I have mentioned Brother Na'im Akbar more than a few times here on We Are Respectable Negroes. He is one of the United States' (if not the world's) preeminent psychologists focusing on issues of "black" racial identity and mental health.
I love the line from Biggie's song "Juicy" where he raps so beautifully how "I let my tape rock til my tape popped."
I did that to several of my recorded Brother Na'im Akbar's lectures--and of course to my DJ Mister Cee mixed tape of unreleased and underground gems by the Notorious B.I.G. while riding in my parents' 1993 Buick Skylark.
Ghetto nerds and striving respectable negros ought not to be embarrassed by their origins.
A given person's intellectual and moral growth usually does not proceed in a straight trajectory: it ebbs, flows, and meanders.
I am forever impressed by authors who write their own intellectual biographies. The level of hubris and self-awareness to do such a thing amazes me. If I ever formally get to do such a thing--doubtful--or more likely my grandkids (if I am lucky) ask about where their strange grandpa came from--I will mention Brother Akbar as being very influential on my thinking and personal growth.
Parade has a feature on the new movie "The Butler" which features a discussion between Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitaker, and Lee Daniels. The story is both entertaining and provocative for several reasons.
One, Oprah talking about meditating on her own personal mountain is awe inspiring in its forthrightness and lack of shame for having such material wealth. I like it.
Two, I am getting tired of listening to high profile black men talk about being humiliated and harassed by the police. This public sharing of the "moments of instruction" as experienced by black men--including President Obama--is really wearing out its welcome with me. Efforts at gaining empathy or sympathy from Whiteness may actually just be a signal of weakness and vulnerability by those who are fundamentally invested in keeping black folks in such a position.
Am I alone in this thought?
[Do read the predictably racist comments on the story. Rich black folks bring out the White Right like few others.]
There is a question in the Parade piece that speaks directly to Na'im Akbar's points in the above talk.
It reads as follows:
On whether young people today know enough about the civil rights movement:
Daniels: I showed the film to my relatives … because I figured they’re the harshest of audiences. And my 30-year-old nephew said to me, ‘Did some of this stuff really happen?’ And I was very upset by that.
Winfrey: They don’t know diddly-squat. Diddly-squat!I am not surprised that a relatively young black person would say such a thing. I remain disturbed, however.
How do we balance historical memory with being hamstrung by history? Is a generation of young black and brown folks--and yes, whites too--raised in the post-civil rights era who think that "all that racism stuff" is in the past a type of progress, or does it instead represent a state of deep peril?
I worry that we are raising a generation of post-civil rights Age of Obama young black and brown youth who are stunned and shocked by white racism to the point of being crippled by things that our parents, grandparents, and other elders would have brushed off their shoulders with ease.
I am not suggesting that the latter state of affairs was/is preferred. No. I am just disturbed that there is a generation of youth, young people of color, who are going out naked in the world with no armor or life skills to protect them from white racism, either of the "colorblind" or old fashioned variety.
Blindsided, I worry that many young people of color, and their sense of mental security and sanity, will fall like wheat before a hungry scythe during the harvest, as many of them do not have any means of locating and rationalizing what they are experiencing with their Age of Obama, post civil rights era, vocabulary for understanding the realities of the colorline.
For example, many of them are legitimately shocked by what happened to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman's subsequent acquittal. If they understood American history, and its resonance in the present, these same young folks (and others) would have understood that the extra-legal murder of black folks is the legal system working as designed.