The Burden of The Brutalized Is Not To Comfort The Bystander
Every man, woman, and child deserves to be able to sit at the table and break bread with his kind, humankind that is. -Lobo Savage
Jesse Williams delivered an amazing acceptance speech for the Humanitarian Award at the BET awards. It was a speech that many needed to hear especially the divided black community. The media has taken to this speech in true media fashion by exhibiting a deluge of tepid support, vociferous hate, and a flurry of misunderstanding.
I decided as a forward thinking young black man (who has grown up in this country and seen some of the horrors that racism has to offer) I should take some time out of the routine and help break down some of what was covered and give my opinion on things...
First and foremost, let it be said that I am a supremacist of NO kind. But I do believe the African American community has been dished the shit (excuse my Swahili) end of the stick. Also, I am a firm believer in the truth that, although racism has brought about many atrocities, we can't only place blame the current situation on others, but must also look inside our own communities sometimes in order to weed out the snakes. We could not have fallen this far without heavy betrayal from within.
There are many religions, races, and cultures that I've studied and have come to admire over the years for their companionship and genuine sense of community. So it is my hope that a unified "black" community will one day rise up and serve as a source of pride and inspiration for all of us in the African Diaspora around the world, to be among the greatest in the human civilization, like we used to be.
Lets Dig in...
Now the beauty of America is that it has no real culture of its own (Don't act like you didn't know). America and its constellation of urban population centers serves as the cauldron through which members of the world's different cultures contribute their spice to the ever evolving mix of culture soup that brews over the fires of freedom. Like any soup, adding too much of a single ingredient will most certainly overpower the existing medley of flavors.
None of us, except for Native Americans, are indigenous to this dear land so logic should dictate that the main ingredient of this effervescent culture soup that brews should be one contributed by those belonging to America's First Nations. Unfortunately conquest (like Wonder Bread) is a real thing. The key to the conquest of a people is to "divide and conquer". I can tell you they (the Man, Babylon, You Know Who, [Insert your favorite euphemism], etc) have done a spectacular job in dividing (read: de-culturizing) and discarding the communities they came across. In our school systems they've been made to compromise on the education and acknowledgment of our country's cultural diversity, but hardly enough when it comes to curriculum and what kids are actually learning.
Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month (thanks Obama), and other faux exhibitions of false progress are given to children of school age for the simple fact that its no longer socially acceptable to ignore our existence. In the grand scheme of things what does one month of censored education and a few lousy school projects based on watered down versions of revolutionary figures do for educating kids on the good, the bad, and the ugly of their cultures and their history. I believe in order to truly get a solid grasp of the origins of your place in this society, you must absorb it all. There are certain topics that should be treaded over carefully in school and things that should just be taught at home, but outright censorship and denial of an entire people's history and cultural influence on our society is UNACCEPTABLE.
Smoothing over the hostility involved in slavery and referring to captured slaves as immigrants and workers is absolutely unacceptable. I understand history is told by those who won the war, but when teaching someone about their origins a skewed story is no better than lie all together. Those who tell the truth can live in the light but those who lie, cheat, and steal must reside in the shadows because they cannot bare to be seen in true form.
Jesse understands that he is in the spotlight due to his career in Hollywood, but pays homage to those behind the scenes that may never get the spotlight. Regardless of recognition they continue to fight the good fight. These men and women are out here taking the baby steps and helping to organize a more unified front in the battle to bring down inequality. He is also calling to action the enlightened, aware, and educated. The truth is people cannot be free until they understand they are in captivity. If a person doesn't feel boxed in then what reason do they have to complain or rebel? Its through education and awareness that one can truly understand the conditions on which they are free. In understanding the conditions of freedom we gain insight into the difference between what we are told is free and what the actual definition of captivity is.
