I have been doing a great deal of soul-searching lately, on a spiritual level as well as a physical level.
Having studied much of the history of this country and the role of Black people in building it and sustaining its wealth for centuries, as well as the deeds of some of the White folks who set this thing up and those who continue to do anything to maintain status quo, I began to ponder the question: Who and what are we fighting?
We are daily witnesses to warring factions, gang slayings, increased violence in our streets and some of the most heinous crimes committed against children in our history. The weather has drastically changed in the past five years to the point of causing major catastrophes with wind, water, heat and forest fires. The elements are rebelling against us as we continue to pollute our land, our living space and as we seek new places to live on the moon and on Mars in outer space.
Much of the strife we face can be traced right to our front door. Who is in charge? Who is running this country? Who is running this world?
I watched a video about the assassination of John F. Kennedy recently and was emotionally moved at the mere thought of this country's leaders doing what they did, not only to JFK but also to MLK, RFK, Fred Hampton and Malcolm X. It made me want to give up my quest of trying to move Black people to collective economic change, because the foe we face is so treacherous.
Who is this monster we are fighting? Is it even rational to think we can defeat him? Is it logical to think we can ever get even? I certainly believe that we are fighting against those "principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places." That said, I truly believe, just based on what I have studied and what I see today, that we are fighting the devil himself.
There have been men in this country who have occupied high places, ravaged other countries and trampled the rights of people in this country. We still have men in high places doing the same things today. I used to ask how they could do the things they do, how they could sleep at night and how they dealt with their consciences. I no longer ask those questions because I know who we are fighting, therefore I know the answers.
For instance, the Enron debacle was one for the annals of time. All of a sudden, Ken Lay has a heart attack, after he is convicted and looking at 20 years in jail. His very close relationship with Dubya, coupled with the strange and unresolved "deaths" of the past, gives credence to the possibility that Lay is not dead. Who knows, maybe they fixed that situation like they fixed the Kennedy thing.
With enough money and fear anything can be "fixed" in this country, and with the help of the media, some of whom collaborate with the liars, the people will believe anything they say and continue to mimic the thousands of wildebeest on the Serengeti Plain. Instead of acting collectively and fighting together against the lion, we wake up everyday hoping and praying that today is not our day to get eaten.
Brothers and sisters, we are in a fight for our very existence, but victory is possible. The odds are great, but so what, we can still prevail if we stick together. If Black people would just stop trying to "be equal," stop trying to assimilate, stop trying to change hearts, stop going along to get along, stop pretending, stop apologizing for our Blackness, stop hating ourselves, we would cause a sea-change in this country and at least live the rest of our lives as real men and women who are willing to fight rather than die as hogs (or wildebeasts), as Claude McKay wrote.
Yes, we are fighting some of the most evil forces on the face of God's earth; just study and analyze the history of this country and you can draw no other conclusion. They have committed so many evil acts over the past four centuries, but they won't get away. A due date is coming. In the meantime, Black people must realize that we are indeed inside the "belly of the beast." We are a nation within a nation and we should conduct ourselves accordingly. Presently we do not, and that must change.
If we continue down the road we are presently on, we will most assuredly fail. Black folks in the U.S. must acknowledge our collective situation and then be willing to contribute whatever we can, as individuals, to change it. Status quo is a prescription for failure. Laurence J. Peter said, "Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status." Why are some of us defending the evil that we face? Things could hardly get worse than they are right now.
Like other groups, we must settle on a common denominator that will bring and keep us together despite our many surface differences. That commonality is that we are Black people of African descent. If we hold that reality high and close to our hearts, we will find new hope, new love and a new spirituality that propel us toward the greatness of those ancestors we celebrate. Don't let the devil get you down; he is simply being true to who he is. The greater question is: Are you being true to who you are?
James E. Clingman is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati's African American Studies department.