Sunday, March 12, 2017

Everybody else was paying their dues ... for the American Dream

It was heart-breaking for me to watch the archival footage of James Balwdin's comments, and to listen to his words, in the documentary "I am not your Negro," and think that many of those very words are applicable even now.  Word for word.  What a tragedy!

I wonder how many of the 63 million trump voters have watched that documentary.  Perhaps they think, believe, that there is nothing more to talk about race issues.  Perhaps they continue to believe that whites are the superior ones who deserve everything and more.  Or, perhaps the 63 million voters even believe that they are now the real victims of racism!

Baldwin talks about the urgency that he felt to leave Paris and return to America.
On every newspaper kiosk on that wide, tree-shaped boulevard in Paris were photographs of 15-year-old Dorothy Counts being reviled and spat upon by the mob as she was making her way to school in Charlotte, N.C. There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girl's face as she approached the halls of learning with history jeering at her back. It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity, and it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.
But it was on that bright afternoon that I knew I was leaving France. I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem. Everybody else was paying their dues. And it was time I went home and paid mine.
I thought about the BB King lyrics when he sings:
Everybody wants to know 
Why I sing the blues 
Yes, I say everybody wanna know 
Why I sing the blues 
Well, I've been around a long time 
I really have paid my dues 

When I first got the blues 
They brought me over on a ship 
Men were standing over me 
And a lot more with a whip 
And everybody wanna know 
Why I sing the blues 
Well, I've been around a long time 
Mm, I've really paid my dues

With trump's election, the social dynamics certainly have shifted, yet again.  Once again, it is all about the whites.  The GOP has become, for all purposes, the party of the whites.  It is a tragedy that completely depresses me.  Overwhelms me.  Drains me of emotions.  And then I wonder how Baldwin and others plodded on, even when people around them we being killed--all because they were fighting for human rights and equality.

Baldwin says:
You know, the question is really a kind of apathy and ignorance which is a price we pay for segregation. That's what segregation means. It - you don't know what's happening on the other side of the wall because you don't want to know.
The racist whites do not even want to know.   Baldwin wrote back in 1965:
Until the moment comes when we, the Americans, are able to accept the fact that my ancestors are both black and white, that on that continent we are trying to forge a new identity, that we need each other, that I am not a ward of America, I am not an object of missionary charity, I am one of the people who built the country--until this moment comes there is scarcely any hope for the American dream. If the people are denied participation in it, by their very presence they will wreck it. And if that happens it is a very grave moment for the West.
A grave moment this is--fifty years later.  After all these years of merely intellectualizing,  I fully realize how indebted I am.  I need to pay my dues.  Big time dues!


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