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© Bernard W. Saunders
Iture-Elmina, Ghana West Africa
December 28, 2014

“If you come to a fork in the road take it”: Yogi Berra
The Book of Awakening, Conari Press, © 2000 Mark Nepo

The United States of America again finds itself at a racial fork in the road. The choice it makes could well determine its existence as a republic. To me the choice is clear, does the United States continue its descent into the racial, ethnic, political, economic violence that is plaguing so much of humanity or does it finally fulfill its founding premise of liberty and justice for all?

For me the fork in the road is no less clear: Do I add my opinion to the cacophony of those in full voice on the subject or do I stand silent? If I do who am I writing for or to? Do I stand mute in the face of what amounts to State sponsored terrorism with the ongoing killing of young Black males at the hands of police across the country?

The spate of killings of African American males is only new in the names of those killed. From the inception of this nation it has defined the Black man as dangerous on one hand and expendable on the other. The recent killings of Black men by the police has to be viewed in their historical context.

The United States was and is a commercial enterprise first established on the destruction, the mass killing of the indigenous civilizations in existence when Europeans made contact with the Western Hemisphere.

The so called American revolution for all of the lofty words in its Declaration of Independence, and its Constitution about the equality of man, set aside the humanity of the indigenous population in the building of the nation.

This crime against humanity was paralleled by the systematic murder and enslavement of millions of human being on the continent of Africa in the process of transporting enslaved Africans to the Western Hemisphere during the European Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. The Civil War was about two competing economic systems in which the humanity of African people was a secondary issue.

The pillars of white supremacy were firmly established during those periods in religion, politics, and economics. The education system perpetuated the illusion of white supremacy, while class based white skin privilege was woven into the very fabric of society. Segregation was the white supremacist handmaiden, integration its spawn.

Paradoxically people of African Ascent have fought in those wars. Blacks fought on both sides of the American revolution and the Civil war. We have fought with honor in every war the System designated as enemies of the United States. We return home from those wars to be met with the same ignominy of racism. Ironically in the course of fighting those wars we have one of the best trained military forces in history living within our communities.

From the slave dungeons which dot the coast of west Africa, throughout the ensuing epochs people of African Ascent in the United States have fought and died to establish our humanity in a system founded and continues to thrive while dehumanizing us.

It is not politically correct to say so, but the fact is that validation of our humanity has only come through struggle and bloodshed. Some of us have died so that others of us would live.

African mothers threw their children over the rails of the slave ships and followed them into the deep.

To come of age in such a ruthless system one learned the survival skills of misdirection and subterfuge, to throw the blood hounds off the scent. But their 21st century trainers and handlers have unleashed them again. I can hear them baying in the mass media, in the political establishment, and labor leaders, as they seek to once again stand truth on its head for political purposes. White sheets and burning crosses have been replaced by suits, business cards, and uniforms; but the intent is the same: intimidate, terrorize and repress into silence and submission.

Fully aware that I risk turning the hounds in my direction, I am moved to ask as that system sets out to destroy in death the killer of two New York City police officers in what was clearly a political assassination, a political statement, and besmirch those who peacefully protest State sanctioned killing by placing the blood of those officers on the hands and heads of peaceful protesters:

Does anyone in that pack, that mob, fueled by blood lust and revenge give any thought to the depth of the hopelessness , anguish, despair, rage and anger that motivated that human being; the Shooter to target those two officers?

Having dealt with those emotions as a human being of African/Native American Ascent all of my conscious life I have.

Do those in powerful position think that we do not understand that placing the blood of those two officers on our heads and hands for political purposes think that we do not understand the significance of such an actions? That we too are being dehumanized in turn along with the Shooter. With the potential for more deaths.

I argue that the officers were killed as symbols of the State. It was not the men, nor their race or ethnicity it was the uniform they were wearing. For that uniform is a symbol, of what many consider, an occupation force in our community. To many the police are not in our communities to serve and protect, but to repress, intimidate and control.

