By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Living in the USA, if you’re of color, one can’t help but think of and be totally focused on the psychological effects of racial discrimination, legal injustices and economic dissimilarities that exists throughout this potentially great land. You may not want to deal with it, but wherever you live, its steering you right in your face.
Racism and bigotry are dreaded social diseases, and it’s a fact of life that for most, if not all ethnic folk of color, they suffer mentally and physically in not-so-subtle states of existence because of these afflictions. This takes a dangerous roll of all oppressed folk of color’s mindsets, leaving scars forever.
Living in and under continual ethnic prejudices, religious biases, police brutalities and political intolerances, e.g., can destroy anyone’s psyche on a day-to-day cycle, no matter where you live in the USA. Maybe, is it just me, or am I the only one who knows that specter of racialism is something most of “The American People,” whoever they are, live in open denials about this ubiquitous disease and viral plague.
I love my country, but I’m not afraid to say that I feel something is very clearly wrong in this country if we’re still debating at this date in time when will Black folk, for example, be free and recognized as full and equal citizens. What form of politicalizing does it take to grant a soul, who is a citizen, to be fairly be entitled to “all” of the rights of citizenry on an equal and just status?
As you read on, please don’t play placebo patriotic mind play games with me, or yourself for that matter, about the freedoms and rights that exist under the laws here in America when you know darn well that White privilege is very much a sacred sense of entitlement for certain ethnicities and not for others. Being of color lets you know from birth who runs the endless Jim Crow games of political deceits and economic divides that prevails between the haves and the never will have-nots in the (real) America of today. Think about it!
Like I said before, something is very clearly wrong in this nation when there are so many ethnically miseducated, homeless, incarcerated and unemployed folk everywhere. I say that dolefully because I’m a concerned American, never forgetting what Afro-Americans, in particular, had to go through just to survive in this land of twisted legalities and clandestine apartheid.
Racism and bigotry plays roles in everything in our nation from “poly-tricks” to education to housing to, well, you name it, etc. And, as I was thinking of that perplexing reality, I ventured back in my mind’s eye to the dynamic words and austere opinions of none other than the great abolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglass.
This truly powerful orator has been a hero of mine since I became conscious of what it meant to be Black from an early age on. Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Douglass, in 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, was a soul who escaped from slavery in Maryland to become one of this country’s most recognized social reformers during the 19th century.
To describe this man’s aura and contributions as dynamic and impactful would be to sell him sort of the esteemed importance that should be righteously extended to this giant among leaders. He was a man for his time and beyond because his courageous stature and universal wisdom are unparalleled.
You need to go no further in understanding that than to read, scrutinize and carefully internalize the power of Mr. Douglass’ monumental speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. ” That speech, delivered in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, is one of the most significant breakdowns, via spoken words, that has every been decisively documented about what really is freedom’s meaning to (enslaved) Blacks really all about.
The incendiary speech touched on the history of the American Revolutionaries’ fight for freedom against their legal bondage under British rule. Mr. Douglass openly supported the actions of the revolutionaries in this speech, which then allowed him to segue into his arguments about freeing the enslaved population in America.
Frederick Douglass, the consummate thinker and skillful orator, then in further breaking down what people thought of abolitionism, also implied that future generations may consider his political stance against slavery as believed or not, as patriotic, just and reasonable. In his speech, he never leaves the patriotic landscapes of American democracy and freedom, boldly asking, “Is it really that way for “all” in “all” circumstances and situations in American life?”
That penetrating questionable 19th century scenario from back then still applies to the 21st century (mental) corridors of all people of color’s bewildering concepts, who wonder when will full freedom and true equality ever be there for them. There’s so much of what Frederick Douglass was expressing about the twisted realities of racism, bigotry, discrimination and hypocrisy in that 1852 speech is somewhat, sadly, emblematic of today’s entrenched alt-right parameters and convoluted political ambiguities. Do you feel where I’m headed? I hope so.
Now, maybe, in some odd sense of comprehending Mr. Douglass’ pervasive mindset back then, it’s easy to see how the future really mirrors the past in the minds, souls and actions of so many of today’s modern politicians, bigots, xenophobes and racists. If “truth is it is what it is,” and there’s no denying that, even if a denier trying to hide behind today’s blinded patriotism and fake modern clichés of so-called modern political correctnesses can’t do so.
Mr. Douglass’ 1852 speech is a masterful and brilliant indictment of those who believed that in their pure racist minds that the Constitution permitted slavery. Opinionated and unbiased scholars have said that Mr. Douglass sided with abolition activists, who fashioned that the elite writers who wrote the Constitution in all of its grandiose and democratic essence, always meant to eliminate slavery.
The brilliance of Frederick Douglass’ resplendent oratorical genius and lasting majestic persona on us all is that he believed his anti-slavery sentiments would triumph over pro-slavery forces. In some ways, issues and norms, many of today’s consciously aware folk of color, may wonder if the slavery mentality of 1852 still exists in the minds, hearts and souls of more than a handful of our nation’s current elected politicians and selected social leaders.
Hmm! Thinking of what’s really going in today’s modern apartheid klaverns of political classism and social constructs makes me think of the depth of Frederick Douglass’ visionary insights. On a separate occasion, Mr. Douglass offered, “Those who profess freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing the ground.” Enough said. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”