. If you still query of your value. You must realize that the very Being that stooped into the ground to initiate your very existence foresaw that you would be suppressed, depressed, and oppressed and so He went to Calvary to take on all of your stress and will return to liberate you for eternity.
Black Man! If Man never sees your value, If Man never paints the beautiful picture that you are. Remember that to God you are Black Gold.
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. 1963. Reprint. New York: Vintage International, 1993. Print.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. 1845. Reprint. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003. Print.
DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1868. Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
Lynch, Willie. The Willie Lynch Letter & Making of A Slave. 1712. Reprint. New York: African Tree Press, 2011. Print.