American people with African ancestry are no more “Black People” than American people with European descent are “White People.” It's just an idea. It's the psychological cloak that was used to help institute the enslavement of African people by European people in 16th century. For slavery to work, the two people had to see themselves as extreme and natural opposites of one another: one negative, one positive, one right, one wrong, one good and the other bad.
Over many generations, many Africans enslaved in America accepted the idea of their “blackness” and an inherent notion of their near-nothingness except for their near-free labor. Much of that was passed on to their descendants. Many of the European Americans accepted the idea of their “whiteness” and a sense of superiority and entitlement that comes with it. The "America Dream" was theirs and theirs alone. Much of that was passed on to their descendants.
Although the institution of slavery in America no longer exists, the enslaving idea of "Black People" and "White People" is alive and kicking and it hurts and suppresses us all.
So here we are, We can't seem to enjoy much of our common heritage or of a common sense of shared accomplishment because we are, so much of the time, estranged from one another psychologically, spiritually, and actually.
So here we are, stuck it seems, in one big surreal mess with all of us simmering away dreaming and nightmaring as the fragile fabric of another idea unravels; the idea about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.
Don't think so? Just watch the news.
Hut-Ka-Pteh to Ferguson - Not So Far
Michael Brown is being laid to rest today.
The image of Michael Brown raising his hands as if surrendering to a police officer an instant before he was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri has lingered in my mind. Images of protestors marching in the night with their hands raised honoring Brown’s final life expression have seemed familiar to me.
Now, it comes to me that the upraised hands have a deep ancient meaning; a meaning buried in my mind until now.
In his book, LIGHT FROM ANCIENT AFRICA, Dr. Na’im Akbar says: “Knowledge is not something you should just collect and store. If it does not stir you to activity, then it is nothing but wasted activity. It is useless, meaningless, and non-productive. It may feel good, but it does nothing. If you go to Egypt and do not come back compelled to change Paris, or Switzerland, or Cleveland, then your study is useless.”
I have been to Egypt (Kemet) many times, not physically, but spiritually. It was on an excursion of this kind that I first saw the image of the upraised hands: the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for the Ka, the idea of the soul; the concept of vital essence.
An article on the subject of the Ka says: “Understanding conceptual ideas related to ancient Egyptian thought can be difficult, and there is little more complex than the ideas surrounding the Ka.” The article goes on to explain that the name Egypt is a Greek word. The name Egypt is “probably derived from the ancient name for the capital city, Memphis, which was Hut-Ka-Pteh, or House of the Ka of Ptah.”
Another article on the subject says: “The concept of the Ka has no exact analogues in European culture and so it is difficult to identify the Ka with more familiar concepts.”
I’ll leave the matter here. But one final quote from Akbar may be helpful: “ If the ideas of the Ancients do not impel you to redefine your area of control, your sphere of influence, you do not really understand what you think you understand. At the very least, the knowledge should spur you to say, ‘I know who I am now. I cannot be a fool. I must take control of my life and insure the advancement of that life.’”
(To be continued)
There is reason to believe that the deranged mentality that led some of my fellow Africans to raid their neighbor’s villages as paid assistants in the 16th, 17th and 18th century slave trade is un-diminished. What is going on today in Nigeria with the kidnapping of hundreds of girls has more to do with lust, power, greed, and ignorance, than it has to do with religion, culture or anything else. It’s a sickness. We need help.
Enough is enough Africa!
The ancestors described conscience as the Divine essence; the eternal spiritual guide within each individual. It is a voice that rises, but never shouts or demands. It whispers, but can be heard always. According to the ancestors, it is present throughout life. To listen and follows one's conscience or not is a consequential choice.
