If you are not having this thought cross your mind at least once a week then you are unplugged to a dangerous degree. The first step to tapping back in is to admit you have severed ties and answering why. On the other hand, if you are having this conversation often enough with the right individuals or groups then you are probably (even if not verbally) asking this in a disclaimer sort of manner. Regardless of the persistence with which you propose this question the fact of the matter is that when it does come about you need to be able to answer confidently and factually. The old adage of, “it’s history so it is his story not mine”, is not acceptable in terms of the history and reality of the Sudanese people. It is very pertinent in fact in every way it can be assessed. So, in light of all sides needing to be brought to the arena to observe the reality of what most avoid to shed light on, Ijeoma has done just that. Arriving armed with facts and experience to the place where truth does battle. It is through her raw commentary of life experiences that we gain an understanding of what the black male or female goes through physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially.
More often than should be allowed, are young black boys and girls chided in the schoolhouse for simply being children expressing emotion. Happiness and exuberance. Excitement and apprehension. Sadness and irritability. Impatience and lack of focus. All normal emotional waves ridden by every general education(1) categorized child. These are the exact behaviors teachers are meant to deal with directly and gently. In a manner that is productive and beneficial to the child’s growth and therefore eventually the sustaining of a healthy community once said child ascends the age ranks. Through meeting the children where they are rather than treating the children the way they are stereotyped the classroom becomes inclusive. Oluo paints reality with her own brush. Then to illustrate clearly she provides solid data that is digestible for anyone who wishes to wake up or wake up the world. Her personal experiences will resonate on a level that will cause you to step back and connect the dots in your own childhood. The foundation laid through the entire experience of being black in school will determine the psychological efficacy of a person and you may find yourself reaching for tissue when seeing the stark part race has played in your youth and perhaps now in your adult years.
We are well aware that once we have finished our studies (most times even during our academic years) the need for cashflow arises. In this process of finding employment an entirely new set of hoops must be assessed and leapt through. Let the search begin for a position that will deliver a respectable wage but will not require me to lose sight of my heritage and my ethnicity. Followed by how to dress during the interview and how to deal with the ignorance of the employer who may be seating the interview. Once the vie for the position has yielded its fruit then we commence the endless marathon of dodging landmine after landmine; Sidestepping water cooler conversations and uncomfortable happy hour invites in order to not jeopardize what took so much effort and fronting to acquire. This black woman has laid bare the gauntlet we all must run and in doing so empowered us to be every ounce of our radiant blackness. To stand up for what you know to be right for those who cannot enter this fight. To hold firm to your morals and demand that others respect you as a hueman who has the right to that – your huemannes. Her boldness is amazing and it is inspiring all many levels. By arming ourselves with our collective experiences (good an bad) we can combat the forces against us and our natural existence with a higher efficiency.
Being skilled at observing, learning and attacking your opposition when the best opportunity arises is the mark of a wise general. To be aware and deal justly with the matters at hand at all times is the seal of a true leader. Ijeoma has shown that she is willing to look inward (as we all need to regularly in order to remain on the path to success for our people) and see how she may exude the same mannerisms that cause her to feel so distanced and displace from those who share the same black roots as her. We all do this. Knowingly and unknowingly. The fact that we do it at all is too much. We must overlook the differences and focus in on the best of what is common between us. The current social structure is: massive subculture evolution. Small, ever evolving cliques that section and segment our people without a tying line back to the center. Nothing could’ve been more striking then one of her anecdotes regarding the very realization when she found herself stereotyping her own people due to their dissimilar appearance. I felt myself on one of those sides. In my heart I knew that I had been stereotyped into that category countless times in my youth and adulthood. A searing pain it had left in my chest which I had no knowledge how to alleviate. By committing myself to turn each page with the intent to empower myself where I was weak I can now address those other groups with confidence. Confidence in the black Man I am and the indifference I feel toward that which they stereotype me as. Through my conviction of self-image and respect I can shed light for those who see me quite differently through foggy lenses.
“So, You Want To Talk About Race” is a remarkable capturing of the racial picture in America. Swept under the rug of democracy and drug addiction, the initiation of chattel slavery of the black race has long been forgotten and the attempt to discredit the justifications for the current state we are in. We have work to do, that is clear, but we must fully and undoubtedly acknowledge the true state of the race from its first contact with European slave ships and the crossing of the “Bitter Passage”. The thorough examination of the unspoken racism that exists in everyday life for a black child, teen, parent, co-worker, business owner, etc. provides us with a systematic approach to dealing with the various levels of reaction we may encounter as well as the diversity in subtle racial tactics. We cannot wander into this battle blindly. Our enemy knows this arena far too well and has moved to the level of mastery. For victory to be ours we must first become an ”US”. Unity regardless of difference when united on one mission is a powerful thing. More powerful than a nuclear fission. So, are you ready to begin speaking to your circle about race and the values our people need to show in order to overthrow our centuries old oppressor? If so pick up your copy and make the positive impact your ancestors have been waiting for.
(1) As opposed to special education children.