I've been thinking a lot lately about the level of my passion. When I teach. When I speak. When I blog. When I'm on Facebook. When I'm chatting casually over coffee at Starbuck's. When I'm sprawled on my couch talking to my significant other as if, being Black, he isn't already one step of ahead of whatever I'm going to say.
One of my student evaluations for last semester said, "Don't be so honest."
As compared to what? Lying? Putting it out there in bite-sized chunks? Whitewashing the truth (literally)?
It's interesting to note that after more than twenty (count 'em, twenty!) years of teaching about race relations in the United States, most White students still want to take baby steps. Or no steps at all.
Having a Black President not only hasn't changed the average African-American's life one iota, but now People of Color have to bear the BS while hearing White folks say all day long, "Well, you've got a Black President. What more do you people need? Quit playin' the Race Card and get over it already!" (As if that isn't playin' the Race Card.)
On this day in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, "It is purposeless to tell Negroes they should not be enraged when they should be." 1967. Forty-five years ago. And here we are in 2012, with an economy skittering out of control for everyone but the rich, with People of Color -- and most particularly Black folks -- still stuck with the most of the worst and the least of the best in this society. And somebody wants to tell them they have no right to be discouraged. No right to be depressed. No right to be frustrated. No right to be enraged.
Take a look at this report at Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
No wonder the suicide rate for young Black men has risen alarmingly over the past two decades. No wonder "suicide by homicide" is a term that has been coined just for them. No wonder my student asked me not to be so honest. It's painful to hear about all the ugliness with no ready solutions at hand.
And where are those solutions going to come from anyway with those in power committed apparently totally to the financial well-being of the top 1%, the corporations that thrive on war, the corporations that get fat on incarcerating the poor?
I'd like nothing more than to stand in a circle with my students holding hands and singing Kum Ba Ya. I'd like nothing more than to kick back for the rest of whatever life I may have left and chill, watching the hummingbirds dive bomb each other at the feeder nozzles. I'd like nothing more than to know I could go anywhere with my Black, Latino, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, queer, differently-abled friends without having anyone be mean, look mean, or be mean by accident.
Until that's an option, however, I'm going to be the one. You know. The one who says it. The one who says it again. The one who says it all the time. The one who says it every time. No matter who's there. No matter who does or doesn't like it. No matter who gets their panties in a bunch. No matter what it costs me.
Because nobody's free until everybody's free.
I pin a quote on an index card to the wall next to my desk every semester. My office walls are fairly covered by art, posters, and photos, so one might not always notice the index card right away. But I know it's there. And this semester's quote is from James Baldwin.
"Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as the very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a mighty, intimidating power. It contains a challenge. It contains an unspeakable hope.”
Hold that thought.
NOTE: The cartoon above is the work of famous Black Panther party member and artist Emory Douglas. It dates back to the sixties, but could have been drawn yesterday. Sigh.