The black experience

Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.

The romance of our history is the fate of the Negro. The Negro image has deep and inextricable roots in the soil of America and that image tells us that the destiny of this land is tied to the destiny of our people.

This means that black people have experienced violation and exclusion as the truth of the American experience.

Because of what they have been through and because of the irrefutable evidence of their scars, black people are the creative negation of all of the placid myths about American history.

Do not take likely the evidence presented here. This is the story of a history that is working inside you. It is the story of a history that is engraved in your skin and in your viscera; the story of a history that made you and that you are now making, perhaps without even knowing it.

What will your life's history be? And what is it now?

A final and perhaps even more important reason for the importance of African-American history is that it mirrors in microcosm the history of man, is a story of slavery, segregation, blood, cotton, roaches and rats. But it also is the story of human faith, strength and weakness, which is to say that it is a story relevant to the lives of all men.

Writer Ralph Ellison said, "Any people who could endure all that brutalization and keep together; who could undergo such dismemberment and resuscitate itself and endure until it could take the initiative in achieving its own freedom is obviously more than the sum of its brutalization. Seeing in this perspective, there has been one of the great human experiences and one of the great triumphs of the human spirit in modern times, in fact, in the history of the world."

For 100 years now, we have evaded the implications of truth to the detriment of both blacks and whites. We tend to identify the American heritage with the European-American heritage, forgetting that America is an African as well as a European invention. There is a tendeency in all media to identify the American experience with the Euro-American experience and to call the history of Euro-American the history of America.

Even today, most history textbooks project a white national image of a multinational reality. The history of "African-American history" tells us that there is another history, another reality, another America. It further tells us that it is impossible to create "American" history without recognizing the false universality of the white history our media propagates.

Within recent years, largely a result of the work of black historians and the direct action of black demonstration, there has been a new appreciation of African-American history as an intellectual ghetto. Even worse, some people regard it as a minor major league pasttime involving the recitation of dates and the names of black greats.

But African-American history is a much more fateful encounter than that. Within the context of social forces struggling for dominance, African-American history raises questions about the meaning of the historical process and the orientation of our lives. In its essence, African-American history is a radical reappraisal of a society from the standpoint of men on the bottom.

The contradiction of slavery within a nation preparing to wage war in defense of "the unalienable right" of "all men" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," was not lost on the country's great patriots or to slavery.

Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner with second thoughts, drafted a paragraph of the Declaration of Independence denouncing King George for promoting slavery. However, the paragraph did not survive. It isn't surviving today, for we as black Americans are denouncing the life of our brother and ourselves for a rock of crack cocaine and other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. We as black Americans are denouncing liberty, for we cannot be free.

Why? Because we have turned from God to burglary, stealing, killing and all other crimes that cause us to be locked up in jails, institutions and prisons, and by these acts, we are denouncing happiness, for they cause grief, sorrow and despair.

Where do we go from here?

We as black Americans can take the intiative in protesting these acts in our homes, schools, in our communities, and yes, in our churches. You no longer have to sit in the back seat. You can be whatever you want to be and you can accomplish whatever you want to and reach for the stars, for only the sky is the limit. Be courageous and keep a positive outlook on life because man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose site of the shore.

As a people, we have moved from the cotton fields in the clay hills of Georgia to Congress and the District of Columbia. We're on the move. We have moved from the plowboy to an astronaut orbiting in space. Yes, you can do whatever you want to do. We are the captain of our mind, body and soul. We shouldn't be satisfied only with a welfare check and hand-me-downs. We should strive for a better education so we can move to prosperity with dignity and pride.

As a people, we shouldn't be satisfied with our conditions just yet. As a people, we have to move from the valley of poverty to the mountain of wealth, challenging its disappointments and demanding the victory in opportunities and values.

We must move from rock cocaine to the rock of our salvation. We must move from the dominion and pollution of sin to a moral nature that changes our condition by redemption. We must move about the evil forces of injurious nature to an ecclesiastical virtue of values that can enable us to press toward the mark of a higher calling. We must move from the walls of the captive to the doors of freedom.

Yes, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was courageous. He fought so hard with non-violence and moved us from the era of disappointments to an era of hope. He led us out of the valley of injustice to the mountain of justice. He said, "I've been to the mountaintop and I've seen the promised land. I might not get there with you, but we as a pople will get to the promised land."

We were on the mountaintop, now we're in the promised land. Where do we go from here? Jesus.

Elder Louvenia W. Straughter is pastor of Miracle of Christ Ministries Church in Gainesville.

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