I’ve been reading memoirs of African American men from the 1960’s and 70s, Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown, Soledad Brother by George Jackson, Bad by James Carr, and thinking about the ways so much of the experiences they describe are the same today. It seems as if time is frozen on the one hand and magical on the other. I don’t me magical in the sense that suddenly out of nowhere a savior comes in the form of a benevolent creature and saves us. I mean the sinister magic that makes time repeat, the lived experience of the Black is the same today as it was yesterday, last week, last year, the last century, the last president. I’m reading and watching the ways that Black folks are dying while watching Barack Obama justify policies that will only accelerate the deaths of young and old Black folks and I feel as if I’m caught in a cognitive fog. How can it be that so much trouble is visited on the lives of Black folks and yet I’m watching a Black man sign the death warrants of poor Black folks? I feel a distortion, I feel a distortion in my thinking, my vision is confusing me, I’m focused on the wrong thing, I’m giving too much attention to the death cries of the “Truly Disadvantaged.” I’m telling myself I need to be more pragmatic, I must find a way to put my mind at work on the problem, I need to be helping the Black folks that aren’t in the position of having the education that I do… They must learn new ways. New ways, what would that look like? I must not resist the overwhelming force of a capitalist political economy and find a way to adapt, find a way to freedom in the marketplace… And then I remember that not so long ago my body stood on a block and was exchanged for so many, hogs, bales of cotton, votes, votes? I remember what a political science instructor told my class “No one ever voted themselves free.” No one is going to vote us free? The marketplace is where I’m bought, sold, exchanged for votes. Now the magic is making me repeat the questions of the Black men who came before me, "For where does one run when he's already in the Promised Land?"
Brown, Claude. 1965. Manchild in the promised land New York,: Macmillan. p.8