The Lament Of An Old Black Radical
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 27, 2011
This is one of those posts where I’m not expecting a lot of commentary because it’s going to be hard for a lot of people to relate to it. It’s not a ramble, and it’s not necessarily a rant, though there’s some rant in it. It’s basically a post where I just have to have my say; some people might be uncomfortable with it.
On Tuesday while on Twitter, I retweeted something that was posted stating that there are more black men in prison now than there were people in slavery back in 1850. Within an hour one of my local friends kind of discounted it, at least in my mind, by saying the physical numbers of people are different now than they were back then.
I had a quick flash of anger for many reasons. One, I felt like it was another white person discounting something because it was about black people. Two, I’d been reading about some mess with aged idiot Pat Buchanan, who’s on tour promoting his new book that basically says diversity in America is going to “wipe out white people”; I mean, what the hey? And he had just finished promoting it on a white supremacist radio program, which I didn’t even know existed outside of Rush Limbaugh (yeah, I said it!).
But there’s a three, and it’s a hard one to deal with. I’m going to call it the lament of the old black radical, which is kind of how I feel at times. I’m not as bad a radical as Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have turned out to be (for those who don’t know them, they’re both black radicalists, for lack of a better term, that believe President Obama should be beholden to them and every other black person in America just because we’re all black, yet don’t realize that the reason he’s not giving them the time of day is because they started trashing him even before he was elected president and have both lost some of their most ardent former supporters at this point, which includes me). But I’m holding onto things that I just can’t let go at this stage, late 2011, because I truly believe things haven’t really changed all that much from 1971.
What, 1971? Yup, that’s when I read my first book on black history, the shortened version of a biography of Frederick Douglass. That got me going, and for the next 10 years I read all sorts of books on black heroes and leaders and history and the like. At times I was the angry guy because people I knew kind of wanted to avoid looking at it and wanted to dismiss it. After all, early on I was living on an air force base in Maine, where I found few people who’d even talk with me about it, and then I moved to Liverpool NY, where the school had more than 3,800 kids but maybe only 50 of us were black. In college my first two years I was the only black kid in my dorm, and I think by my last year there might have been 7 or 8 of us in the dorm. There were so few black people on campus that one of the theater professors, who did happen to be black, put on the play Harriet Tubman yet asked every black student he saw to be in it, including me; wasn’t happening, but I did go see it.
Yet, Oswego State, where I went to college, had an African-American Studies program, and the head of the department was one Dr. Alfred Young. He embodied the spirit of the radical, from the long sideburns to the beard to the long fingers that had that Malcolm X point to them. I took almost every one of his classes, as that was my minor, and we’d debate things in class that no one else ever participated in, probably because I doubt any of them had read the books I’d read before coming to college. And it was fun; I had my outlet, I had my statistics, and I was ready to go at anyone who violated my “blackness”, to a degree. I say it that way because if I’d only had black friends in college I’d have been a lonely guy. lol
I had lots of friends, and lots of other people who knew who I was; it was kind of easy to be known by a certain point. I got lots of invites to parties and lots of free food and milkshakes and loved it. I had a white girlfriend I loved, and because the one really hot black girl in college didn’t date black men; go figure. lol Yet I got to be the black guy, the one many people came to and asked stupid questions, the one who’d field the stupid statements like “I don’t think of you as black” and think it was a compliment until I set them straight. I was the one who told them how Ronald Reagan didn’t care about black people and how John Wayne had said black people made bad actors because they weren’t all that smart and how Lincoln didn’t free the slaves and Jim Crow laws and many other things.
And then it was a time of many firsts. I was almost always the “first” or only in many things, and it continues even to this day, which seems a bit strange. And as I said earlier, not all that many things have changed when we look at positives, but the moods have changed. There’s no such thing as a black leader anymore. There’s no such thing as true advocates for black issues. Goodness, in a strange way black people are more of a minority than ever as Hispanics (or Latinos; take your pick) have passed us in numbers; if they ever figure out how to become a true political base many present politicians will be out of jobs. Black unemployment is the highest in the country; blacks in prison by percentage is the highest in this country. Black educational scores are the worst in this country. Most of the businesses in black communities aren’t owned by blacks. And, just to throw this in, one black Republican in Congress… just saying. Goodness, Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain don’t even want to be known as black; what the hey?
No one really cares anymore. And I lament that in some fashion. When did things pass me by to the extent that it can still be bad, or worse, and on one cares? Why haven’t I been able to let it go? How come I still feel like I have to keep my shields up when I’m in public, not only to make sure I don’t get jumped from behind in a sneak attack but being prepared for that time when someone might say something insensitive that I didn’t see coming? How do I react with a young white kid pulls up next to me at a gas station with a rap song blaring loudly with a lot of filth, misogyny and the n-word (I was going to actually type it but decided not to go there) being said over and over and then he looks at me? What could that kid be thinking? Is he thinking? And how am I supposed to feel instead of feeling insulted and overlooked and insignificant at the same time?
Goodness, I’m only in my early 50’s and I feel so out of touch sometimes. How is it that I touched a nerve when I wrote my first post on 21 Black Social Media Influencers yet when I wrote the followup 29 More Black Social Media Influencers it barely made a dent? Why is it that some younger black people, even some my age, are now telling me that it’s not up to me to try to save the black race, or to even think about trying to help it out, and that I don’t have to worry anymore about trying to set a good example because no one cares about it anymore? Why is it hospitals talk about diversity all the time yet there’s less than 3% black management, not including C-level positions where the figures even worse, in the entire country? And where do I fit in?
Sigh… as I said, this is the lament of an old black radical; I should have added “tired”. Do I ride off into the sunset? Do I continue to fight the good fight when presented? I don’t know; I don’t have any answers. And there’s no one to talk to about it either; sigh again…