White Americans do not value or respect Black Americans because Black Americans, quite frankly, are not American. Now before my assimilationist, Black containment minded readers begin a campaign of cyber vitriol, let me explain. The American dream is the narrative of the American people; it quite literally defines what it means to be an American. This definition is not rooted in qualifications as much as it is rooted in values and shared experiences. But Black Americans share very, very little in the way of commonality when it comes to their wider American counterparts. Here is a descriptive, although not exhaustive list of all the attributes of Americanisms that Black Americans lack.
Love Of Absolute Freedom
One can seamlessly put on a very clear and poignant argument to support the fact that Black freedom has been qualified since the very beginning of Black existence on American shores. Surely the degrees of freedom that Blacks have experienced since their arrival to the U.S. has ebbed and flowed in one direction or the next, but unlike much, or all, of their wider American counterparts there has never existed one particular period where Blacks have experienced complete unqualified freedom from every external influence that vie to control their lives. For example, Blacks, after the civil war and the end of slavery, were never allowed any political choice as to how their future would be organized. Instead they were pulled into the American power structure without so much as an inquiry to gauge whether they wanted to exist there or not. It was, by definition, a form of colonialism, yet instead of carving out full or partial political control over a country, the U.S. again thought it appropriate to govern Black lives and exploit it further politically and economically. Sure, former enslaved Blacks, (in some settings under certain guidelines) were now capable of choosing where and for whom they worked, but they were never given true political freedom to organize their own lives and decide their own destiny. In truly un-American fashion Black Americans largely accepted this new qualified freedom. Imagine if after the American war of Independence the British said (queue British accent) “You know what yanks, you’ve whipped us. Bravo! You can now do whatever you want as free subjects of the British crown.” Ummm would that not have defeated much of the point of the war? Wouldn’t anything short of absolute freedom from Britain, belie Patrick Henry’s famous cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” While this maxim in favor of absolute freedom is engraved in the hearts and minds of wider Americans, Black Americans don’t readily see absolute freedom as a necessity that warrants the loss of life, much less comfort. We have largely, for centuries sold all our liberties for the mere possibility of surviving. This divergence in ideals makes us irreconcilably different from American values and ideals.
Vengeance is mine sayeth the American people. Almost all of the noble acts of gallantry and American patriotism we celebrate today were precipitated on the back of an assault to American interest, be they real or imagined, significant or insignificant. American people are very vengeful people. Whether it’s the Boston Massacre, the Chesapeake Affair, the Alamo, the Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or 9/11, when American grief turns to anger, and then anger to resolution, whether they bring their enemies to justice or justice to their enemies, justice will be done. What perplexes and scares the living bejesus out of wider Americans is that Black Americans do not largely possess the same thirst for vengeance or justice as they do. I assure you, you would be viewed as a madman (specifically by Blacks) if you were to extol Black American vengeance for wider American atrocities with mantras like; remember our enslaved forefathers, remember Rosewood, remember Tulsa, remember Jim Crow, remember the lynchings, remember Emmitt Till, remember MLK (his dream as well as his nightmare), remember Malcolm X, remember Fred Hampton, remember Assata Shakur, remember Amadou Diallo, remember Trayvon Martin, remember Eric Garner, remember Michael Brown, remember Freddie Gray…. What wider Americans cannot understand (and what some Black Americans can’t understand either) and what is the source of some of the defensiveness and enmity that wider America possesses for Black Americans is that Black Americans as a whole have never sought to serve justice on their wider American counterparts. They’ve never taken it upon themselves, in any resolute way, to bring wider America to task for the centuries of injustice and oppression that Blacks have suffered at their hands. Black America has primarily sought to exist, in any normative and comfortable way within wider American dominance. They have not for the most part sought to exit or destroy that wider American dominance. Like the bully who cannot respect the scrawny kid who largely acquiesces to his persecution, wider America cannot fully respect people who conform and often ratify their own subjugation. They can’t fathom the idea that Black Americans would be willing to proverbially turn the other cheek. So when a woman clutches tighter to her Fendi purse at the sight of a Black man walking down the street, it isn’t because she’s afraid that the man is innately violent, it is because she knows that Fendi bag was bought from her peoples extraction of that mans labor and rightfully belongs to him and if the shoe were on the other foot her people would steal such a purse (and more than likely kill such a man) in the name of justice and vengeance. When a man shoots an unarmed Black man because he thought he looked threatening or menacing, it is really just the guilty conscience of that man guiding him into irrational overly defensive acts. This lack of vengefulness highlights the fact that Black Americans do not share wider American ideals.
