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Painful American Experiences
An exhausting nation.
I decided to take a mental break after the last post from earlier this week. I will return with one post next week about current events.
I will also resume the On This Day history posts the following week.
This week I planned to write about the Flint water crisis in Michigan beginning on April 25, 2014, and an incident where a White mob attacked non-violent Black protestors at segregated Biloxi Beach, Mississippi on April 26, 1960.
The dark trails that characterize and form our history can be hard to deal with at times. The institutionalized bigotries that decorate the American experience can be missed by some but is a stark reality for many on the margins.
History is a beautiful discipline filled with a variety of stories to unpack, places to explore, and memories to uncover. It is also the story of us as a people. It tells us where we came from and where we are potentially going.
The African American experience is uniquely bitter in this nation due to the cosmic historical terrors involved with ripping one’s soul and land from them while requiring that same group to prove their citizenship in a land they were forced to make home but features a larger population that doesn’t want to give them first class citizenship. Even after centuries of political (and actual) warfare, these pathologies hold close to the way the larger country sees American descendants of slavery (ADOS). These reflections often make one wonder about their place in the world and their destiny.
Am I destined to be in a historically traumatized body faced with a civic reality designed to exclude me?
What would it be like to voluntarily trace my history to a place before the beginning of America? Not through online family trees, but through stories passed down through my ancestors.
What if the stories didn’t begin at the Middle Passage or the memory of slaves without an ancestral path? Alluding to a lost history before that.
Why is the pain of this historical circumstance so great?
After the Civil War there was a well-known effort to make the war about a political tragedy that encompassed two noble points of views that differed over economic systems and unfortunately those differences couldn’t be resolved in lawmaking but in battle. This false reality contributed to historical scholarship and a Lost Cause of the Confederate south ideology that absolutely tore out the experiences of African Americans in the time before and after the Civil War.
No longer was the war about slavery in many regions of the nation.
No longer was the ongoing domestic terrorism towards minorities in the former Confederate regions (and around the entire country) easily connected to the failures of Reconstruction.
No longer were the tools available (in 19th and most of 20th century America) to identify the anti-Black laws in the southern states as a form of American fascism, only to inspire other regimes around the world.
Today, it is still hard for mainstream journalism (corporations really) and some political observers to call out the deep and dark motivations of many Americans who have been taught through culture and kitchen table tales to hate otherized Americans and make their politics exactly about that. This both sides framework continues to mire America’s ability to understand deep political and social developments into the modern day:
Yes, there are many hateful individuals, however, that is not most in my sincere belief.
However, literature and history reveal human society’s pretention to operate in a machine-like manner rife with invisible hands and autopiloted social systems. In America, this machinery is designed to dehumanize and ignore Black lives within the country, as well as many other voices on the margins.
Studying history is like the studying the blueprints of a society. The blueprints of American society have many anti-Black functions and that is hard to look past as an African American citizen. Black writers and artists have found inventive and creative ways to explain this experience throughout time.
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” -W.E.B. Dubois, 1903
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” -James Baldwin, 1961
“Very few Americans will directly proclaim that they are in favor of black people being left to the streets. But a very large number of Americans will do all they can to preserve the Dream. No one directly proclaimed that schools were designed to sanctify failure and destruction. But a great number of educators spoke of ‘personal responsibility’ in a country authored and sustained by a criminal responsibility. The point of this language of ‘intention’ and ‘personal responsibility’ is broad exoneration. Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015
Living in this dark Americana requires rest and contemplation.
I shed a deep love for the land my ancestors were brutalized in building, and I also harbor a deep exhaustion of its excesses and hateful features and designs.
Have a good weekend, rest, and will see you next week.
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