Sunday, November 2, 2008

We're Riding On The Backs
Of Misery & Struggle

Chances are, I entered this world at a later point in American history than most of you reading this, and if ever being 'old' can be considered lucky, this is one of those times.

I watched Rev. Al Sharpton speak last night, and I'll discuss that in few minutes. For now, know that he is one of my contemporaries and a little older than me. He's been a tireless fighter for racial justice and he's probably the only black man I've ever seen who can make Hannity squirm and truly look like the hate-mongering asshole he is. I can barely convey the pleasure that gives me.

Sharpton shares the same historical memories I have. For me, it began with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
I was seven at the time. I don't remember the day he was shot, but I was outside playing when my mother called me in to join her and my father watching the funeral. I didn't want to see it or be part of their grieving. They knew he was a dream for a President and were hurting over his killing.

I just wanted to be a kid and play, but history grabbed me for a moment and made me stop.

Sharpton, like me, was a kid at the time of the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, Jr. I barely remember it, and only remember complaining to my much older brother that couldn't see or hear much.

I remember the day King was murdered the same way all Americans remember 9/11. For black folks, his assassination was our 9/11. I was sitting in 6th grade in Catholic school. My teacher was a nun, the kind that dressed in the old style black and white attire. Someone interrupted our class and whispered the terrible news to her.

Did she stand there looking stupid and continue the lesson, like George W. Bush did when he got news of this event? Hell no. That's one reason I immediately thought he knew ahead time that this act of evil was gonna go down.

My nun immediately told us. The tone of her voice told us that she was hurting from this tragedy and it pained her to pass along the message. One girl cried. I sat there in shock.

What a contrast to some of the stories I've heard from others, where their teachers and classmates found joy in his murder and their racism.

Then came the nationwide riots. I lived in DC, on the main street by Walter Reed Hospital. Riots broke out in downtown and other parts of of the city. Black folks, enraged and grieving, tore the place apart. The opportunistic subset of the crowd looted, but it was just burn baby burn for most folks who were simply outraged. The fires were only symbolic of their anger inside.

The city had a curfew. I saw a friggin' tank roll past my apartment building. It's a damn shame I didn't have my little camera with me that moment. Two strange white people, possibly reporters, walked past me and I overheard the woman ask the man, what do Negroes want? He seemed as helpless and dumbfounded as her.

I so much wanted to tell them that we wanted the same thing everyone else did and we weren't any different. I was too young to have the confidence to interrupt them and say this.

My generation stood on the backs of those who lived in misery and struggled for freedom and equality, beginning with that first luckless African kidnapped from the motherland and brought here in chains.

I watched so many of my brothas and sistas, along with anti-racist whites fight the fight to make this country a decent place for all of us to live in and raise our families. John, Martin, Robert, Malcolm, and a number of civil rights activists went down. More recently, ordinary people in recent times reminded America not enough has changed, like Rodney Can't We All Just Get Along King, and Sean Bell, gunned down by cowardly, racist cops for absolutely nothing other than being black.

The first great love of my life, and older brotha, was truly revolutionary. He was a former Panther in the late 60s turned journalist. I recall being awed when he described a speech he'd given a few years before I knew him, that got him locked up for inciting a riot. There wasn't no damn riot; the cops listening didn't like what they heard or the excitement of the crowd. They were the riot and broke it up. The charges didn't stick and he was out of jail a few days later. He's had a remarkable life of giving service to his people in writing about racism and corporate greed.

I often think of how much more interesting my life would have been if I had stayed with him, but I was too young to understand that time and tide wait for no one. He met and married someone else a couple years later. At least my consciousness had been raised, and I learned at an early age that some causes are worth sacrificing for, fighting for, perhaps dying for.

Life instead put me on another but similar path: to become a social worker, then a mental health provider, and adopt two children who were born to crack addicted mothers.

I view my children as casualties not of prenatal drug addiction, but racism and poverty, because all those alcohol ads pasted at every bus stop and corner in the low income areas of the inner cities didn't flood the black community until after the riots.