Ken's Two Cent - September 6, 2013
Damned If We Don't
Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal: “On Syria, he (President Obama) has done nothing to inspire confidence…Up to the moment of decision, and even past it, he has seemed ambivalent, confused, unaware of the implications of his words and stands. From the ‘red line’ comment to the ‘shot across the bow,’ from the White House leaks about the nature and limits of a planned strike to the president's recent, desperate inclusion of Congress, he has seemed consistently over his head. I have been thinking of the iconic image of American military leadership, Emanuel Leutze's painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware." There Washington stands, sturdy and resolute, looking toward the enemy on the opposite shore. If you imagine Mr. Obama in that moment he is turned, gesturing toward those in the back.”
Noonan's imagination allows her to insert President Obama into that iconic 18th century scenario, but mine won't. Too much reality prevents it. However, I can imagine Mr. Obama here in the 21st century. More from my imagination later.
Another commentator says current dynamics suggest the House will vote no on President Obama's resolution to strike Syria. “That would represent a dramatic failure for Obama.”
But wait. There's more. Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, said in the Washington Post that he“can justifiably share the sentiments of those inside the Pentagon and elsewhere who write the plans and develop strategies for fighting our wars. After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war. They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it.”
Topping Scales' charge of “amateurism,” America’s allies are not merely stunned by President Obama,they are “so stunned." Charles Krauthammer writes in the National Review Online that “there’s no strategy, no purpose here other than helping Obama escape self-inflicted humiliation. This is deeply unserious. Unless Obama can show the country that his don’t-mock-me air strike is, in fact, part of a serious strategy for altering the trajectory of the Syrian war, Congress should vote no.”
Congress could vote yes or no. Either way, President Obama is in a bind. But he's smart and hopefully, he'll see and seize a rare opportunity that will allow him to lead America away from the war drums and off the warpath.
PresidentObamais standing at the bow of a boat. The boat is filled with Americans, descendants of people from everywhere in the world. Facing them, he explains his original decision to send an unambiguous message (a missile attack, a language all modern warriors understand) that the use of banned chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere against civilian populations, even in civil wars, is immoral and unacceptable.
The people in the boat talk. It's clear they don't agree with the decision. Like the iconic Washington in Leutze's painting sans the obvious differences, President Obama turns and looks deep into the distance, then turns back to his people. "Things have changed here in America," he tells them. "Hawks are acting like doves and doves are acting like hawks and I have changed my mind. We can take advantage of this opportunity to begin building a new 'consensus of the willing.'Themajority of Americans areweary of war. They are tired of carrying the burden of military leadership for the rest of the world. We can and we will defend ourselves and no one should doubt that. It is no longer necessary to romanticize about war. It is time to romanticize about peace."
"That's naive," some in the boat shout back!
Others retort, "Peace only seems to be naive. Peace is as natural as the idea of freedom."
The President listens, then speaks. "We are Americans and that means we must be free.Ibelievepeaceisthewayto true freedom. Without peace we are prisoners of war. America can lead the way peace and freedom. Yes. We can do it."
We're damned if we don't.
Ken's Two Cent - September 5, 2013
Consensus of the Willing
The relationship between Britain and the United States of America began in 1607 with the establishment of Jamestown, England's first permanent colony in North America.
“The two nations,” an internet article says, “are bound together by shared history, an overlap in religion and a common language and legal system, and kinship ties…including kindred, ancestral lines among English Americans, Scottish Americans, Welsh Americans, and Scotch-Irish Americans. Through times of war and rebellion, peace and estrangement, as well as becoming friends and allies, the UK and the USA cemented these deeply rooted links.”
These links, what Winston Churchill once called the “special relationship,” may have been damaged in the wake of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, President Obama’s decision to intervene in the civil war to “punish” the perpetrators, and Britain's vote against it.
Has the, “if he’s for it, we’re against it,” attitude that has gripped the U.S. since President Obama’s election spread to Britain? Who knows for certain? Indeed, the two nations have stood side by side for most of the 20th century and into the 21stfrom World War I through World War ll, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the invasion of Iraq.
