I must admit that it is often very difficult to explain to some of my people why race is an inextricable tie that binds us ALL together regardless of our individual uniqueness. This inextricable connection was sewn in the hulls of a slave ships, the platforms of slave markets, and the daily existence that our ancestors experienced.
This original tie that binds us together is particularly disturbing for many educated Black folk who it seems to me are more frequently blaming the victims of racism for its existence.
They desperately seek to untie this permanent tie that could be more appropriately termed an eternal knot. If they were present during the moment, the alluded to individuals would take issue with Malcolm X’s admonishment during his Message to the Grassroots that “You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist. You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist or Baptist. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Democrat or a Republican. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk.”
Such ‘formally educated’ Negroes fail to realize that the aforementioned ‘tie that binds’ was neither created nor maintained by African-Americans; it is the white community that they so desperately seek to assimilate into that has resisted their matriculation by maintaining the vibrancy of race in America. The aforementioned optimism regarding racial reconciliation that ‘educated’ Negroes steadfastly hold onto is devoid of any evidence. In fact, mountainous evidence highlights that race will continue unabated as the primary obstacle in African-American lives.
So often we seem to forget the anonymity that unfamiliarity provides; meaning, that when you interact with people who do not know you personally they tend to treat you according to their understanding of what ‘your people’ are like and by extension provide to you the type of respect that they believe ‘people like you’ deserve. For the vast majority of Americans, interacting with strangers can be a pleasant experience; unfortunately, for me, and the vast majority of African-American males, such meetings are rarely enjoyable. The absence of joy is generally caused by the stranger in front of us attempting to ‘size us up’, an evaluation process that invariably leads them to ascribing every negative stereotype and prejudicial thought that their brains can create. In the vast majority of these interactions, the onus is upon us to prove we are not the ‘typical’ African-American male.
For example, this morning I decided to get up and go for a nice brisk walk around the integrated neighborhood that I just moved into two months ago. Although the walk was relatively enjoyable and allowed me to clear my head regarding some matters, it took a familiar turn as I walked up the street I reside. As Yogi Berra once remarked, it was déjà vu all over again as a Sheriff’s Deputy began stalking me.
The Sheriff’s Deputy rode alongside of me talking into his walkie-talkie, an activity that did not cease when one of my neighbors passed me and waved. The Sheriff Deputy followed me step-by-step to the end of the cul-de-sac where I reside. In fact, it was only the fact that the street curved that forced the officer to stop following me in the previously described manner. As I headed up my driveway, he simply stopped and observed me until I opened my front door. Even my entrance into my home did not cause him to leave. He sat in front of my residence for several moments, staring at me as I looked back at him through the window of my office.
There is little doubt that the Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to me a variety of prejudicial thoughts and stereotypes on sight. Never for a moment did he think that I could be an educated African-American male who is a father who loves his son to no end, has earned four graduate degrees from The Ohio State University, including a Ph. D., loves theater, art, music of all kinds from Jazz to Hip-Hop, and took that morning walk to rejuvenate prior to finishing edits on my second book. None of that mattered because of the tie that whites created centuries ago and are steadfastly committed to ensuring that it never unravels. Despite what educated and privileged African-Americans optimistically believe with all of their mental power, the issue of race is here to stay. It is the tie that inextricably binds us together and is held together by white prejudice and discrimination, not to mention the pernicious evil of American racism.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph. D.,
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015