The crack cocaine epidemic occurred virtually overnight around 1985-1986, thanks to the CIA and Iran-Contra Affair operating under Ronald Reagan and his VP, George H. Bush. John Kerry was a freshman Senator at the time, and tried to get answers about it in 1986; his efforts were largely thwarted and he was ignored by the media.

A Pulitizer Prize winning journalist named Gary Webb broke the story in a small newspaper in 1996. The powers that be worked hard to quash it and discredit him, including the big news organizations. Webb is said to have committed suicide, but I'm don't believe it. Why? He's the only person I've ever known to do this by shooting himself in the head twice.

Efforts to keep blacks in a drug haze was in concert with much harsher laws targeted at those who possessed or sold small quantities of crack cocaine, not powered cocaine. Prisons became the opposite of being socialized - they became privatized - and the pressure has since been on state and county jails to keep 'em filled up. Indeed they have, with mostly black and brown occupants.

A people cannot overcome oppression if their minds are clouded with alcohol and drugs, and that was the whole point of the War on Black People disguised as the War on Drugs. Blacks are viewed by the ideological racists as not quite as human as themselves, and more importantly, a pool of cheap labor. Blacks had progressed too quickly from the benefits of the Civil Right Movement. Hardcore drug addiction brought the revolution of black progress almost to a grinding halt.

Meanwhile, across the tracks and on the white side of America as well as the new black and Latino middle classes, the proliferation of malls, prosperity, and mindless electronic entertainment distracted them from outsourced jobs, the polluted environment leading to global warming, and the plans of the suit and tie pirate politicians and corporate sharks for the next set of wars.

America became a 'service' nation populated by hedonistic, wasteful, overly materialistic consumers who grew up and lived in a bubble that produced little beyond bombs, paperwork and fast food.

They got very, very rich, but the problem with the greedy is that they don't know when or how to stop.

Fate had a different plan from those who would continue to do business as usual. Americans got fed up. The timing appears perfect: out of nowhere comes along a new man - Barack Obama - who has a vision and a plan, and just in time for those cutthroat Wall Street Pirates to reveal themselves.

It's as though he were born for this moment in history.

Barack is cool. He's brilliant. He's biracial - a big plus for uncertain whites who feel comforted by this, and blacks who can claim him as their own too.

His history runs from inspiring to downright eerie: While he worked and networked tirelessly over the past 20 years, he became the Illinois State Senator only four years ago. In a nation ruled by rich, gray-haired white men, his rapid success as a 43 year old black man is remarkable.

Remarkable events do occur occasionally: John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, overcame tremendous religious bigotry toward him and was 44 when narrowly elected.

If elected on Tuesday, Barack Obama made it loud and clear he will be a President for everyone, which includes us black folks who know in their gut that neither McCain nor Palin gives a rat's azz about minorities or even women's reproductive rights, and their campaign has proved this repeatly.

Last night Al Sharpton was interviewed by DL Hughley. It was a very human moment as he said, and I'm paraphrasing:

"Once Obama gets into the White House, we are accountable. We have to do something with it, all of us, including you, DL, who has this remarkable opportunity on CNN. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this dream a reality. We almost have it now, and we have to do something with it, or the struggle and fight against racism has all been for nothing."

His words of wisdom echoed in my ears ...the fight will have all been for nothing.

History operates on a continuum. For my generation, should Obama win on Tuesday, it will be a satisfying conclusion to what we've lived through, for, and seen so much suffering.

Sharpton symbolically passed the torch to Hughley and all the rest of the younger blacks out here to reap the benefits of the revolution, and not let it rot like unharvested grapes on a vine. Hughley listened closely to the wisdom of his elder, and one could see the words penetrate his mind and heart. He knows he was unexpectedly given a great gift - with strings attached: accountability and responsibility. His face, in awe, showed he understood this.

With an Obama Presidency, we all will receive that gift, particularly the younger generation. The haters will try to wrestle it away from us. They don't want change because the status quo of racism benefits them.

