Intra-Family Dementia

By Maxjulian

April 28, 2006

Category: Uncategorized


There used to be a time when black folks spoke to each other. Maybe we still do in certain settings or cities. But here in Portland, OR, chances are, niggas will count the chicken fat stains on their wing tips before they’ll look a brotha in the eye and speak.

I mean, GOTDAMN! I’ve been doing an unscientific survey recently, making a real effort to look into the whites of my kinfolks eyes, male or female, young or old. Niggas here seem to be saying in no uncertain terms, “fool, you on yo’ own.”

The reasons are probably related to several factors: the exclusionary laws that forbade blacks from living in the State until the late 19th century; the intensely restrictive housing covenants that led to realtors being fired for selling a nigga a house in the wrong, a.k.a. white neighborhood; the perfection of the practice of redlining to the point where, the chances of a nigga getting a house loan in Portland were similar to those of a terrorist strike on a Penguin colony; and the fact that, after WWII, black shipyard workers – many of whom were Southern or Midwestern transplants – were systematically fired once the white boys came back home.

At the height of this betrayal, 10,000 unemployed blacks from the Great Influx remained, unemployed, the rest having gotten the message to leave pronto. The white city fathers contacted the National Urban League to help remedy the problem. The Urban League rep was ‘shocked’ when his hosts, rather than asking his help in seeking’employment strategies for the Negroes, were actually interested in finding the most efficient means to remove these remaining Negroes from the state! HELLO?!

We’ve been so beaten down and balkanized here that we don’t, can’t trust each other. It seems many of us don’t want to be seen as black or reminded of it. As I walked towards this sistah the other day (who was in the company of two white women), from 50 feet I could see it coming. Just as we approached, at the point where near-sightedness kicks in and you can see the pores in a person’s face, Beulah’s head swiveled and pitched skyward as if she’d heard the rocket boosters fire up in the Space Shuttle high above. I lived right next door to a Rochester Knee-gro a few years back and it was the same thing; I’d just moved in, come out on the stoop of my house, he’s standing on his stoop. I look over to give him the ‘yo, was up’ and he turns away. Nigga Puh-leaze!! There was really no other reason to turn his head at that moment besides: racial shame, embarassment, “trying to pass with yo’ black ass?” Qui, non? Mon DIEU! I’s confused?!

Its gonna take YEARS of racial rehab therapy to help our poor people recover from the “cradle to grave” racist oppression. I know I need to be more gentle with my people cuz we are suffering post-slavery/post-traumatic stress/post-Jim Crow Syndrome.

Its sad how whites have felt they did us a “favor” by supposedly freeing us. Freeing us to an aborted Reconstruction and then into the blood stained hands of “Jim Crow” and the Southern, sheet wearin’ cracka? Or, the second class citizenship of UPSOUTH? We had to suit up and fight to TRY and get what every white immigrant leapfrogged over us and got after a few years of minor difficulties: the status of an American (white).

They never had a “Marshall Plan” for us,
when the Native American and the ex-slave, handkerchief headed niggas were most deserving of one. Who was more deserving than us…the Germans, the French? The Japanese, for God’s sake? This country has done more for strangers, for foreigners – more for its former enemies – than its ever done for its own nonwhite popoulation.

And what of the mental damage, the “intentional infliction of psychological distress and misery,” the selling of black babies and black women and black men, the permanent, willful and malicious separation of families and the crippling stereotypes,” vicious images and ideas that have been propagated systematically, and applied liberally – for 400 years and counting!

No, white folks bore/bear no responsibility in the spiritual, psychological and mental uplift of a people who were and are run through a racist meat grinder – by OTHER white folks. Always, its not US but those other, older, ancient white folks. It is niggas who have been culturally degraded, abused worse than a chained hound; it was my people who were prohibited from reading and writing, from receiving education, but in fact were SPOONFED black servility, black inferiority and black subhumanity. All of this damage was inflicted by a phantom, an amorphous cipher. The approach of whites since the Emancipation Proclamation has been some variant of “I didn’t do it!” The faux progressive offers a bit more sugar to soothe the savage beast like, “oh, we were just playing. We didn’t really mean it” AND “it really wasn’t so bad, was it?”

What kind of human being could simply IGNORE or MINIMIZE the horrific damage done and underestimate the necessary period of healing; what kind of monster could fail to provide the essential medicine – when we all know its readily available – and the “ALL-HANDS-ON-DICK” emergency surgery required to mend the gaping wounds in us? What kind of beast could deny the help needed to recover from THE most brutal campaign of soul genocide in recorded history.

I can’t be too harsh with us niggas cuz we’re still nursing centuries old wounds that are continually torn open and re-infected with the old white poison in new, all natural bottles. We gon’ heal it, though, I can feel it.

7 Responses to “Intra-Family Dementia”

  1. The Marshall Plan paragraph made my jaw drop. That’s going in the script somewhere.

    Mid-way through I was picturing your grandfather smiling down. Out of all of his champions, I think he’s proudest of you.

    Preach on!

  2. I must also say that your photographs often make me laugh out loud.


  3. I live in Portland, and I noticed the same thing, but I thought I was being irrational.

  4. Nappy Headed: You ain’t irrational in my book. This place has been difficult to deal with for a few years, but there are a few artists/filmmakers of color that I am getting with to form a support society. We’re helping each other complete our own individual projects and will do some group ones as well. Let me know if you’re interested. Peace

  5. I am interested. I live in SE/Burnsideish area and so you can pretty much imagine what my neighborhood is like. I felt an unbelievable saddness as I saw one mixed kid in a group of white people and he was talking to them and they were all making jokes, and he says, “Okay, don’t make me get angry. Then my black side will come out.”

    Yeah, jokes, right, but what he was articulating is that he understands there’s an ideal of what he is supposed to be like as perceived by a larger society and by his white friends. He also understands that when he is around them he is supposed to suppress his blackness.

  6. Nappy: I’ve said the same thing to white folks as that kid – recently. We have to be ‘acceptable to them.’ That message is driven home in so many different ways and so subtley. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from this book, Drylongso: “the white man has 1000 different kinds of chains.” That shit blew me away when I understood it.

    My email address is Holla back and we can meet up AND if you want to come to our next meeting we can discuss that. Take care and stay strong!

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