That’s right. The revolution started forty years ago—and it IS being televised-but we’re so distracted by the vapors of the American fantasy, and have our heads so far up our collective butts, that we’re allowing ourselves to be all but destroyed without even a whimper. Allow me to give you a blow by blow:
The revolution started with a bang with the murder of Malcolm X and then Martin Luther King. These two leaders, as different as they were, stood like bookends in holding the Black community together. Malcolm was a warrior and Martin was a diplomat. Thus, young people who saw Martin as too accommodating, followed Malcolm, and older people who saw Malcolm as too militant, followed Martin. The symbiotic relationship between these two men was essential to the thrust of the civil rights movement.-Martin’s eloquence and nonviolent philosophy gave America a face-saving way of not having to confront the militant determination of Malcolm. It was that dynamic that led directly to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But when Malcolm was assassinated in 1965, that left Yin with no Yang. So Martin was left, essentially, driving through Baghdad in a dune buggy. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he lasted the three years that he did.
Then with the loss of these two leaders the Black community literally collapsed. At a time when we needed unity more than ever, we lost both our spirit, and our resolve, and returned to engaging in what we do best-fighting among ourselves, and passionately embracing the frivolous. Then, within a year after Martin’s death, we were back to boogyin’ with furious abandon to “Hot Fun In The Summertime.” During that period, everything else became meaningless, and we remain in that condition to this day.
While we were busy celebrating our new right to date White girls without being lynched, conservatives were hard at work neutralizing all of the gains that we’d made, and ensuring that White support of the civil rights movement could never be reignited. So even as the Last Poets were speaking of “When the revolution comes”, the revolution was in full effect, but we were so distracted by our hedonistic pursuits that we paid little or no attention.
It was during this time that Vice President Spiro Agnew began to use the code “law and order” to paint young Black men as criminals, and we continued to boogy-down. And it was also during this period that Richard Nixon, of all people, began to promote Affirmative Action. This seemed like a good thing on the surface, but instead of basing it on those with most dire need—which, by definition, would have put Black people at the head of the line, we allowed, in fact, insisted that it be based on race-which guaranteed to put Black people in a head-on confrontation with the very middle class White people who were promoting civil rights, and marching with Dr. King. It was a stroke of genius-a classic example of divide and conquer-and effectively ended the civil rights movement, and created the modern Republican Party.
Conservatives got everything they wanted without ever upsetting the status quo. In retrospect it is clear that the only Black people who benefited from affirmative action were those who were upwardly mobile, and were going to move up anyway. On the other hand, Black people at the very bottom-who would have benefited most from a program based on need-were not helped one iota. In fact, they were actually hurt, because the program took most of the entrepreneurs and positive role models out of the Black community, leaving criminals and drug dealers as the only examples of prosperity for our young people to emulate.
The primary reason that most Black people fail to realize that the revolution is currently raging in this country is because many of us are under the mistaken belief that revolution means war. But revolution doesn’t always mean armed revolt. Revolution means change-”by any means necessary. Thus, it seems that the conservative forces in this country were paying closer attention to Malcolm than we were-to our great detriment. Because all we have to do is witness the change in our young people to see that we’re losing. Our young people have gone from wanting to be sharp, dapper and progressive, to thinking it’s hip to look like a hobo who can’t afford a belt to hold his pants up. They’ve gone from admiring entrapreneurs and political activists, who were trying to build the community up, to worshiping murderers, drug dealers, and pimps (and not even real pimps, but wannabes), who are trying to tear the community down. And if that weren’t enough, at the same time they’re lending comfort to the enemy by validating the conservative contention that Black people are infatuated with criminals, crime, and drug abuse.
The Black community should hang its head in shame everytime we turn on BET for what we’ve allowed to happen to our young people. They might as well be struttin’ across stage, hangin’ on to their pants, and sayin’, “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid-I can’t hear you!” But it’s not their fault. How can they be anything but stupid, when we’re just as stupid as they are? The only way we differ from them is that we’re old-school and stupid. That’s why the revolution has been raging for forty years and we’re still walking around hummin’ Jungle Boogy.
But we’d better get un-stupid real soon, because the revolution is about to go into a very different, and much more violent phase. How many of you have ever heard of “Blackwater?” No, it’s not what Dick Cheney and Halliburton’s been selling our troops. This is a different Blackwater—a private army. They’re being paid between $600 and $1500 a day (of taxpayer dollars), and being used extensively in Iraq—in many cases doing the kind of things that’s illegal for American troops to do. They’ve already been used in the United States to patrol New Orleans during Katrina. Blackwater is just one of several private armies-and of course, not even one of them belong to us. So connect the dots-private armies, privates jails, poor, mad and hungry Blacks and Mexicans, and all the jobs overseas. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Now, I’m not a conspiracy nut, but when I think of Blackwater, and the secrete prisons (concentration camps) that’s been setup all over the world, the governments new right to pick a person up off the street and hold him (without a lawyer, or a trial), and their right to listen in on our private phone calls and computer communications without a warrant, that makes me nervous-and it should make you nervous as well.
But I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this, saying, I know where you’re going with this, but it can never happen here. I just have one response to that-anyone who holds that position has been spent too much time watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and not enough time reading history. We’re dealing with the very same American people who use to round up the kids and bring picnic baskets to public lynchings, so don’t tell me it can’t happen here.
So we need to wake up and face reality—and the reality is, for some of these people the only difference between Fellujah and Compton, is the location. But this is not a call to arms, this is a call to your brain. The revolution is ragin’, good brother—while we’re wavin’ our hands in the air, like we just don’t care.
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.