They're too blind to see that they'd be voting against their more important and pressing interests, or that under end stage capitalism everyone except the wealthy is treated like a nigger. Collectively, they may make it impossible for Obama to lose, or the enemies of democracy may succeed at stealing this election; they've certainly been trying hard enough.

At some point, the haters may even steal him from us as they did Martin Luther King, Jr. For some reason I don't worry too much that they will succeed. Barack doesn't appear to ever wear a bullet proof vest. It's as though he believes that God will watch his back, and for better or worse, he's exactly where he's supposed to be.

I do however, worry that some of us will be assaulted or die from random, hate-based violence in the days and weeks ahead if Barack wins. We've already had a preview in October of how bad bad can get.

Like it or not, the revolution is on.

Obama's hype is change, but in reality he's talking about the same old revolution dating back to the Bible: the revolution for human rights. Jesus stated that the second most important thing to remember after loving God with all your heart, is to love one another as you love yourself. He spoke not of religion, but of fairness.

It is when leaders in a nation or even a family refuses to live by that second directive that causes every revolution for justice throughout history.

This week, we and much of the world will eagerly watch from on the edge of our seats as a new chapter begins in the continuum of history.

For me, Al Sharpon and our generation and those older than us, it's one of the later or final chapters in our lifetime. Unlike our ancestors who were born and died in slavery and had little relief in between, or our grandparents who suffered making ends meet while tolerating the daily indignities and occasional terrorism by haters like the Klan, we have seen tremendous progress. Anti-racist whites feel good about this, but for us it's deeply personal.

Sharpton was so right; we don't want the struggle to be all for nothing. He said something else so interesting and I was really feeling it. I'm paraphrasing, but he said,

"On Election evening, I'm going to be at Martin Luther King's gravesite to give thanks. For without him, this would not be possible."

I'll be with Al in spirit. I agree with all he said except one thing: if we fail in the near future, I cannot allow myself to believe so much sacrifice and pain endured has been for nothing. We have survived through hell, and a critical mass of whites now have their eyes open wide and are ready to hold hands with us and enter a new era of change.

Win or lose, or no matter how an Obama Presidency ends if he does win, this year and this week are moments that my nearly 13 year old daughter and 20 year old son - like me, decades earlier - have had their youthful concerns interrupted.

The struggle for social justice, like history, lies on a continuum. One lost election or this one won but plagued with crippling problems from the descent of the economy and the sundown of American imperialism, will not mean all is lost.

For my youngest child, she is beginning the first chapter in her book of memories.
I dedicate my book to her and all of you, with the words, we shall overcome.


  1. hi there-

    i followed your comment from another blog and found you here.

    i love the way that you write. i can feel your sincerity and find it beautiful. thank you for such a beautifully written piece.

    al sharpton and dl hughley both have found themselves on the wrong side of issues that affect me---a black woman---way too many times. so, i am not inspired by them in the least. with all the focus on racism, they choose not to see what ignored sexism and misogny is doing to black folks. especially black women and girls.

    dunbar village predators=victims al sharpton & nappy=ugly hughley will not ever have my support. i really wish they would both go and sit down.

    i am concerned with the collective refusal of black folks to question what is presented to us. when one follows the money trail, how do we allow ourselves to overlook the greedy corporations that bring us both of our generally accepted choices? (those not on the program, are not on t.v. even if they are running for potus.)

    i agree, we are riding on the backs of misery and struggle. we owe it to our ancestors to read, so that the truth cannot be hidden from us in books. if we are to honor our ancestors, we must do better by each other. i think, our ancestors weep when they look at our collective present day state despite their great suffering and sacrifice.

    p.s. kennedy signed an executive order that was to do away with the federal reserve, which would be in the best interest of the american people. #11110, no one has touched that since. king, once he realized black folks were being integrated into a burning house, turned his attention to uniting the country's poor. all those that really try to do good, meet with bullets, suicide, cancer, etc. i have yet to hear of any proposal on obama's part that would lead me to believe he would be in any great danger. instead, his presence serves more to keep folks divided among color lines. that's just my two cents, what will be remains to be seen. i am cautiously optimistic!


