What’s in a name – everything or nothing? Who knows, but I was pondering words, words and their potency or lack thereof.
African-American is a bitch-type name, I’ve decided. Political/politically correct, but neutered, de-nutted, pasteurized, absent power, energy. Muthafucking Kryptonite.
Say it with me: “Baa-laaacckk…” Now, there was a word with testes, with mother’s milk, estrogen and testosterone shrink wrapped ‘n mainlined. This is a word that could and did revitalize, regenerate, rejuvenate. I can hear Malcolm X’s voice thundering, echoing in “Message to the Grassroots”: “You catch hell because you’re a black man; all of us catch hell for the same reason. We are all black people…”
I can see the Black Panthers, before Co-Intel-Pro, before the internecine warfare created/exacerbated by the FBI infiltrators…I can see the big, brown Afros and the black berets and the black fists raised and the social medicine they prescribed for our communities. I was black and I was proud. Once.
Yes, we ARE!!!
African American is an ‘Ofay’ effete name somebody else gave you, some white person, or some well meaning, cocktail hosting, bougie, Negro bigwig – and you took it. The difference between African-American and Black is like the difference between a triple A battery and the Third Rail.
Hit the switch, beotch!
And look at us: no cohesion, no connection, no agenda, no collective agency – even in the glorious era of “Jesus Christ, The Obama.” Ineffectual and obtuse, passive and puny, WE are a threat to no one, least of all our oppressors. Nope, we are most deadly, when we are deadly at all, to our own, leashed, “African-American” selves.
…I remember the ’60’s. I remember the energy, the energy of possibility, of optimism, the creativity, the self-assertion, the full embodiment of so many beautiful, natural wearing Black people. A nascent consciousness was brewing, I remember it as an imperfect, yet powerful epoch, filled with potential, brimming with energy. Today, that energy, our life blood, has been discharged, dispersed, sucked and siphoned out of us – accidentally and on purpose.
Its like a black bomb exploded and all that was left were brown figurines, automatons, wind up toys who do what massa say do under the illusion that they are “free.” Nigguh-puhleaze!!
Anyone for “Black Power?”
We have corporate African-Americans, bohemian African-Americans, conservative African-Americans, Democratic and Republican African-Americans, even straight gangsta African Americans. We even have African-American giants – the Jessie’s, Oprah’s, HNIC Gates’ and the other corporate handkerchief heads – who lead us like cattle down the primrose path.Yet, all of them are domesticated beasts that share a collective un-consciousness, hydrated at the same watering hole, full of fluoride, bile and adverts that teach black folks how to hate each other and themselves better, more professionally… AND be “Slaves to the Rhythm of Capitalism,” nikkuh.
Where, oh where are the black people, the tru black giants, the black soothsayers, the socio-political-spiritual architects of real liberation?!
Where is Malcolm, Miles, Charlie Parker, Billie, Chester Himes, Ellison, Fannie Lou (Lawd, how I miss Fannie Lou)…Ella Baker…You do know who Ella Baker is??????????????
When we were black…we spoke and sometimes we shouted, but often intelligently. We made music that was intelligent, danceable, and sometimes reflected the breadth of the black experience and not just some cooked up/cooped up, low down, gutter life.
21st centuryAfrican-American music, in the main, ain’t chicken soup, but e coli for the soul. Garbage. Worse, its mind control. Do you ever think about the repetitive images – of guns, of “clothes, bankrolls and hoes” – jackhammered into the brains of our youth. I see us on city buses, on the streets, in cars, injecting suicide, unrighteous homicide, gang bangin’, depravity, stupidity – into our most delicate organ – at obscene volume levels. And we follow orders don’t we.
African American culture today is the equivalent of a conk, only its not just our hair that gets lathered in lye, but our brains that have been burned, scorched, relaxed. Ooh, yeah, your hair lays down…but then, so do you.
We used to be leaders; we used to set trends. Now, we follow trends to the insane asylum, to the graveyard. I see grown “African-American” men stumbling around wearing diapers, legs locked like Harry Houdini, shuffling like the lobotomized sheep that they are.
I’m not saying that all the ills of the people are the outgrowth of the grand renaming project that we last undertook (and will likely do again real soon). But, African-American, uh uh. I’m reminded of something an old friend noted a while back? “Why is there that little dash between African – dash – American?!” We thought and thought but couldn’t figure it out.
Perhaps that little dash, that tiny break, that division, means nothing. All I know is that the word African-American, to me, reflects a little dash, a tiny break, a division that exists within the black body. Something is dying in black America and it is us. Its sometimes easy to confuse symptoms with causes and if so, so be it…
Once upon a time, Miles Davis, when asked about a new tune he was working on said, in his wheezy rasp, “call it anything.” Upon semi-deep reflection, if you gotta call me something, I want my name, like my coffee…