Heretofore, we would bury our dead, when afforded the opportunity and created a culture of self validation emulated around the world out of our despair and anguish: Spirituals, gospels, jazz, dance, literature, churches, education systems, movements, families and communities.

We would swallow our spit as old folks would say and keep on keeping on.

At different times rebellion would break out of our imprisoned souls and we would retaliate against the dehumanize-rs. Unfortunately for the officers and their family, the death of those three men were in that mode. Having worn a similar uniform for twenty years I mourn their deaths, even as I reason they are casualties in a struggle that has gone on for hundreds of years, with no end in sight.

There was a message in the deaths of those three men that the elites of the United States ignore to the peril of the nation.

From the depths of his anguish and despair and hopelessness the shooter was saying: Enough!

One would think that hundreds of years of struggle for recognition of our rightful place in the basic denominator of humanity that bounds us all would be enough. Clearly from the Supreme Court of the United States, to the officers on patrol in Black, Brown, Red and poor neighborhoods it is not enough. The Struggle Continues.

There is also a message in the deaths of those three men, and the deaths of all persons who have preceded them for Black America; for we too are at the same fork in the road.

From the divide between the enslaved field hands to the enslaved house servants; through sharecropping; from nationalism to integration the fork has always been there.

Malcolm X in his analysis of the System in his Ballot or Bullet speech (You Tube, Cleveland Ohio April 4, 1964) offered one option. Martin Luther King another (also on You Tube). The same can be said for Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Enough each was saying in their own way. When Malcolm and King were killed in acts of State sponsored terrorism they were closer in their thoughts then they were apart. Perhaps that is why the State decided they had to die. Du Bois spent the last years of his life in voluntary exile in Ghana- King has been turned into a dreamer, not a man of action saying: Enough.

They differed on tactics, but not the goal: Acceptance of our humanity as Blacks, African Americans in the United States that precludes assimilation. Assimilation for Blacks in a society grounded in white supremacy and white skin privilege is impossible for persons of color, especially Blacks. Integration and the ballot have largely been a bust. The USA is as segregated overall now as it was before the civil rights movement. The ballot has largely been discounted by money.

People of African Ascent living in the USA the Shooter was saying have to look inside ourselves as individuals and as a collective for answers. The answers will not come from government, for government as currently constituted serves at the behest of the elite. That elite, that social political structure to paraphrase James Smalls remains pillared on white supremacy and white skin privilege.

And as John Henrik Clarke has reminded us in reference to three thousand years of Africa being invaded and exploited by outsiders: Africa has never had any friends among the invaders.

I was born 77 years ago within walking distance of where the Shooter took his stand. I have engaged the white ethnics of the United States for most of my lifetime. We have fought each other as teenagers in some instances, and fought with each other as adults in others.

Some individuals in those same ethnic groups have supported and continue to support the Struggle for Human Rights for People of color and the poor in this nation. I have been privileged to have and still have some of those progressive and forward looking people in my life.

By their actions they have helped to move me from seeing the world in Black and white to gray, with the ever evolving understanding that it is not so much about race, color and ethnicity as it is about Spirit, Beliefs and Ideology. It really does not matter the color of the person denying your humanity. What matters is the denial of your Human Rights.

People of all persuasions in the Struggle for Human Rights and Justice in the United States, and around the world, must not forego those critical alliances. We must retain our belief in the Common denominator of our Humanity.

There have been others who have opposed and continue to be in opposition as we fight to establish our humanity. I have known some of them also. They have helped to harden my resolve.

For all of the truth of our common humanity, People of African Ascent in the United States have to address our role, that gives license to the State and its agents of enforcement to cite behavior among and between us-violence, killing, crime-as reasons to violate our Human Rights.

While we are aware of the historical external forces that are contributing factors to our anguish, despair, and sense of hopelessness we must address the internal factors – ignorance and self hatred – that we know are there.

