The traditions of slavery, in both past and current forms, has ensnared the thinking of Black Americans with a preprogrammed response to racism, guiding our perception as to what is an acceptable form of generating political discourse. Childish Gambino and the likes of Kendrick Lamar present the acceptable kindof political demonstration against our oppressors approved by Black Americans (and Whites). Meanwhile, Kanye West has received heavy criticism for his views on Black America, slavery, and President Donald Trump. In the eyes of many, West has been written off as the poster child of what a Black American should not do.
However, I wonder how many White politicians will see and hear Childish Gambino’s new song and video, “This is America,”and say to themselves, “This isn’t right,” and strive to make changes on behalf of Black Americans? We’ll both wait and see. White Americans may see Childish Gambino’s song as more accurately titled This is Black America, an America that White Americans don’t share. And if they don’t share it, they may not understand it, and if they don’t understand it, it’s challenging to be compassionate toward it.
Like most oppressed groups, Black Americans are not given economic means to rise out of their plight. The elite and powerful oligarchs do not easily allow lower classes of society into spaces of wealth and influence, such as business and politics. Instead, these classes of people are permitted to be politically satirical, demonstrate through the arts, and protest with signs, marches, and sit ins. They don’t easily allow inclusion into spaces of wealth and influence such as business and politics. On one hand, Childish Gambino’s song is amazing, artsy, and gutsy. This is reflective of the very preprogrammed places and spaces Black Americans areallowedto participate in, but not make any real changes to our condition as Black Americans.
I think many of us ran too quickly with a short-sided twisting of Kanye’s words and intent. We did so because it forced many of us to deflect from the hard conversation about growing past the current state of mental slavery. Instead, many Black Americans showed that they preferred the imagery presented in “This is America,” because it continued to highlight our victimization. But be reminded, this is BlackAmerica, and White Americans don't live in Black America.
Kanye is not the crazy one. The Black community is warped for trying to bring about change in the American system by using an antiquated approach of hate and bitterness. Can it be the time to stop operating from a preprogrammed response (a control mechanism by our oppressors) and begin healing? Black people hurt Black people in violent and psychologically damaging ways simply because hurt people, hurt people. We probably spend the same amount of time, if not more, hurting ourselves as do our oppressors. That hurt is indicative of the need to grow past our mentality as victims.
What if we couldMake America Great Again? But instead, this time on our terms by being a part of the conversation, controlling the narrative, and having input on how a great America looks like with the inclusion of Black people? West’s rap lyrics in his song, “Ye vs. The People” featuring T.I., regarding the Trump slogan on the red hat, said, “I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction/Added empathy, care and love and affection.” Could his words be prophetic? In spite of it all, we are here in America right now and cannot escape being a part of the American narrative of greatness (thanks in part to the Black Africans who helped to capture us and sell us into slavery).
Admittedly, much of White America sees Black Americans as an inconvenient truth, an unintended child from the birth of our nation. We are the offspring of ancestors raped of their heritage and identity. Taken from the Motherland of Africa, White American heritage is our father. But, at some point, we must stop seeking the approval and validation of an inadequate fathering nation that does not want to claim its own flesh and blood. It’s time for Black America to GROW UP! Our narratives are ours for the shaping.
Some people will say that we cannot move past racism because we are still experiencing it. And while that bears some truth, on an individual basis, we find a way to be a better and bigger person against the personal struggles we face.
The misconception of being a better and bigger person, and practicing forgiveness, is that it is often interpreted as a place of weakness, concession, and acquiescing to oppressive ways of life. Fortunately, it is the opposite. An overcoming mindset is empowering, supports clear-minded decisions, sets boundaries, reflects awareness of our worth, and helps create realistic expectations. A healed person (and community) regains control and power to shape and define their identity. Black Americans will be more effective in making economic and political progress by operating from a healed and sound minded place.
Childish Gambino’s “This is America”places Kanye West's “genius”into perspective more than ever. Can it be that all that powerful White elites hear from the voice of Black people talking about institutionalize racism, reparations, and civil rights are just poopy-di scoop. It's malarkey when the conglomerate of Blacks doesn’t galvanize its buying power of $1.3 trillion dollars. One dollar stays in the black community less than six hours. In the United States, while Blacks are only about 14% of the population, they account for half of the victims of homicide with nearly 90% of those homicides being committed by other Blacks. As I have stated before, the slave mentality fixates us on hurting and self-inflicting our own oppression far more than how White America is victimizing us.
In fact, White America and international investors know Black America so well that they target our demographics with deliberate advertisements knowing fully well that we will buy, gentrify our communities knowing we'll relocate, and tamper with our food and water supply knowing ultimately we'll do nothing of significance about it. History proves this point.
After all, they got away with slavery for nearly 400 years. We didn’t convince the North that slavery was wrong; they convinced themselves that it was economically advantageous to the country to no longer have slavery. And the results were, via the 13th amendment, White Americans found new ways to continue perpetuating the system of slavery. They Jim Crow’d us. They integrated us only to find new ways to restrict our neighborhoods, which impacted and further segregated us through a practice called redlining.
We are so overwhelmed by this oppressive system that after decades of incarcerating Black people over marijuana, they have taken the very same marijuana, rebranded it as medicinal, legalized it, and now capitalize on it. All the while, many of our brothers and sisters of color sit incarcerated or have criminal drug records over marijuana. And what has the Black community done about it? The answer is nothing, because our preprogrammed response, victim mentality, and bitter and hateful attitude do not afford us the transformational empowerment needed to create constructive change. In effect, we can’t do anything about it, yet.
Maybe the outrage of Black Americans is displaced. We rally against unarmed Blacks being gunned down by the police, but that is a fraction of the injuries we perpetrate toward one another in our own communities. We are intolerant of the abuse from others and seem precarious about the abuses we cause to ourselves.
Our preprogrammed response tells us to hurt other Blacks, not our oppressors. Daz Dillinger of the Crips put out an “all-call” for gang members to hurt Kanye West for embracing Trump. Where was his “all-call” for retaliation against racist White cops and others who have murdered our unarmed Black boys? A lot of Black Americans were dismayed by singer Chrisette Michele and comedian Steve Harvey meeting with President Trump, right down to wanting to pull their Black card. Interestingly enough, this is only OUR issue.
Kanye did not say slavery was a choice. During the TMZ interview Kanye said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years, that sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. Its like we’re mentally in prison.” Moments later, he explained, “Right now we’re choosing to be a slave.” In context, he said it sounded like a choice to be there for so long in the same condition, with so many Blacks around, who could have possibly done more to overcome the situation, yet more was not done. I know it is grossly oversimplified. And I don’t know if more could have been done, and done sooner? I wasn’t there. As such, if we don’t know what more could have been done back then, the question really becomes what can be done now in the 21st century, in the present?
I implore Black Americans who are still living in the past to begin living in the present, with a focus toward a brighter future. A place for discourse should be available to both Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” which reminds us of our past and present, and Kanye West’s “Ye vs. The People,” which also reminds us of our present plus the possibility of our future.
Maybe it is time to lift ourselves up on our feet because anything else outside of an uplifted people is unproductive. As amazing and important as music is and the dialogue we create around it, “this next verse, this next verse though, these bars,” say nothing worth hearing if we don’t forgive, be empowered, and overcome our past with a loving and healed heart, which will allow us to hold White America accountable with a never before seen laser focus for the pursuit of happiness. Until that happens, it really is all just “poopy-di scoop.”