“The end did not forget the beginning, nor did the beginning remain sterile to the end.” – James V. Schall
“You were born a nigger, you gone be a nigger and you gone die a nigger.” he proclaimed smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
It pierced through my body, sending a shock that knocked the breath out of me, awakening a quiet rage that swirled like creamer in coffee. In disbelief, I stood there hoping to wake up and it would all have had been a dream. I felt my expression change as the blood began to rise to my face. The lump that always comes to my throat when I want to fight back my tears rose like a dam that was about to gush through the seams of my cheeks.
That phrase pulled me back into a past hurt that my ancestors bore. The more I tried to move past that pain, something inside of me kept me looking back at the shackles that my predecessors were forced to wear around their hands and feet. As I continued to reflect on all of the horrid depictions of the former, I became frozen in the thoughts of history and how it continued to repeat itself.
“Is that what you think of me?” I asked slanting my head hoping that through my glasses he saw more. More than the girl who had tried so hard to win the affections and respect that he rendered. More than a government dependent junkie waiting for her food stamps to come in. More than an affirmative action charity case from the bad side of the tracks. More than a “wannabe like him so I wouldn’t have to deal with remarks rendered by a society that had labeled me since birth” type of person
I don’t remember ever crying as much as I did that day. It was an angry cry. A cry that wanted to burn the building down and light a cigarette from the inferno. This was 2014 man! This was the present. We don’t say that word in this part of Georgia without somebody getting cussed out or sent on to glory and here I was doing nothing but crying and regretting all of the things that I did not do.
I did not set the place on fire (Glory be), but I began to think about what made me so angry? For obvious reasons of course, you know the whole being black thing, but there was something beyond the surface that penetrated my makeshift armor of being color blind and liberal.
I had connected that word to the struggle that my ancestors fought. My great-grandmother was born into slavery and had endured some of the most horrific things that even she did not want to speak about nor remember. But, it was there. Like a big pink elephant in a cramped room that no one wanted to address, the pain of the past. I associated the word with depictions of Kunta Kinte being whipped or Sethe being raped by School Teacher and his boys.
“The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” – Mary Pickford
Though slavery was a pain to my ancestors it does not have to be my pain today. That does not mean that it did not happen. Nor does it mean that I will forget it. It means that I will not allow that pain to keep me stuck in an uncontrollable rage that leaves me battered and wounded. It means that I have been given an opportunity to show my ancestors that I appreciate the hardships that they endured yesterday to accommodate my dreams for today. It means that the next time that someone of any race-including my own, uses that word I will inform them that their ignorance will be the death of our society.
We cannot change what happened in our history nor can we open the minds that refuse to be opened. We can only strive today to make our latter better than our former. If we continue to look back on what was we will be left paralyzed and unable to make the necessary changes that our community needs today. Let us embrace the past as a point of reference that teaches us to be grateful for the strides that we continue to make as a society, not as a pillar that leaves us powerless and pathetic.
* Images found on http://www.google.com