Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thank you for Letting Me be Myself


I had a relatively long conversation with a patient in the office today. He wrote a book about the Negro national Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. It wasn't a pretty book praising James Weldon Johnson. It was actually an expose on the song.

Many Black people hold this song near and dear. Not all Black people. I have seen those who can't sing it without the words and I know others Black people who were ignorant to the fact that there was even a Black National Anthem. So I realize that there are folks out there who this may not be their cup of tea. But to be perfectly honest there are Americans across the racial lines who don't know the National anthem or think that it is America the Beautiful. SMH.

Anyway.... His book is a criticism of the BNA. Hmmm... I have read only excerpts of the book but I am impressed that a 49 year old Black man feels confident enough to criticize one of the long held Black-isms for our people. He's reported that the Black people who have read the book are angry about his viewpoint. I don't think that's fair. Is he not entitled to say and say publicly how he feels? Maybe criticism is the wrong term. Maybe 'question' is better. He opinion is that it is not just a song for Black people, but that it is a song for all people. He says by calling it the BNA, it separates us from white people. The author (has a PhD and is a college professor for music) has researched the song for the last 20 years and he has found no evidence (or hasn't been able to show and prove) that this song was only intended to be used for Black people. That has pissed off a lot of people.

This being election time, I have been doing the knowledge to different adds that are geared to the Black community. I have gotten phone calls from the "Rapping Rev." Jesse Jackson calling the martyrs names to convince me to vote. And pictures of President Obama's back and saying that we have to catch it. Really? That's how you talk to Black people. Let me share something with you. Not all of us respond to that type of stimulation. We aren't by default all ghetto. No more in fact than all white people aren't by default trailer trash. And we aren't all Democrats.

One more example before I get to the next level of my build. Essence magazine can close its doors for all I care. i used to subscribe to that magazine but I stopped years ago. The reason was because it tries to be a jack-of-all-trade and a master-of-none. Black magazines try to hit everything. Essence cannot decide if it's a beauty, fashion, financial, cooking, relationship, job, or interior decorating. It's okay to have more than 1 magazine. Ebony used to fall victim to the same problem. But they have rectified that. Ebony is actually a good magazine again.

I believe the issue that links all these examples together is the same. Black people are one dimensional. White people do this to us, but MORE importantly we do this to ourselves. I grow tired when I hear Black folKs say to other Black folks, "Black people don't do ----" Most of the time that comment is made in jest, but if you hear something enough you start to believe it.

Not all Black people are Democrats, and we don't have to be. Not all Black people are Christians, and we don't have to be. Not all Black people eat chicken and watermelon, and we don't have to. Not all Black people listen to R&B, Hip Hop and gospel. There is more to us than just our skin. We are a race of individuals not just one big stereotype.

Part of the problem is we don't allow and accept that Black folks can do what white people do. We are not free to express ourselves in a way that may offend other Black people. That's crazy. That right there, offends me! Black people who speak against long held Black-isms get ostracized. I hear things like, we should keep those things that could cause embarrassment in our own communities. Please! We can't keep our own businesses in our own communities, but anything else we are supposed to keep quiet about. Really? We don't have to try to behave better than white folks. We don't have to prove to white folks that we can have what they have. And we don't have to emulate them either.

I'm not advocating that we forget our history. I really don't understand why people make the leap from "we need to let go of the long standing habits that don't serve us" to "I say we wipe the slate clean and for get past atrocities." No. I am not saying that. What I am saying is we are more diverse than we give ourselves credit for. And we need to stop criticizing each other for their opinions and predilections.


PS: The Lyrics....
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.