Welcome back to the “Beat Down.”
As you’ll recall from my last post, I described the Beat Down as the next wave of oppressive affronts designed to diminish African Americans as human beings. The Beat Down is the new chapter following 250 years of slavery; then a 12-year break for Reconstruction and back into the grinder for 100 years of Jim Crow laws and terrorism. The Beat Down is more sinister because it is more subtle, but still painfully damaging.
The Beat Down includes severe economic inequality; mass incarceration; police shootings of unarmed Black citizens; Black children punished more severely that white children for the same behavior; “911” callers reporting Black people swimming in their pools, napping in their student union or moving into their neighborhoods. Basically, we still must cope with everyday assaults on our humanity.
Of course, we are constantly told that we are exaggerating about the offenses against us, or we’re overly sensitive, or it’s just our imagination. We are told that we are living in the past and we are bringing up issues that no longer exist. So, we should just get over it!
I’d like nothing better than to get over it, except I am reminded of our diminished status in this society on a regular basis. As difficult as it is, I know that I must step away from that flash of irritation when I experience a racial disrespect or microaggression from members of the mainstream population. I must step away from that flash of irritation when I am aware that my every effort (whether success or failure) is a reflection on the competence of my entire race. I must step away from that flash of irritation when I must accept that my behavior determines whether another Black person gets an opportunity. I must step away from that flash of irritation because these are merely the facts of life we must deal with as members of this society.
So, we must resist the temptation to react in anger and frustration and go deeper into ourselves for the truth.
“Never let them see you sweat,” is a term introduced in 1984 by a TV commercial for a deodorant from Gillette. Its philosophy was quickly adopted by Americans because it symbolizes a state of mind that fits into the American credo of rugged individualism. It supports the belief that one should never show weakness or emotion.
That is a dangerous way to live. It promotes the suppression of emotions and it generates stress. Chronic stress can kill you.
When I say we must resist the temptation to react, I’m not recommending suppression of the anger, resentment and frustration. I’m recommending taking a deep breath, letting it flow through you and letting it go! It is the letting go that will empower you. It is the letting go that will disconnect those emotional buttons that can set you off when pushed.
This is called forgiveness. Admittedly, this is a word that has been ridiculed and disparaged for centuries. It is viewed as a sign of weakness. Actually, it is a word that is based in power. One who can forgive demonstrates an inner strength that comes from a deep-rooted self-awareness and confidence that cannot be shaken. Forgiveness, if mastered, can change your world for the better.
One of the factors that feed anger and frustration is a sense of powerlessness. Despite that feeling; despite that sense of powerlessness we often feel in this society, the truth is — we are not powerless. As a community, we must step away from that false belief. We are not powerless. As the Marianne Williamson poem states, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” We need to reject the notion that power is loud and boisterous. Real power is quiet and deceptively peaceful.
We must find that space of empowered peace within. Forgiveness can take us to that space. We owe it to ourselves to reside in that space of empowered peace. Then we can begin to see each other as reflections of ourselves; as fellow travelers through this hostile territory called America. Despite the overhyped philosophy of rugged individualism and every man for himself, the truly powerful and prosperous communities bond together for their common good. It is then that support from this bonded community allows and lifts the young stars of the community to success as individuals.
Social engineering has conditioned us to hate our own skin. Social engineering has conditioned us to see those who look like us as probable enemies rather than potential allies.
I remember an incident in 1970 – early in my career as an advertising copywriter. I was working at J. Walter Thompson, which was then the world’s largest ad agency. One day, I was sitting in my office when the office manager walked past my open door. He was accompanied by a well-dressed Black man. I immediately panicked. Am I going to be replaced? I was only one of three Black members of the JWT creative department. I still didn’t believe that I deserved to be there. Maybe they had figured out that I wasn’t as good as I was supposed to be and it was time to replace me. It didn’t cross my mind that he might be there to replace one of the white writers. Obviously, they only had room for three of us out of a staff of 200. I soon learned that he was there to interview for a position in a different department. I was not at risk. A few weeks later, as I thought about that incident, I had to laugh at myself for my panic. I believed immediately that I was being replaced because there were only spots for three black people on staff.
Social Engineering. Brain Washing. Powerlessness personified.
Social engineering has disempowered us with the perception that we are second class citizens and not worthy of being more. Social engineering has done this to our consciousness. We have been brainwashed. But social engineering no longer has power now that we know what it is doing to us. Let it go. Forgive them. They are acting out of fear. Let them go. We have work to do.
Our communities must be havens of comfort, love, peace and prosperity. We are a very powerful people. Our power is ancestral power. I was struck by the words of the African character, Cinque, in the movie Amistad. He explained to ex-President John Quincy Adams that he was not alone in this Supreme Court battle for freedom.
Cinque explained, “I meant my ancestors, I will call into the past, far back to the beginning of time and beg them to come and help me at the judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me, and they must come, for at this moment I am the whole reason they have existed at all.”
We may feel that we are rootless because our lineage was broken when our ancestors were kidnapped and separated from their homeland. But on a deeper level, our lineage was never broken. Our forebearers remain connected to us through our spirits and our DNA. So, they can send us their energy across time. And now, by getting quiet in our demeanor, we can get stronger in the application of our inherent power. When it is wielded in a state of peace, it is an awesome power. And with it, we will be able to flip the script on the Beat Down. More to come in Part 3.