African-Americans have to take control of our own destiny. As individuals, the first step in curing any malady, any addictive behavior is the recognition that it exist. And may I add to my brethren on the continent of Africa as well as its worldwide Diaspora. Take control of your destiny. The answer to Africa’s challenges are there internally-they will not come from the outside. (See John H. Clarke again).

Oh I hear my brothers and sisters who say to me, above the baying of the blood hounds we cannot wash our dirty laundry in public. We harken back to our survival skills of misdirection and subterfuge. But when dirty laundry is washed and hung on the line in the healing sunlight it is so much fresher.

And it doesn’t matter if the clothes line is strung, between two sections of an apartment house in segregated Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, or the line in my grandparents yard in segregated Virginia of my youth, or the line in my yard of my current home in Ghana. The sunlight cleanses and heals.

Yet I say again, the cure begins with the recognition that the malady is there.

From Africans who aided and abetted the European Atlantic trade in their enslaved brethren, not to forget the ongoing Arab slave trade that preceded it, to today’s destructive behaviors we have to accept our responsibility. Only then can we say to our adversaries- Enough- with integrity.

Then when we face off against those who continue to foster the climate where Blacks are killed by the agent of the State-read police-with impunity-we can go from protest to demand.

Frederic Douglass said: Power yields nothing without demand. It as true now as it was then.

But as we continue to engage the system in our eons long Struggle we must not succumb to feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, anguish, rage and fear. There is hope, hope that is germinated internally. Here in Africa I see what I have dubbed the “new missionaries”,

(We know the role the old missionaries played and continue too. They were and are, the primary weapon in the destruction of indigenous cultures. They came with the military that planted the flags of the invaders, along with the factors of the funding commercial interest).

The new missionaries are secular, spiritual young people on the Continent and in the Diaspora, they are African Centered and Pan African: educated and immersed in the language of 21st century communications; linked by an understanding of the most advanced technology, coming together to reject the System and its cohorts across what were once barriers of race and ethnicity.

These new missionaries are diminishing the potency of divide and conquer.

Bearing in mind John Henrick Clarke’s teaching: We have to encourage, sustain, and maintain those alliances.

With that said I will close by saying: The right of human beings to defend ourselves is established in nature, inherent in our humanity and codified in common law. By extension the right of a community and a people to defend themselves, and their kith and kin is without question. This too without question is valid when those legally and morally responsible: read State and its enforcement agents by acts of commission or omission fail to do so.

In the United States of America the Right of the People to legally bear Arms has been sanctified by the Supreme Court.

As Yogi clearly stated we are at a fork in the road. Take one.

I have taken mine. I write from Ghana. That is one option. But the blood, sweat, and tears of my Native American, of my African Ancestors have enriched the earth of the United States, my umbilical cord is buried somewhere not to distant from where the Shooter took his stand. I have a stake in the United States so I must remain engaged.

As I tell the young people: I am history. But my children and grandchildren live in the USA. (A word about my children and grandchildren and my extended family. They have wreaked havoc on the racial classification system of the USA. In my time it was easy to fit people into the color modes of the USA. Now it is not so because the young people have produced a rainbow of humanity within our extended family.) So I write to them and for them. The idealist in me thinks, wouldn’t it be wonderful if humanity could learn to talk and listen to one another before conflagrations instead of after.

Although as I have said, I am history, my 77 years of evolving on this plain as a conscious human being, have convinced me through observation and experience that conflict, and friction are inherent in the nature. That tension can lead to growth. Birds are territorial and protect their nest and turf. The plates of the earth ground against one another generating heat. That heat sometimes erupts underwater creating mountains under the oceans. Sometimes the lava created as the result of the friction bursts through the crust of the earth destroying that which impedes its flow, creating anew in time. Pearls are created in shells as the result of friction. (Thanks to Mark Nepo for reminding me of that).

Humanity has those same processes within us, in addition gifted with intuitiveness, and the ability to think and reason we have the ability to use them for the best possible good for all. The realist in me understands the challenges and degree of difficulty.

Still I say for the future of my children and their children and their children – Enough!

Let there be Peace.

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