Last Friday (February 3, 2017), I was privileged to watch the documentary called, I am not your Negro featuring James Baldwin and directed by Raoul Peck. Baldwin was just getting into a new book titled, Remember This House in 1979 on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and how it affected him during that time. He was very close friends with each of them and their deaths were particularly hard on him as a black man. Unfortunately, James Baldwin dies in 1987 and wasn’t able to finish his work…but Raoul Peck decided to bring it alive in 2017. Thank you, Raoul! Here are my thoughts on this film.
America has been lying to all of us for years. In the film, there was an image of Doris Day with perfect coiffed hair, small waist, beautiful outfit, creamy skin with rosy cheeks and red lips. She was America’s sweetheart and the image of America being great. You look at her and are told that all women will grow up, get married, have the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence. That’s what America sold me and others that look like me. But they lied! That forgot to mention to me that I was a Negro and those images only involved someone with blue eyes and privilege.
America lied to me as a kid and James Baldwin was lied too as well. His angry on behalf of his three friends and their assassinations were valid. America said, we were supposed to be great, respected, honored, and citizens with rights. So, why did the FBI feel the need to put Baldwin in a file for being vocal about the lies that America told? If that’s the case I am just as vocal and controversial. Because America knew it couldn’t keep telling those lies. Baldwin loved America, but it sure as hell didn’t love him back. It took away his friends, and murdered them one by one…year by year…because the American dream didn’t include Negroes.
The Price of my Ticket in America came with strings. My “Park Avenue” was row-houses barely standing, crack addicts roaming the streets, welfare lines, being educated with books older than teachers, and a mother who struggled because she was told the same lies. When did slavery really end? When did our emancipation come so we could become great? Where was the road of opportunities that were open to Negroes now that America said, we are citizens? Those structures that allowed America to prosper, build, encourage, and create didn’t include black folks. We were an afterthought and instead of fixing the whole car…they decided to just give it a tune-up and hope for the best as they manage our issues within this white patriarchal system.
The disenfranchisement of black folks still goes on today…in 2017. I am 41 years young with a 23 year old daughter (that wasn’t told the dream) because I didn’t want America teaching her lies! She knows that this country has the blood of slaves underneath her feet as she walks on her campus, on lands that were taken by force, convict leasing, or unfair housing discrimination because they couldn’t read or forced to trust a white man. Our ancestor’s blood ran from their neck as they were lynched (sometimes upside down), their babies cut from their wounds, stomped on by angry mobs of pale skinned white folks who wanted to make their America great. We are still marching, rioting, begging, and sometimes yelling for our rights. To be treated with respect and to be given opportunities instead of punches, shots in the back, and prison deaths.
Our ancestors were cheap labor and we are still considered cheap even now. Our sweat, tears, anger, and cries still echo in 2017. The American Dream is at the expense of the Negro. Ask the relatives of Sandra Bland, Michael Brown Jr., Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile…the lists goes on. Instead of lynching the “American Negro” they use the laws to tighten the ropes around their necks and call them the same names their ancestors were called…cheap labor that ran their course. Not citizens. They were lied to as well. America told them they were free, citizens, respected, loved, and protected…but it forgot to tell them that’s only if you have blue eyes, pale skin, and privilege from white ancestors.
It’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself. You become a collaborator, an accomplice of your own murderers, because you believe the same things they do. They think it’s important to be white and you think it’s important to be white; they think it’s a shame to be black and you think it’s a shame to be black. And you have no corroboration around you of any other sense of life. – James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, A Dialogue (1973)
Ex-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy told black folks years back that it is conceivable that in 40 years we might have a negro president. In other words, if blacks are good, we might let you have a negro president in 40 years. I guess we were good, because they gave us what we wanted but still pulled the strings on what he was able to do. That American Dream once again captured in the media, displayed as making American great with opportunities for us. I suppose I should say, thank you? NO, because the person who uses that term has become America’s president and the faces that surround him all have rosy cheeks, blues, and privilege.
The Price of My Ticket
I am not your Negro! I no longer root for John Wayne, Bo and Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard with their Confederate Flags or images of Doris Day with the white picket fence, rosy cheeks, and red lips. I wasn’t never anyone’s Negro and I damn sure will not answer to it. This film reinforced my tempered radicalism and the reasons why I will defend and destroy the stereotypes of black folks. This is my country and Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for my right by calling out America and its people. By calling them liars!!! And the sad thing in 2017 is that they still want to make America great by continuing the lies. But we are smarter, wiser, resilient, and angry. The price of my ticket will no longer be at the expense of White America. My eyes are brown, skin dark, and body full. And like James Baldwin, I am a writer, poet, activist, and a threat to making America Great.
Although white racial insulation is somewhat mediated by social class (with poor and working class urban whites being generally less racially insulated than suburban or rural whites), the larger social environment insulates and protects whites as a group through institutions, cultural representations, media, school textbooks, movies, advertising, dominant discourses, etc. although all individuals play a role in keeping the system active, the responsibility for change is not equally shared. White racism is ultimately a white problem and the burden for interrupting it belongs to white people – Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility (2011)
“The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country,” said James Baldwin in the spring of 1963. “It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives – it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace this stranger whom they relied on so long.” – James Baldwin, The Negro and the American Promise, (1963)
This country needed us as cheap labor and they developed a taste for considering us cheap now and demand that we enjoy the pickings of those labors. I see it now we are being silenced as Americans. Now “some” white folks are beginning to see why America wasn’t great at all. They were being lied to as well. We are just better survivors at it. I am not your Negro or Nigger. I’m a woman who read your lies in school and refused to stick to it as an adult or give it to my daughter.
“America…the land of the free, liberty and justice for all.” NO! I am a writer and I will no longer be politically invisible because you want to continue your delusions with white face on the screens of TVs. I am teaching black kids, young adults like my daughter, adults, and our black elders that there are James Baldwins, Nikki Giovannis, Malcolm Xs, M.L.Kings, Harriet Tubmans, Maya Angelous out there (they are our black historians, mentors, activists, doctors, techies, and more) and within their souls and that they are not dreams…but their reality of America. That the ground they walk on is seeped with their ancestor’s blood and that America will lie to them and call them cheap labor, thugs, criminals and Hottentots as they try to squeeze their necks according to the letter of their laws. Don’t believe it and don’t teach your legacy those lies. America knows our power…they are just trying to hold on to their privilege because our body and mind is no longer their cheap labor.
To see the film, follow the link: http://www.magpictures.com/iamnotyournegro/get-tickets/