Saturday, February 27, 2010

African America

A montage of 9 great African Americans by Therock, public domain by composition of original photos

I love this country, and I wonder how much of the country I love was really made by these wonderful people.

They dwell in the Inner Cities of all 50 States and the rural lands of the South. They have a distinctive accent, distinctive cooking, distinctive arts and music, distinctive ways of looking at people, and a history different from any other group of people, both immigrant and native, in this country. They don't know exactly where they came from, and their exact ancestors, having had their geneology erased by the net, but they know the basic idea, and what the ship captains wrote over the blurry half-erased pencil. They have been mistreated, abused, and hurt, and yet, many of their light still shines from every corner of the continent.

When they were finally allowed in to the cities, the cities collapsed. People see them as a threat, see them as hostile, dangerous, and yet, some of the kindest most wonderful people I've ever known have been African Americans. Some people see them as ignorant, and yet I've seen them far better informed about the things a citizen in a democracy needs to understand (elected officials, movements, parties and factions...) then those who silently hold such views. Their view of business, government and other people is very realistic. They do not have the luxury of idealism or happy ignorance. But when it comes to faith and the church, these Christians are filled with more hope and wonder then anyone else alive at the promise and majesty of our beautiful God. They are liberal, often seeing the free-market economy as cruel and corrupt, and those who support it even worse, and yet they value family more then almost anyone.

During the dark days of Jim Crow, these "victims" used radio, starting with WERD Radio here in Atlanta from 1949 to 1968, the church and the neighborhood organized from jazz bars and dance halls and hangouts of every kind to "fight" for their freedom. They wouldn't settle for anything less then "this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" (Martin Luther King Jr, I have a Dream speech.) I've heard that when Elvis first started to perform, people called his songs "nigger music." That music is now called ROCK! And I'm sure they had colorful names for Blues, Ragtime and Jazz at one time too.

White europeans who come to this country often can't understand America. They see it as hostile, threatening, out of control, ignorant, stupid, violent, cheesy and sleazy, a nation of criminals, weirdos, obssessive fools and religious fanatics. White people in this country stereotype Blacks the same way sometimes; the irony of the similarity makes me wonder how much of what makes America a distinctive nation, a distinctive culture, a unique place with unique ideas comes from these people.

1 comment:

nothingprofound said...

Great post, Jeremy, and wonderfully written. More evidence of your complex mind and warm heart.