Self-Interested Rational Actors
There is an old adage that Americans don’t spend a $1 in charity unless their positively sure they can make $100 back in return. Okay, I made that up, but that doesn’t immediately invalidate the merits of such a statement. American people are very self-interested rational actors. We don’t fight in wars where there aren’t insatiable markets to conquer or where there aren’t oceans of oil (and other resources) to control. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. In many ways I believe the world would be far better off if everyone took care of themselves and their interest with the same kind of vociferous, one track minded determination that American people often do. America does not make international deals or treaties with other nations that subordinate their own interest. Most people don’t. To be a rational actor one must negotiate with the goal of advancing ones own interest to the exclusion of others. Black Americans for the most part are not rational actors. In Black decision-making and policy initiatives there seems to be a frightening need for ecumenicalism. In recent years it has been harder and harder to even strive for Black objectives without attaching some other goal or interest to validate it. ‘Black and Brown communities’, ‘urban issues’, ‘inner city problems’ these forms of deflective language dilute and conceal Black ambition and self-interest. Wider America almost never seeks permission from another group to advance its objectives. Often times it advances its interest in spite of others. Black Americans as a whole have hardly ever behaved in such a way, thus illustrating how disconnected Black Americans are from wider American ideals.
When was the last time you read a Black magical novel? Or watched a “Lord Of The Rings” type fantasy film created by a Black filmmaker? I know! Never. The reason for this lack of imagination is due to the fact that, Black Americans unlike wider Americans are totally anchored in the harshness of reality. They are almost totally incapable of conjuring worlds outside the ones that they currently inhabit. This is entirely understandable and psychologically validated. Just study Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it’s easy to see why. How could a people struggling to master their current existence dream of an entirely separate one altogether? It’s not impossible but it becomes far more uncommon to procure dreamers from such a population. Also, when you live in a country whose policies are designed to stifles much of your vision, it becomes all too evident why Blacks are so very pragmatic. However, this is probably the deciding factor as to why Black Americans don’t share American values. Americans are above all things dreamers. Margret Thatcher once said that the British define themselves by their history, where Americans define themselves by their future. No other sentiment can be truer. Vision, foresight, prospecting, imagination, idealism is the hallmark of Americanism and the American Dream. For instance, George Washington, the legendary almost deified founding father we know him as, was already very rich prior to the war of independence. But he understood that if he could cut the middleman (the British) out of his business, he would not only be even richer, but he would also have the ability to be the first executive of possibly the greatest republic on the earth since Rome. Being a wealthy Virginian planter was one thing, but being a founding father, was a whole other prospect. All the founding fathers were in some way already well off and firmly entrenched as the leadership of the colonies, but their single-minded vision for something more, along with their foresight to see themselves as more than the upper echelon of the under crust of someone else’s society, elevated them to the very mold of what it means to be American. Black Americans on a whole, based on their past responses to wider American oppression, possess nothing of this quality. Black Americans lack the ability to dream. Reality is their prison. As a whole they are unable to conjure up a world where they aren’t oppressed. Where they exist free from their traditional enemies and free to pursue all their hopes and ambitions. For Blacks what is now shall always be, and if a change is affected it will be affected on them, and not by them. This more than anything is the reason why Black Americans are viewed as foreigners in what ought to be their own country.
So… What Does It All Mean Basil?
By now you might realize that not sharing wider American values is perhaps not the worst thing in the world. But I think what holds Black Americans back is that, of late, we don’t recognize this difference. How can a group of people sharing almost polar opposite irreconcilable values share a country? A split is inevitable. The question is do Black Americans want to prepare for this split? Do we want to control our destiny and win the freedom to be who we actually are and not what we are told to be? These questions are obviously ones for us to decide.
A desert dweller