Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Waiting on Revolution (Still): Bringing It All Full Circle

All criticism is a[n] autobiography.

--Bernard Shaw

But there is one thing about niggers I do not love

Niggers are scared of revolution.

--The Last Poets

…and now back to the regularly scheduled post.

I’m not sure when I first heard the term post-racial. I’m not sure if it was during the days leading up to the recent presidential election or in the days immediately following. But I wanted to believe, and for a brief moment I did.

However, on the day following the election, I spotted a group of women waving Obama campaign signs on a corner. And as I waited at the stop light, I heard the vilest of epitaphs hurled at these women from the cars of passing drivers, and I knew it was not so.

Regardless of what transpired after the campaign, though, I still marvel at and I am still proud of the amazing amount of energy and pride we exhibited during that campaign. For a brief second, I thought we were on the verge of revolution, but once the excitement and energy of the campaign dissipated, once the jubilation of the inauguration faded away, we all seemed to believe fait accompli and went about our everyday business. But the mission was hardly complete.

We sought change, and we flirted with revolution, but I don’t honestly believe we all had the same definition of change in mind. Many of us looked toward real change—revolution. We looked forward to changing the very nature of politics. We looked forward to leveling the playing field and making democracy work for everyone, not just a select few. We looked forward to everyone who had been denied a voice for so long, finally gaining a voice.

But many of us sought only to change the face and complexion of the man in charge of this whole mess. And that we got. But that change was and is wholly ineffectual. That change was and is only superficial.

We changed the face and complexion of the man in charge, but we overlooked the realities of the institution he took charge of. In our haste to embrace a post-racial society, we failed to realize just how shot through with racism and bigotry that institution was and is.

We campaigned for change, but what we really needed was a revolution.

And now when we really need the excitement and energy of the campaign, everyone seems to be complacent. Everyone seems to be sitting back waiting to see just what he will do next. How he will handle the challenges he faces. How he will respond to the charges made against him.

But in the meantime, the other side has mobilized. The other side has taken to the streets. The most urgent, strident voices to be heard across the political landscape are those attempting to fight back progress, those most resistant to real change.

And it’s time for us to stand up, to beat back those voices, to counter their ugly, vile rhetoric, their lies, with own voices, our own rhetoric, with our truths.

But we remain complacent. We remain silent.

When I was a child growing up during the seventies, I spent a lot of time on college campuses across the country with my mother, who was in graduate school, my aunts and my uncles. I remember the incredible amount of positive energy on those campuses at that time. I remember the conversations that took place. I remember the brothers and sisters first whispering, then shouting, revolution!

But it was not the violent revolution, the violent overthrow that’s often associated with that period, with that movement. It was a revolution of information. It was a revolution of pride. People were being encouraged to educate themselves, to get to know the institutions they were fighting against. People were encouraged to have pride in themselves, to not merely accept the crumbs which fell from the table, but to demand to have their cake and eat it too.

There was the tacit promise that change would eventually come. There was the tacit promise that the world would be made better for young black boys and young black girls in the near future. But as time went on, we ceased demanding a place at the table and simply took the little that was given us. But usually it was too little, too late, and meant only to appease.

I remember one of the leaders of that movement either saying or writing that one day, no one would feel free to call us niggers. And since that time, no one freely has. But we still seem to have not learned that there is more than one way to call a person a nigger, and we are being called out at this very moment.

And I am still waiting for revolution.

Additional reading: Full text and audio of Stokely Carmichael’s speech “Black Power” delivered at the UC Berkeley in 1969. [Click here to read and/or listen.]


Anonymous said...

Max I don't think most whites care about our society being post racial. I think there are whites who may care about moving ahead and putting race behind us, but it just will not happen. I know it sounds sad, but people do not care. Blacks are complacent and I think that is why we have people like Larry Elders and Clarence Thomas. Blacks should have never gotten too comfortable, we aren't totally free yet. Are we?

md20737 said...

Revolution will never come because black people call the new Massa "dollar". And thanks to all forms of media that is all we are ever taught is how to "get money" "put in that work" "paper chase" "grind" "hustle" "be in the game", etc.

That is all the young mind thinks of at this point. Sorry to say that I dont believe revolution is coming.

Citizen Ojo said...

Good one Max..

blackink said...

I dunno (I say this often, no?)

I think the thing is, after inclusion ... what's next? What are we forming the revolution for? What are our common goals? Do we even have common goals?

It think it's too early to know. Even now.

Also, I want to support our president but I don't want to be so supportive that I don't look at him with a critical eye. He still needs to be accountable for the things he promised. I know he can't do it alone. I know we have to help him to help us. But we can't all roll with him just cuz he promised change and got our votes on Nov. 4. As we've seen too many times in the past, Democrats have been taking the revolutionary vote for granted for at least a couple of decades now.

If his health care reform plan is too weakened by bipartisanship, we should demand better. If he told us he supports repealing DADT, we should hold him to that. If he hopes to reform Wall Street, we need to ensure he's not too closely aligned with the people in need of reform.

I guess, the only way to make sure we're not suckered again, is to - as you said - educate and energize ourselves. Which, I guess, is another type of revolution.

Let's see where it all take us. Nice post, btw.

(Maybe none of this made any sense).

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