That's why it’s worth noting that shortly after President Obama announced his to strike Syria the British House of Commons delivered a no-vote to Prime Minister David Cameron. Not this time. Fool me once..., they said with their votes. “We are determined to learn the lessons from Iraq,” Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said. “Evidence should precede decision, not decision precede evidence.” Mr. Miliband’s explanation makes plenty of sense. So does David Barno's evaluation of the no-vote's consequence. Barno, the retired Army lieutenant general who once commanded allied forces in Afghanistan, explained that in losing our closest long-term ally, it will be “immeasurably harder” for the President to sell his idea at home and around the world.
President Obama’s decision and the ideas that support it are clearly unpopular with the public at home and this unpopularity seems to nullify the “if he’s for it, we’re against it” argument. Sadly, this leaves the president's supporters with an odd prospect. It was presented by a retired Army major general and historian. He sees the British no-vote as proof that former President George W. Bush was more diplomatically adept than President Obama because President Obama is unable (at least, as of today) to assemble a “consensus of the willing” around his decision and ideas.
Trayvon and the Souls of White Folk
George Zimmerman’s exoneration in the killing of Trayvon Martin predictably kicked off another national conversation on race. However, the fact that W.E.B. Du Bois’ century old observation that there are, “no truer exponents of the pure human plight of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes” is still being denied by a sizable segment of American society-at-large guarantees the conversation won’t last long.
AQs usual, the denial comes cloaked in a self-convinced and condescending voice that fall from the mountain tops. Like father, the voice always knows best. But unlike that kindly fatherly voice from the 1950's T.V. show, this one scolds. It's just plain smug. “You want a better situation for Blacks?” it bellowed down recently. “Give them a chance to revive their neighborhoods and culture. Work with the good people to stop the bad people…you can’t legislate good parenting or responsible entertainment. But you can fight against the madness with discipline, a firm message and little tolerance for excuse making. It is now time for the African American leadership, including President Obama, to stop the nonsense. Walk away from the world of victimization and grievance and lead the way out of this mess.”
Thus, the conversation between White and Black America stalls. How long will we wallow in the mess our foreparents made for us? Will we ever get around to Du Bois’ question about our vested interest (Black and White America's vested interest) in keeping Black People from "brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a cheerful striving and cooperation with their white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future.”
Du Bois’ book, THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, was originally published in 1903. It was filled with keen observations and honest questions about America and our common vested interest in its success. It is fair to say that much progress has been made, but Du Bois' reminder to readers that “color and race are not crimes" may be our biggest unresolved problem. Here we are today with the idea that crime is the “peculiar trait” of Black People. It is so fastened to them that innocent black boys are summarily profiled to be criminals; so fastened to them that they may be hunted down and killed and the killing justified. Talk about nonsense. In this case, the nonsense is a white man with a loaded gun is so frightened of a boy he is following that he tries him for the crime of being "Black," finds him guilty and executes him on the spot.
No sir. Neither President Obama nor African American leadership can stop the nonsense because the nonsense is not rooted in African American culture. It may indeed manifest itself there, but the root of the nonsense is in American culture where it has always been. Trayvon Martin's skin color is not nonsense. The nonsense is that the man who killed him is alive and well. He walks around free and clear. The nonsense is that he's even hailed as a hero in some quarters of society. Sad. And so the conversation ends again.
Has THE SOULS OF WHITE FOLK been written yet?
"Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) was the son of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. He was a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School and lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, Florida. At age 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. Trayvon was our hero. He loved sports, repairing his bikes, listening to music and horseback riding. At only 17, he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic or pilot. On the day Martin was fatally shot, he and his father were visiting his father’s fiancée and her son at her townhome in Sanford, FL where the shooting occurred."
“Today…I’m proud to be an American,” Robert Zimmerman, Jr., George's brother, said shortly after the verdict not guilty verdict was announced.
Another American said, “This is completely insane, the injustice and the abuse of power. I’m completely ashamed to be an American citizen in a country that allows someone to gun down a boy."
Indeed, the verdict declaring Zimmerman’s innocence in the killing of Trayvon Martin surprised only a few. The surprised few must have forgotten that within hours of the killing, the killer was set free by police investigators. In a way, they pronounced man with the gun innocent after he told them the unarmed boy attacked him and that fearing death, he had no choice but to shoot. They called it self-defense; an almost routine defense when the victim is black.
