By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Slavery should be entirely passe in 2000, but it‘s not. It’s still the ultimate American denial, on both sides -- whites want to forget about it for obvious reasons of incrimination, and blacks are at the very least torn about remembering it because they would really rather reach past it, around it, forgo the happy-darkie and yassuh-boss cultural paradigm that they feel has kept them down for so long. But: Denial, however understandable, is denial, and it leads nowhere good (just ask my therapist).
There is at least, in 2000, a movement afoot to accord slavery its proper place. Randall Robinson of the organization TransAfrica has been campaigning hard for the last year or so for reparations to descendants of slaves -- that‘s us -- though he’s not fundamentally talking about money. More than cash disbursements, Robinson wants recognition from the government of the oppression slaves endured. He wants everybody to mourn. He wants an official monument, like the ones that pay homage to Washington and Lincoln and to Holocaust survivors and the Japanese who were wrongfully interned on American soil during World War II. Yet beneath the academic polish and impeccable reasoning of Robinson‘s arguments and editorials is a plea that is touching and saddening, and angering: Here we are, hat in hand, still seeking at-large affirmation while the rest of the world is busy issuing apologies (most recently, the president of Argentina apologized to Jews for his country’s having harbored Nazi war criminals), shifting borders, spinning deals around the globe, merging and making Web sites faster than you can spit. We‘re weathered rocks in the middle of a fast-moving stream, and the world is flowing around us without breaking pace. We’re still steeped in what historian Orlando Patterson, in his book Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries (1999), calls “natal alienation,” permanently wrought by the fact that slaves had no legally sanctioned or recognized family structure. Continuity has therefore always been tough to come by, like standing on the shoulders of someone who‘s been cut off at the knees, and the only thing that persists generation to generation is the need to create a new coping mechanism for being both extant and extinct.
Wanna Take You Higher
I borrowed my father’s old hardback copy of Black Rage hoping only for a side comment or two about the black psyche, some incidental insight that might prove useful in writing about race and depression. The title seemed quaintly dramatic, overwrought, of another age and arc in time that had once glowed hot with color and then vanished like a rainbow. But when I started reading, it felt not quaint at all but immediate, devastatingly relevant. Here were the million points of connection among ethnic, social and individual dynamics that I saw daily but, despite the vast array of media outlets at my disposal, never heard or recognized in words. This was analysis, epiphany, prophecy. I took many notes. I avidly followed stories of former patients like Bertha, a woman whose keen intelligence and curiosity seemed to have been neutralized by the fact that she‘d also been born with dark skin and a flat nose; John, an executive torn between corporate assimilation and ethnic identity; Booker, a doctoral candidate who struggles with the lingua franca of scholarship and clings to his Southern-patois rap like a security blanket. Like Randall Robinson’s explication of the merits of slavery recompense, the book is at once logical and supremely impassioned, and rings with truth and condemnation. It draws its subjects cleanly and objectively but does not worry about maintaining academic distance -- it in fact uses academics with a vengeance. The unexamined black life gave Cobbs and Grier all the drive and indignation they needed, and all the proof I needed to know I wasn‘t alone, in 2000, with my sense of being chronically out of focus.
Check the Black Box
When Census 2000 proposed a new racial category, “Other,” I felt equally furious and hapless -- i.e., depressed. (By virtue of being black for 38 years, wasn’t I already Other?) It was the damned ease with which the establishment assumed it could redraw boundaries of color and identity and cultural orientation, like congressional districts, in the same way it did last century when it decided who was black or white enough for polite society, and who wasn‘t. I know what some folks are thinking: But don’t you want to be free of those categories? Isn‘t it exactly those categories that have bound you for so long? To the multiculturalists who’ve been multiplying since the early ‘90s like maggots, I say no: What has bound me, and binds me, is an inchoate self that can be made whole only by effecting inclusion -- retroactively, please. Eradicating race is not a postmodern version of enlightenment to me but self-annihilation, even if it’s done only on paper. (After all, the most damning and lasting edicts are just that, ink on paper.) Neither do I view myself as merely a figment of race, but I cannot and do not separate race from Me. Why would I want to, anyway -- to blur the few lines of distinction that I and everybody else recognize?
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city