I once took a feminism class thinking I'd learn only about Womens' Suffrage movements and the hardships they faced throughout a history of fighting to be heard in a man's world. To my surprise, this class taught about the parallels that Feminism and other global suffrage movements that call for social change share. True Feminism shares a whole lot and is intrinsically linked with the African American Civil Rights Movement in terms of similar struggles and triumphs. Jesse's recognition of black women is of major importance to the overall speech. All women: the Mother, the Daughter, the Sister, the Defender, have always been in the midst of, and are the one's who bear the brunt of all burdens resulting out of conflict. They have played a role that I know many men are unwilling to take. The best thing we can do for women is to better ourselves and show them we truly believe in equality for all.
Jesse takes a moment to address one of America's most sensitive subjects at the moment. America is torn with opinions on the solution to our current state of affairs with our law enforcement and the unjust killing of black citizens. The situation is tense because both sides have arguments worth listening too, but these arguments or apologies cannot bring the dead back. Police, pressured in a tense situation, respond differently with reference to race. This could be caused by multiple reasons including racial bias, fear, or just genuine swift decision making without consequence consideration. The problem lies in the fact that blacks are disproportionately falling victim to this tragedy compared to our white brethren. Crooked and prejudice cops have hidden behind the badge for decades and been protected by their family in blue. Their actions have proved toxicity in terms of public outlook. Depending on your upbringing and environment the youth learn very different approaches to interacting with law enforcement. Submission sometimes proves the wrong answer just as the confrontation can also prove the wrong route. There is plenty of misunderstanding and miscommunication surrounding the subject. The point is law enforcement must adjust their approach drastically in certain situations in order to truly serve and protect. Their job is like none other but, like Uncle Ben once told a young Peter Parker, with great power comes even greater responsibility, and they are not rising to the occasion. The current system benefits specific groups (rich, white, protestant, male, etc) and many activists have been fighting to put a new system in place with little success. Small triumphs only make us lazy enough to fall farther without a fight. The "Master's" system was not built with our benefit in mind, it was built to give us a false sense of freedom. It serves an invisible cage meant to keep us in the chains of slavery. Whether these chains are mental or physical depends on your life choices. A genuine change is needed because to sit back allow such injustice to take place is sickening.
"The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those who still define the Master’s house as their only source of support.”-Audre Lorde
In this part Jesse outlines the trials and tribulations of the Black Community touching on the epidemic of designer brands and the efforts on behalf of blacks throughout history to pay it forward in service to their country in hopes their country would recognize and accept them. He then states "the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander" this is a message to the those who are "on the fence" or neutral. It's the view of the moderates that freedom of others should be sacrificed in order to maintain overall order. As surprising as it is, there are the moderate whites out there who are uncomfortable at the afro-communities approach to find justice and believe we should adjust our approach because it makes them uncomfortable. I got one thing to say "we want to be comfortable too". If you were put in such compromising situations you may seek a similar route. If it were your kids lives that were in danger, would you sit by and hope things workout for the best or would you be a true parent and take an active role?
FACT: The USA was built on the backs of Black African Slaves. That is a debt that seems to remain unpaid, but for some reason America's credit scores is still poppin.
FACT: Black America has, and continues, to drive, to inform, and to shape what little slivers of culture America actually has. Black has become the "thing to be" in society. Wesley and Dakota, dip into and enjoy it at their leisure, but conveniently shed it like snake skin and begin to demonize it the very moment it no longer suits them (usually when Mom and Dad comeback home from the country club). The very problem is that the stigma Dakota and her brother successfully dodge is the very thing that follows Black people everywhere we go. It's literally in our skin. We cannot get away from it. We were born in it and we will die in it. So all the good and bad that comes with it is for us to deal with. There is no avoiding the burden they placed on the black individual. So we deal with it and always make an attempt to remove the misunderstanding when given the opportunity.
This speech was a moment I will remember till my dying day. I just hope before that day comes I witness true equality for all.
Thank you Jesse Williams for saying what some were afraid to say.