Yes sir. Zimmerman's release was challenged and a charge of Second Degree Murder was eventually levied against him.
How did we get to this place in America?
Even as the vast majority of “Black People” continue their century and a half long quest for acceptance and assimilation into American society and culture-at-large, they are mostly like unwelcome foreigners. And verdicts such as the Zimmerman verdict force “Black People” to retreat into their own all-black underground culture. Sadly, the deeper they go into it and the longer they stay there, the more they fear the outside and outsiders fear them. Yes sir.
It’s the greatest of all American dilemmas. It stems from the sad and ironic reality that slavery was once the law of the land in the land of the free and, in the aftermath of that reality, many Americans have a problem coming to grips with its consequences. The descendants of the oppressed and the descendants of the oppressors can barely keep their fear, distrust, and dislike of one another from erupting regularly.
Yes sir. This fear, distrust, and dislike has been on full display from the rainy night Trayvon Martin lost his life through Rachel Jeantil’s testimony and cross examination in the trial, to the jury’s verdict. Yes sir. It was Rachel Jeantil, the "Black" teenager friend of Martin, who came from a place somewhere in the black underground who is the centerpiece of that display. She came to tell her side of the story to the jury, but, the Jeantil’s of America make some Americans uncomfortable.
Yes sir. The black underground and white court proceedings don't mix. Jeantil was in a strange place. The verdict was predictable. Days before the jury finished hearing witnesses and seeing evidence, a lawyer commenting on the case declared Ms. Jeantil to be "un-relatable!” Yes sir. It was like telling his television audience that, in his professional opinion, the Rachel Jeantil's of America are irrelevant, that she could be un-American and therefore, unreliable suggesting that the jury could and, perhaps should, discount her sworn testimony.
Yes sir. Jeantil got pissed off with Zimmerman’s attorney and his persistent badgering, but she held her composure. Then, after many hours on the witness stand and answering a single question for what is known as "the tenth time" in some quarters of the black underground, she reached her wits end. Staring the attorney down, she answered his question one more time, then sternly questioned him:
Yes sir. Some Americans didn't care for that. The verdict is no surprise.
Sane people are mentally sound. They have good judgement. They have the ability to anticipate and appraise the effect of things that happen. And when things go wrong, they try to make them right.
A few months have passed since an apparently insane man walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town Connecticut and gunned down 26 innocent people. Twenty little children lost their lives in the nightmare. On December, 14, 2012 something went very wrong in America. Most Americans say background checks are needed to help keep criminals and mentally challenged people away from firearms, but some of our elected "leaders" don't agree. They say they're protecting our Second Amendment rights. They're backed up by the "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" crowd, by gun merchants and their lobbyists. So they filibuster.
Sane people have good sense. And they prove it by making sense. Sane people don't let people kill their children. Our "leaders" are supposed to make sense. Yes. We have rights under the Second Amendment probably do need protecting. But domestic tranquility needs protection too.
From March 2012
THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION
a/k/a Bad Guys, Indians & Hoodies
I guess it’s about time for another one of our national conversations. This time it’ll be centered on Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old boy who won’t have anything to say because he’s dead.
The unarmed boy was shot to death last month in a gated community in Sanford, Florida after being pursued by George Zimmerman, a community watch captain. Seems Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and Zimmerman said that made the boy suspicious. The boy was dead when the police arrived. The police determined, on the spot, that Zimmerman shot the boy in self-defense and let him go. The gun too. Trayvon's body was removed from the scene and tested for drugs. No real attempt, it seems, was made by the authorities to identify the body or to find and notify his family even though he had a cell phone. The sad story is all over the news. So another national conversation has begun.
Someone said: “Not every shooting requires an arrest. There needs to be some evidence of a crime first. I believe the police are currently investigating and gathering evidence.” Then someone asks: “Are you proposing that they arrest Zimmerman before they determine that a crime has been committed?”
