My recent "home-going," involved the death and burial of a way of thinking about Africa - shared, I know, by many Blacks in America. Since the beginning of our existence in this country up to this day, we've been taught to see Africa as the swollen-bellied, uncivilized "Dark Continent," unable to govern its people, or solve its own problems without the all-knowing, allegedly benevolent hand of the "civilized" West firmly on the wheel.
"I have said that the Civilized have never been able to honor, recognize, or describe the Savage. Once they had decided that he was savage, there was nothing to honor, recognize or describe."Mr. Baldwin succinctly encapsulates the deeply embedded mantra of white supremacy which is, and has been, the reason for the steady diet of disinformation, misinformation and miseducation we've been fed about Africa by our stellar education system, the mainstream media, our perfectly run government - and our health care system.
In just two sentences, he clearly explains, that which continues to give this supposed, "civilized" society, the conscience-free license to kill, experiment upon, imprison, and otherwise keep their foot on the necks of other human beings who are also, as Baldwin, never fails to point out - their "fellow countrymen."
Reading (a lot of Baldwin!), listening and interacting with others outside my familiar, has definitely made me a better critical thinker. I know that my mind is no longer completely inculcated with the double-talk of western superiority in general, and "American Exceptionalism" - in particular. But, what I also know is - I still have a whole lot more learning to do. Yet sometimes, all of that constant peeling back of layers becomes a little overwhelming, especially as more layers are constantly being added (like "Selection 2008!").
And by November 2010 - I was not only overwhelmed, I was tired.
Tired - of all the political gamesmanship continuing to discount real people's lives in favor of corporate "persons;" tired of all the craziness in defense of "American exceptionalism" - through decidedly crazy, and unexceptional acts; tired of mainstream media
So, right after seeing "For Colored Girls" (YES, the rash of ignoble commentary surrounding Perry's film also made my "tired of" list), I found myself contemplating an escape from the madness for a little while. I called my friend, Gerald Pinedo in Germany - to see what he was up to, grumble about politics and the Changeling (he's more patient with him than I), and invite myself for a visit since I'd never been to Europe before. I figured with so many bases dotting the landscape, it was definitely doable from my end - especially if I could get a Space-A flight from the MAC terminal here, and a room at one of the many inexpensive "lodges" the military so graciously provides!
All of a sudden he said excitedly, "You should come there!! Have you ever been??"
I told him that I hadn't, but had always wanted to go - especially after I'd stumbled upon information linking the Gullah language and culture of my Sea Island relatives and ancestors, to West Africa (probably Sierra Leone, Senegal or - The Gambia).
I realized my words were coming faster and with more animation as I told him, "I know slaves from these three places were brought, across the Middle Passage - directly to the Sea Islands - not only because of the mirror-imaged, climate conditions of West Africa - but because of their superior skills in cultivating rice - a very profitable cash crop for the mostly Charleston-dwelling masters!" (And yes, I love me some rice!)
We were both completely excited now. Then, in his thick German accent, he said, "De-bo-rah! Every Black American should go home at least once in their lives!"
It hit me in the head like one of those old V-8 commercials! And as I thought about his suggestion (for a hot minute), I couldn't ignore the rising in my head, of Brother Malcolm's searing questions - asked, some 50 years ago:
And I said, "You know Gerald, you're absolutely right! Then - I went to work...
To be continued - A "Homegoing" - Part 2a: "Getting there" lessons