Confessions of an Angry Black Man:
White America's Guide to Understanding Black Rage
James Baldwin once said that to be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage. Maybe that explains why the black guy in the car next to you looks like he just had a bowl of nails for breakfast.
Most white Americans are of the opinion that these are happy times for black folks. You know, with the dude that everyone assumes is our "homie" in the White House and all. Even hardcore Hip Hoppers like Jay Z and Young Jeezy took brief hiatuses from rapping about guns and drugs to acknowledge the historic 2008 presidential victory. So even the most liberal white guy greats the permanent Ice Cube- like scowl on my face with the comforting words of "why so glum, chum ?"
For many African Americans, the euphoria of the last election has not lived up to the hype. This is compounded by the increasing attacks on "blackness" by the right wing under the guise of critiquing the Obama administration.
So, as comedian Richard Pryor once said, "I got a right to be hostile, my people are being persecuted!"
While today's average white American sees the modern expression of black anger as something as commercially, superficial as Kanye West snatchin' a microphone from Taylor Swift, black rage is deeply rooted in American history.
One of the first instances of black anger in written form was Wilmington NC native David Walker's, "Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World."
The 1829 pamphlet boldly warned America that "woe, woe will be to you if we have to obtain our freedom by fighting." Not quite the sentiment of the stereotypical "happy go lucky darkie" of Antebellum America folk lore.
Black disillusionment continued after World Wars I and II as the black soldiers who risked their lives overseas experienced as much racism on foreign soil as they did domestically. It has been recorded that German prisoners of war received better treatment than African American enlisted men. The soldiers also returned home to see black men lynched while still in uniform.
The condition of African Americans did not change during the following decades, prompting Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer to proclaim in frustration that she was "sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Black rage of the Civil Rights Age came to a head after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, resulting in the burning of many American cities, bringing to fruition the prophesies of Black Power prophets of rage like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and H. Rap Brown (Jamil Al-Amin).
Black anger trickled into the 80's and early 90's with a series of rebellions accompanied by a soundtrack courtesy of a politicized Hip Hop movement courtesy of groups like Public Enemy; the rebellions after the so called "Rodney King Trial" being the most reminiscent of the explosive 60's.
Not only black rage but protest in general was subdued after 9/11 as anything even remotely resembling anti-Americanism was seen as a threat to national security and carried with it the possibility of a lengthy stay at the Gitmo Hotel.
In 2009, the current state of affairs in this country threatens to wake the sleeping not -so- jolly black giant.
However, the spark that may ignite Baldwin's, "Fire Next Time" may be mostly based on a deep sense of hopelessness.
Many African Americans are now questioning whether things will ever get better. I mean, there are just so many times that you can ,unsuccessfully, play the Lotto at your local convenience before storming to the exit knocking over a rack of potato chips on your way out.
What if the unemployment rate never goes down?
What if 2010 brings about another Republican revolution?
What if the mass mobilization of the right wing base is successful and President Obama does not win a second term and the miracle of a black president goes down in the annals of American history as a fluke?
This state of fear and frustration is worsened by ultra conservative talking heads who insist on pouring gasoline on the fire on a daily basis.
There is an old adage in the black community that if you tell white folks what they want to hear, all will be right with the world.
Therefore, white America may be totally oblivious to the black rage bubblin' under the surface until it boils over.
The average Joe Bob will believe that everything is fine and dandy until Willie Smith, his mild mannered black coworker goes off on a tirade about "400 years of oppression," after he, politely, asks him for one of his doughnuts one morning.
So, the question that is being posed in 2009 is the same question that poet Langston Hughes asked in 1951,
"What happens to a dream deferred?"
I don't know, America. You tell me...
Paul Scott is a self-syndicated columnist and author of the blog, No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org