Hmmmm. Everyday, thousands of Americans are arrested, booked and jailed for "probable cause," sometimes for weeks; long before it's determined a crime was committed. I ask" If Trayvon Martin's dead body was not evidence of a crime, wasn't it enough to determine that Zimmerman was the probable cause? An unarmed teenager is an indication of what?
The conversation continues:
Beginning in 2005 in Florida and in 16 other states since then, “Stand Your Ground” laws have been put on the books. To understand this law, I must look back to the 1950's: the days of "Good Guys and Bad Guys," of "Cowboys and Indians" and shoot-em- up "Westerns" at the movies and on T.V. Today's "Stand Your Ground" laws appear to be a 21st century version of the wild west laws (or customs) that inspired those movies and T.V. shows. Essentially, anyone who grew up in their glow is quite familiar with how the law of the West boils down:
Be the the one standing when the gun-fight is over. Don't be the dead one. Then, you alone can claim self-defense. There's no disputing that you're the hero and as you holster your six-shooter with smoke rising from its barrel, you can swagger off to the saloon while tumble weed rolls down the dusty street.
So how does it boil down today?
HOODIES! That's what the "Bad Guys" are wearing.
Don't believe it! This stuff goes way back.
So, starting today, whenever you see me in a hoodie, you'll be seeing me remembering Trayvon Martin - another "Good Guy" in a hoodie. Sadly, he was gunned down by a "Bad Guy" with the law on his side.
I hear the Justice Department is on the case, but I also hear they must prove a hate crime was committed; that the killing was racially motivated. If they can't, then what?
From April 23, 2012
A State of Uneasiness Worth Looking Into
Is it me or is it you?
Is it my beard, my remnant of an Afro, or the sunglasses I wear on cloudy days that make me look suspicious? I don't know, but I've learned that a good way to deflect the effects of looking suspicious is to take a “screw you if you don’t like the way I look” attitude; an attitude, however, that is obviously flawed because we don't really know how we look to others.
Nevertheless, a nicely applied "screw you" attitude can work, but when it doesn't work you can be overcome by a feeling that you actually are worthy of suspicion directed at you and as this feeling crossed your mind and you're might do strange things like smiling to appear cheerful and friendly when you’re not.
Suspicion is a big problem here in America. Suspicion is the object of one of the longest continuously played games in America. I call it the game of Blacks vs. Whites.
There's nothing about my beard, my hairstyle, wearing my sunglasses on a cloudy day, or even having a "screw you" attitude that should make me look any more suspicious that anyone else similarly decked out.
The game of Blacks vs. Whites is being played right now on TV and in real life everywhere in America. Like it or not, you're a contestant. In the game, the Blacks are supposed to look suspicious to everyone who is not Black. If you're not Black you can play White for purposes of the game. When the game is running smoothly, the Whites are afraid of the Blacks and the Blacks are doing everything they can to dampen those fears (even playing deeper mind games with themselves). There's no way the Blacks can win the game.
Some people, especially people under the age of 40 or so (mainly children of the baby boomers) believed the game was no longer being played until they saw it revived in the aftermath of Barack Obama's election to the presidency in 2008. (There's hope the game came be brought to an end by the next generation to come to power, but we'll have to wait and see as generation before us have done.)
In the meantime, I ask, have you heard the calls for the president to show his birth certificate and to lay out his college transcript? Have you heard the crowds chanting, "We want our country back!" And mostly recently and tragically, you've probably heard a teenager described as "a real suspicious looking guy" and learned that within moments of that utterance, the "suspicious looking guy" is dead.
The stakes in this game are indeed high.
"Suspicion" according the Merriam Webster dictionary is “the act or an instance of suspecting something wrong without proof or on slight evidence...mistrust…a state of mental uneasiness and uncertainty.”
I call it the game of Blacks vs. Whites. You can call it whatever you like, but it has a lot to do with suspicion; a state of uneasiness worth looking into.