"If the Negro is not careful he will drink in all the poison of modern civilization and die from the effects of it."
All the rage last week was about these studies revealing that 37 percent of black folks answered "no" to the question: "are blacks still a single race?". But the news that 53 percent of black folks now agree that "blacks who can't get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition of black folks" is pretty damn scary. Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Fela Kuti, Kwame Nkrumah, August Wilson. All have warned of the danger of mistaking a change in color -- substituting white faces with black ones -- as progress.
Perhaps none did it more poetically than our very own James Baldwin though. In this excerpt below taken from his book The Fire Next Time, Baldwin is referring to the hate he witnessed in the Nation Of Islam movement at the time; but I've taken personal spiritual liberties with Baldwin's wisdom by applying it to my life's journey and the circumstances I find myself in in 2007. For me his words speak less to (or, better said, equally) to the hate of an Alabama sheriff as they do to a devout capitalist/imperialist such as a Dick Cheney, readily willing to exploit in order to earn a profit. I think these new statistics show us that even if Robert Kennedy's prediction that a "Negro can become president in forty years" is about to come true, Martin Luther King's assertion that we are integrating into a burning house is to be taken ever so seriously.
And when we look around and see that rather than "become firemen", as Martin optimistically suggested, more and more of us are choosing to have a seat at the dinner table and ignore the rising temperature. We gotta resist this. We have to remind each other that the freedom movement fought against segregation because that system was incapable of providing an equality of resource and freedom of choice; not because there was a mass desire for assimilation of white values.
"I am very much concerned that American Negroes achieve their freedom here in the United States. But I am also concerned for their dignity, for the health of their souls, and must oppose any attempt that Negroes may make to do to others what has been done to them. I think I know -- we see it around us every day -- the spiritual wasteland to which that road leads [...] Whoever debases others is debasing himself. That is not a mystical statement but a most realistic one, which s proves by the eyes of any Alabama sheriff -- and I would not like to see Negroes ever arrive at so wretched a condition...
[...] I cannot accept the proposition that the four-hundred-year travail of the American Negro should result merely in his attainment of the present level of the American civilization. I am far from convinced that being released from the African witch doctor was worthwhile if I am now - in order to support the moral contradictions and the spiritual aridity of my life - expected to become dependent on the American psychiatrist. It is a bargain I refuse. The only thing white people have that black people need, or should want, is power - and no one holds power forever. White people cannot, in the generality, be taken as models of how to live. Rather, the white man is himself in sore need of new standards, which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful communion with the depths of his own being. And I repeat: The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks - the total liberation, in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind. Why, for example - especially knowing the family as I do - I should want to marry your sister is a great mystery to me. But your sister and I have every right to marry if we wish to, and no one has the right to stop us. If she cannot raise me to her level, perhaps I can raise her to mine."
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