  2. Before I ever so slightly disagree, let me say, Excellent Post.

    "They don't want change because the status quo of racism benefits them."

    In a way, Racist Whites are the Caucasian equivalent of House Negroes. They lap at Massa's feet thinking their skin color, and propensity to act against their own self-interests will spare them the whip.

    But, as some are figuring out, a system based on arbitrary hate, has no Loyalty.

    Maybe a few whites benefit from Racism, but the majority are simply poisoned by it. They've never gained anything of worth from their hatred.

  3. Focused Purpose, thank you for you kind words. Agreed, we must do better as a race, and our ancestors would weep if they saw how some of are doing. I suspect that Obama will be a role model for us, especially this upcoming generation of youth.

    About DL. His wife is named LaDonna Hughley and they've been married since 1986. She has a classic African American appearance and hair. If he were married to a white woman or fairskinned woman with naturally straight hair, I might think he had a problem. Since he isn't, I think it was just a bad joke.

    About Al Sharpton. His point wasn't that the perpetrators were victims in that horrific Dunbar incident involving a Haitian woman and her son. His beef was that whites in the same state get far less harsher prison terms. Given the extreme cruelty of that crime, I think that instead of pushing for blacks to get the same treatment as whites, he should have been pushing for white predators to get the same legal treatment as blacks. I would have buried those bastards under the jail no matter what color they had been.

    In general, for all to note, I take in account the entire career and lifestyle of a person, not just a few episodes of stupidity or bad judgment before writing them off.

    Fairlane, you said, "In a way, Racist Whites are the Caucasian equivalent of House Negroes. They lap at Massa's feet thinking their skin color, and propensity to act against their own self-interests will spare them the whip.

    That's a deep thought, as was the rest of your comment. Thank you ever so much for sharing that point of view.

  4. Hi Trill,

    I don't think it would be all for nothing (worse comes to worse) but it will be another few generations before we get back up on our "feet". Especially when folks consider how we "almost got there" and how they can make sure it doesn't happen again.

  5. I haven't always said kind things about Sharpton. But he spoke truth on Hughley's show. Maybe Hughley can take a cue from Sharpton, do some reading and learn some respect for our long struggle, a struggle that helped him to get his show on CNN.

    He could begin to show some maturity by stopping all niggas, bitches and hos crap, which shows he has no respect for our struggle, and little, if any, respect for black women. But I doubt if he will anytime soon.

    He could learn a lot from Sharpton and the struggle he continues to wage. But will he?

  6. well said thats why I will never forget my days growing up in memphis and king being murdered and we should all be taken back more by history

    great summation folk

    the query reamains is change really possible in an oligarchy

  7. Gorgeous post! Your words are so powerful, I am still a youngin at only 35 but what you wrote are the words that the younger generation needs to hear.

  8. Wow! Eloquence with honesty, beautiful!

  9. I am ready. Me and mines can be held accountable (whatever that means). Come on wit it.

  10. Real Husta, I ready wit it too. Heh-heh.

    Salsa & Black Girl In Maine, Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Miriam, I too hope the fruits of the struggle aren't squandered, otherwise what's the point of gaining freedom and equality but still behaving like you're in chains?

    MacDaddy, I too will be looking for personal growth from DL; seen it in his first two CNN episodes. If that past bad joke scandal, his CNN opportunity, watching Obama get this far to the White House and Al Sharpton giving him a hint hasn't raised his consciousness, I wonder what will? I see buds of potential in him, but does he see it himself? Time will tell.

    Torrance, On point about knowing our history, and you asked, "is change really possible in an oligarchy? This question, my brotha, is what gives me pause about an Obama presidency or any other. While I dearly would like to see him win tomorrow, the wealthiest 1% is having their own lil' family feud with our economy and who will control it in the near future - at everyone else's expense.

