“All we say to America is, Be true to what you said on paper.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I truly don’t like to be labeled “over-opinionated” or “difficult”, but as a black man, an American, better yet an African-American, who has studied not only my history, but the history of other cultures, my country, its democracy, its relation to my mother continent of Africa and the rest of the world; I can’t fully explain what it feels like to read about the oppression, exploitation, and exclusion of certain Americans from the American Dream. To see your own government, sic dogs on your people, water hose them, lynch them, enslave them, classify them as second class citizens, Jim Crow them, mass incarcerate them, racially profile them, and exterminate them is disgusting, soul stirring, bone chilling and heartbreaking. They were killed for voicing black liberation, integration, separation. They were denied voting rights, fair housing, jobs, decent education, control over their local economies, their own citizenship. They were denied involvement in policies to buy land, forced into sharecropping. The few who built independent towns, districts and economies saw them burnt down, devastated with violence and brutality. They were oppressed and marginalized for exercising their humanity and wanting to be accepted by a country that kidnapped them, broke them into slaves, raped them, emasculated them, forced them into chattel slavery, robbed them of their culture, their God, their language, their families, their manhood, their womanhood, their humanity.
While the other “Americans” created social constructs like race to justify white supremacy/domination, and economic/social/political exploitation and oppression, and built great wealth off of their backs, ultimately treating them like less than a human being; they fought for independence from Britain but classified black people as 3/5 of a person and prevented that same independence and freedom from applying to dark skinned people. They used the freedom of black people as a political and economic ploy to maintain power and control. They flooded our streets with drugs and guns then used the government to kill our leaders and disassemble movements. They created great disparities in economics, health, and education that make black people live as second class citizens and not be active participants in the so called American Dream which is not only an American Fallacy but an American Nightmare.
That is just the history of black people, not counting other non-white people. I didn’t even mention this country exterminating Native Americans by stealing their land and resources. When you read that history, how insulting and cowardly of me to buy into mainstream propaganda? How insulting of you to tell me that I should not feel a way about how status quo politics and political parties has become? Don’t insult me, but try understand me, as I am trying to understand history and how we truly need to move forward. My ancestors would want me to do that, not just go along to get along because it annoys or inconveniences you to know the truth. My ancestors fought not to vote, but for their humanity, to be regarded as an American citizen in a country that did not want them. They fought to live as a human being with pride, dignity, with complete freedom, justice and equality. They fought to not go backwards back into slavery. In 2012, the conditions of black people, and other poor and oppressed cultures of people, justifies the massive change needed to move forward.
Our present day shows us that black people are not faring well in this country, that conditions are getting worse, and that we are moving backwards. How many times have oppressed people heard the “lesser of two evils” line, with a hope that a political party, elected official would bring change in their lifetime? How many times? How many times more must we be force fed this, before the “people” of this country truly take up each others cause, not just in symbolism, emotional rhetoric, and appearance at political conventions, but in true dialogue to bridge understanding, and move forward with solutions that delivers what our constitution says its all about. When will the people, wake up, and get real, become serious about actually seeing democracy truly work for all people in this country? When will we exercise the truth to be self-evident in that constitution that man is born with inalienable rights? Real change comes from the people.
The people must be its own government, be the check and the balance on its gov’t as its gov’t is the check and balance on them. The legislative-executive-judicial branches are all checks and balances on their supposed respective power. We must be the check and balance of our own gov’t because we are the democracy, we are the country, we are the people and the power has been, and will always be with the people! If you cannot check and balance your government, hold them accountable to democracy or to the concept of the constitution because you are blinded by propaganda and romanticized patriotism, then you are contributing to our own oppression, exploitation and the erosion of your country, your constitution, your democracy. You are compromising the quality of life of everyone around you, your children and future generations to come. You have to become politically, economically, and intellectually independent enough to do for self, think for self, and organize your self with action! The power is in organized people and organized money, with collective identity and purpose. The power is an agenda that you hold people to when they want your dollar or in this case, your vote. Civic engagement does not stop at the ballot box. It truly starts and ends by holding your government accountable to what it claims to be on paper. Assata Shakur said, “And I believe that a lost ship, steered by tired, seasick sailors, can still be guided home to port.” We have the power within us, and collectively to save ourselves, but do we have the will?
As I look in my own city, my own block on 10th and North Ave, this country, black people, poor people, oppressed people are dying a silent death. No amount of propaganda, or warm feelings feeds their families, heals those wounds, cures the inner city violence, or helps restore the lives of those who are lost in the dark pits of despair. No amount of romanticized patriotism solves the great problems that lies before us. Someone asked me do I love America. I am an American, an African American. I love what it could possibly be, but I can not embrace the hypocrisy, the oppression, the exploitation, the injustice, and inequality. I won’t settle for less than what I deserve. I figure if we all love America, like we claim to do around elections, that we will fight, live and die for each others right to be free, than just celebrate the Black President, be blinded by black love in the White House, be stirred by the words of President Obama, President Clinton or First Lady Michelle Obama. We must do better, and actually work hard for diversity in thought and action economically, politically, socially, educationally, not just be inspired by the diversity shown at a convention.
We must take our democracy seriously and make sure that every living being has the opportunity to be an independent person that sees true justice, equality, freedom and the opportunity to pursue their dreams in their lifetimes. I am not cynical, I am just an idealist who understands the realities of the times. I read, I study, I have been in politics, in labor, in social work. I have grown up in Milwaukee, Chicago, in this country of America and what I was taught in those textbooks is not true. I am passionate about black people, and humanity overall. I want to be free of oppression and exploitation. I want democracy to work for folks here, in Africa, across the diaspora, across the world.
I won’t accept pragmatism if it stunts growth or halts progress. I will not advocate partisan or bi-partistan strategies if they fail to meet the needs of the people. I want real change, real progress. I want to move in any direction that promises true democracy in my lifetime or the next. If I have to be pragmatic, progressive, conservative, moderate, reformist or revolutionary, to get it, so be it. But don’t give me sugar water and tell me its champagne. I want what my ancestors died for, complete freedom, justice, and equality by any means necessary. I will do whatever it takes, and work with whomever I have to, to make it happen. Change comes from the people. If you love America, hold her to her words.
Like Dr. King said before he was assassinated the next day, “All we say to America is, be true to what you said on paper.”