“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.”
– W. E. B. Du Bois – “Soul of Black Folks”
That’s a hell of a question. How does it feel to be a problem?
How does it feel to walk into a room and be the only brown person and made to feel as though you don’t belong?
How does it feel to be followed around the department store because you don’t look like everyone else who shops here?
How does it feel to live in a community and feel as though the people who swore to protect you are only searching for a reason to harm you?
How does it feel to be a problem?
One would be remiss if I were to pretend that the issue of race is only directed at the Black Community. While I fully understand that this streams across the broad spectrum of those of ebony hue, I wish only to highlight the unfortunate past of African Americans in an effort to argue its relevance in our present day.
Time after time, when these horrific events happen, one holds out the hope that this idea of Justice will prevail. We watched the memorials for Travon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, here recently Alton Sterling, and the very next day, Philando Castile. These are only the ones that made news headlines, there are many more cases like this that happen all of the time.
This happens so often, that Black Communities have become somewhat numb. It is almost expected that if you are driving a nice car and you are a black person, the probability of being pulled over for a random “Probable Cause” stop, is extremely high. It is assumed by most people who live in a predominantly black neighborhood or an impoverish area that the police can do what they like, and there is nothing that the residents can do about it. This mentality has so many similarities to what is known as Plantation Politics.
The worse thing about all of this, is that of all people, the Black Community should be hip by now. The Black Community of all people should know not to fall for these tricks. We’ve come too far to revert back. All too often we have sold our talents, our skills, our recipes, our gifts, our people, our soul for that of a dollar or worse the hope of being accepted. We know full well that being silent does not bring about change. Any student of history should see that this is nothing more but a repeat episode of our past. Systemically the odds have always been stacked against this group of other, enslaved, 3/5th’s a man, or as Du Bois puts it, a problem.
While the horrific images are extremely crude. Videos were a 4-year old girl says to her mom after her dad has died from being shot by the police, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m here with you!” Or when a body lays in the middle of the street for hours uncovered. Or when the grand jury rules and says the actions of the officer were justified. Its reminiscent of what Billie Holiday spoke of in her song, “Strange Fruit.” Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
These moments make one so disgusted that all you feel you can do is drop your head in your hands and just give up hope. But if you are a student of history, you know that is the last thing that our people will do.
“Love is the only force that is capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” Martin Luther King Jr.
For years we have been taught to, “Hate ourselves and Love their Wealth,” Kanye West. But what would happen if we United in Love. I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but for some odd reason I have a hopeful feeling about where we are headed.
I’m still holding on to my faith, I cling to my hope, and I pray you do as well.