What is difference between a black man protecting their home and white man protecting his?
Every once in a while, I like to go back and read a book that I’ve already read in the past. The other day, I picked out of my collection an old book called “Uncle Tom’s Children” by Richard Wright. The first sentence he wrote in the book, “My first lesson in how to live as a Negro came when I was quite small.” That first sentence in the book struck me as sort of odd. I was like why would a black man make a statement like that? However, when I thought about it, it made a lot of sense.
Then it dawned on me. He had to learn how to survive in order to live in a world where black men were endangered species trapped in second-class citizenship because of the racist attitudes of most that did not want to see him get ahead in life or recognize him as a man. In order to survive he had to shift between two different personas and play by those in power set of rules or it could cost him his life.
Wright’s story mirrored that of many black men living in the South and a few other states during that time period. Most of the rules were aimed at stripping black men of their manhood and filled with constant humiliation. A black man had to play one role for those in power and another role which was his true self for his friends and family. Wright sacrificed who he was as an individual—a man and human being in order to feed and provide a roof over their head. Staying alive played a definite major part in his decision. His life and being able to live it to a ripe old age was of the utmost importance to him, but the main deciding factor in why he chose to play the game by their set of rules—he was powerless to do otherwise.
Richard Wright’s story took place during an era when there was no such thing as Civil Rights for minorities. Blacks had no rights! Black men in the past were lynched at the drop of a hat for trivial so-called offenses and many of those so-called offenses were created falsehoods because of their thirst for black men’s blood. In addition, it was their lust for watching strange fruit hanging from a tree for sadistic entertainment purposes. In my own family tree, there were three victims of lynching.
The newspaper article regarding the lynching of one of my ancestors who was a preacher is in a book called “100 Years of Lynching” by Ralph Ginzberg that focuses on lynching of black men in the past. I have a picture of my ancestor and several newspaper clippings regarding the incident and trial. The culprits who committed this act were brought to trial, but the only punishment they received was a verbal reprimand. They did not spend one day in jail. The justice system back then considered that reprimand—justice served.
I thought about the outcome in Oscar Grant's trial when I read the article about John White. How many more years do those in power want black men to play Uncle Tom's Children?
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