  11. Kit, I've got to admit that I've got election fatigue. I just want it to be DONE already. Part of it is fear of how they will steal the election. Part of it is that, if Obama wins, the white supremacists will jump on the excuse to start their race war. That's why they are endorsing him. (*And another part of it is that I've been sicker than a dog since Friday and pretty much hating everyone and everything. Sometimes it happens.)

    But after reading this post, I've got to admit feeling a bit of triumph and history from this election.Thank you for drawing back my focus to the right place.

  12. *passes chicken soup to Laurel*
    You're welcome, and get well soon!

  13. My how your words have touched me. This election season has been so emotional that I am often at a loss for words, but full of happiness, pride, and gratuity.

    As stoic as I usually am, especially in the office where I am one of a handful of blacks among hundreds, I'm sitting in my cube with tears in my eyes. YES! I feel as though my vote for Obama is not really my own, but belongs to the generations who came before me and suffered just so that I can be here to see this day! If Obama was chosen for this time then each of us were chosen as well. It’s up to each of us to make use of this!

    Thank you so much for putting words to how I feel!

  14. I cosign with Dom. This was a very moving post.

    I had forgotten Reagan-Bush's CIA was the culprit that brought crack to our communities. Too bad there was no real Internet then or the pressure would have been on for the truth to be acknowledged.

    We have been through so much, but as that old Negro spiritual song goes, we shall overcome. Thank you.

  15. We come this fair on faith. Trusting in his holy name he's never failed us yet.

    Come this far by faith leaning on the lord. oh oh I can't turn around we come too far by faith.
    ...Negro spiritual...

    I find this song comforting in the difficult hours be it politics or personal drama.

    Your children are beautiful. God bless you for hearing God's whipers to take care.

  16. Hi Kit!

    I've been reading your blog for about 4 months now. I loved your post, it was the most inspiring thing I've read all day.

    I linked to your post on my blog:

  17. Nice post Kit.
    I know how you feel as I am a little older than you.
    My son, who has been working this campaign since the primaries in Ohio doesn't quite understand how our generation feels about this.
    Right now it feels like Christmas Eve to me. . . like the Christmas Eve of a lifetime!
    In the morning I vote and then head to Cincy to meet up with son and wife (she'll be an Obama poll monitor) where we will celebrate big time.
    I also feel a bit apprehensive.

  18. Dom & Lorraine, I'm glad it this post moved you. It moved me too while writing it.

    Latoya, True. They kept shit under wraps and did everything possible to discredit Gary Web. Funny too, how it never came up when Kerry was running for President, and he knew about it.

    Lovebabz, Faith, hope, grit, and as Frederick Douglass said (I think), agitate, agitate, agitate to get and keep our rights.

    Sagacious, my son and homeboyz just went off to vote. He's psyched about it too. I'm on my way now.

  19. Hey there!

    Ladies and gents....
    Obama has 207 electoral votes...and he has to secure 270 to officially take it....

    We have elected a black president....

    44th President of the United States

    And we're movin' on up!!

  20. KIT, this post was extremely inspiring. The things you've experienced in your life, the things my parents and grandparents have's crazy...but like you said...y'all are passing that "memory book" right along to us. And I want to say thanks for that! My mama tells me all the time how the very high school she went to that is now ALL BLACK was segregated when she attended with whites on the top floor and blacks on the bottom level (this is back in the LATE 70s for goodness sake...). She said a riot broke out one day...that was crazy to me...I don't know. I just love the fact that I can add Barack's election win/Presidency to my scrapbook of memories!!

  21. BWBT, I take your excitement to mean you're no longer a Republican. Congratulations. ;)

    Shy, Thank you, and yes, it was like that back then in so many places even in the early 70s. Your mama wasn't lying. Enjoy your scrapbook!

  22. Look, Bringing Obama in the presidency has not changed anything. Bigots will be bigots. It's awful, but when you say that you will Finally reach an end to racism, it dwarfs all the efforts of thousands of suppressed minorities who got us to where we are. There are plenty of racists who aren't just "white" by the way...racism period is a threat to our society


Hi, this is Kit.

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