Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Color of Destruction and Power

It must be uniquely difficult to be a Black Man in America. He is not seen as having a family, but as being a threat, a walking, breathing cornucopia of violence, lust and theft. Everything you have, we are told, will be taken away by the Black man if he comes near. He will take burn your home, steal you money and screw your women as he passes by. We are so threatened by adult Black men as a culture that we feel justified in shooting them, caging them, rejecting them.  When a Black man comes into the office, we subconsciously clutch our wallets or purses a little tighter, pull our children a little closer, find a reason to have him leave or to leave ourselves. For those of us in the dominant culture, we might only feel that way once or twice, if ever, but for Black men, they feel it everywhere they go -- it is in the air they breathe, and it smells of mistrust and ostracization.
And Black communities don’t provide much solace. Even at home they are suspect, given the label of ne’re-do-wells, junkies, baby-daddies. The American Black family in the twentieth century and thus far into the twenty-first, has formed around the absence of the Black man, coming into its own as best it could with their adult men behind bars or dead when they weren’t running around with the gangs that would seal their fate.
Is it any wonder that Black men, and the adolescents who look up to them, adopt the cool pose? Stripped of economic and educational opportunities, unable to secure housing for themselves let alone for a family, they are seen as parasites on the women-run Black community. How attractive it must be to take the accusations and condemnations and make them claims, reveling in the destructive power that every Black man carries with him, no matter where he goes, even when he sleeps. I imagine a hurricane reveling in the destructive power and glory of itself, sweeping all before it, laying waste to the little people with their little buildings and crops and schools and cars and laundry on the line as though life is normal, ever, anywhere, as if it ever could be, laughing in pure joy of unleashed power, never apologizing.
When we crafted this hostile narrative of destructive power, we left the Black man only one option for defining himself in relation to society and the world. America in the twenty-first century can do better, but only if we hold our eyes firmly on the truth and acknowledge our role in the violence that continues without much to hold it back, pervades every aspect of civilized interaction, from the manufacturing floor to the classroom to the boardroom, survives us all, generation after generation.

All of us have reparations to make to the Black man, those of us in the dominant culture and those in the Black communities as well. We owe Black men a safe space to release this image, to lay down the tools of destruction and relax out of the cool pose he has adopted for survival. We owe it to each other to change the narrative to one of inclusion, trust and the real possibility of being husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, instead of rapists, thugs, killers, junkies, and thieves.