The Dismantling of America: A Black Man’s Perspective
(Photo Credit: Facebook/ Johnny C. Johnson)
As an African American male, a baby boomer if Blacks are considered baby boomers, a child of the Jim Crow era, an adolescent during the Civil Rights Movement, a young adult and middle adult during the post Civil Rights years and now according to Erikson I’ve reached the mature stage where death is what lies before me. During the course of this time I’ve been lynched, castrated, dissected, eviscerated, debated, tested, molested, infested, fumigated, alienated, buried and even partially resurrected.
As Archeologists and Paleontologists peel back the earth’s surface and surmise what lies between earths’ many formations and the fossils of bygone eras gives insight to its makeup and development. It seems similar to the process I have gone through as a black man in America. You see I’ve been the bearer of many names, African, black, nigger, boy, colored, Afro-American, African American, gangster, thug but through the deluge of names I have never been claimed. You see I have remained the bastard child and not given the title of sonship.
I’ve been told that I’m angry, that I’m without morals, that I’m lazy, that I’m shiftless, that I’m a womanizer, that I’m a complainer, that I’m effeminate, that I don’t know my place, that I’m uppity, that I should be grateful for how I’m tolerated. You see as a person I’m covered with post-its defining me as others purportedly see me. I guess the title of Ralph Ellison’s book sums it up, that I’m seen as an invisible man. But I think that what strikes fear in the minds of many white Americans is that the child birthed for servitude, birthed to be led about by a nose ring, birthed to say “yes Massa” have thrown away that mind of a slave and is now being engulfed with the mind of a free and mature man. As Booker T. Washington has been touted for lifting the veil of ignorance from the Negro why now do you want to shackle us with a robe that threads are wind so tight that light cannot permeate it?
As a young Black man in the South of Herman Talmadge, George Wallace and many others preachers of hate and white supremacy and superiority I never wavered from that which have been instilled in me from my slave ancestors, my Jim Crow Era parents and teachers and from those whites that I came in contact with that showed to me, that loves overcomes hate, that the God in me loves the God in you. I was able to form as a young man my vision for the America that I wanted to see and wanted my children to be a part of. You see, I believed that not a greater America was forthcoming but rather a better America. Even though the words of a Constitution that was never written to include me echoed to me the coming of an America that one day would cast off the grandeur embodied in those words and live up to the spirit of those words as the Apostle Paul so eloquently expressed, “who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament — not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:6).
I think that America and Americans are enamored in their own illusions set in the template of words crafted on paper that they hold sacred and sacrosanct. The Constitution and the flag are merely inanimate objects that we worship as Gods or idols subscribing to them the power of a deity. So when the Constitution is not adhered to or the flag not saluted we have transgressed God’s law and must suffer the consequences. We tend to forget that the earliest protests were those by three Hebrew boys who failed to bow to a God not theirs and a Prophet who refused to give in to convenience wisdom when he was told not to pray. Protest is an inbred reaction to an outward circumstance that steals from each individual the ingrained DNA of who they are and what they can become. They are relegated to nothingness.
So I sense frustration, I sense hopelessness, I sense despair which is antithesis to the words of Emma Lazarus, written on the Statue of Liberty that speaks eternally these words of compassion: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Words that gave hope to those seeking refuge on these shores from other countries but further relegated millions of African Americans to what Dr. King alluded to, “the promise of a check knowingly written with insufficient funds”. These funds were not monetary in nature but rather stored in an account of a heart devoid of humanness, love, equality and brotherhood.
As I watch media reports of black men killed which is nothing new to me. The same thing happened in the Jim Crow Era with blacks killed and buried in fields, hung on trees, thrown in wells and rivers. There was no media to condemn, no cell phone to record, just grief in the hearts of those whose loved ones were lost. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “there’s nothing new under the sun”.
If we momentarily look at the words of those I consider “seers” of their times, W.E.B. Dubois and Langston Hughes, we see not an indictment of America but rather a moral call to cast off those tattered remnants of the stained, shredded and severely worn clothes of racism, hatred, nationalism, and the self righteousness which blinds and so depredates a nation and a people. This call which is highlighted in the scriptures that we tout as our guide found in Colossians 3:9-10 and Romans 13:11 -12. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
There is a clarion call, do we hear it? It’s a call that says, “Get it right, you can do better than this”. It’s not a call for us to be great again; it’s a call asking us to God up and man up and light the torch of greatness that lies within each of us. America knows its sins and transgressions as David alluded, “my sin is ever before me”. Which means that it was acknowledged and catalogued but was not an eternal definition of who he was for he was acknowledged as a “man after God’s own heart”.
As we walked and sang during the Greatest period in America’s history, a march for equality and justice for all, hand in hand, black and white together, God is on own side, we shall overcome someday. I say to America the time is far spent, the hour is now; the time of your redemption is at hand.
To wait longer only condemns us to greater devastation, greater lost and greater separation. I do not want my children or grandchildren to continue to face the same wall that I’ve faced neither do I want my white friend’s children to forever believe that the garment of perpetual white privilege will always surround them and be their protection. It’s time to make that change, remember “faith without works is dead”.
Save the generations to come! The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. (Numbers 14:18)
- Johnny C. Johnson of Erie, PA