Before I delve to deeply, I want to remind you that I do love you. I may not have ever said it, but I do. I love you for how you have treated my family and I over the last 2 decades. I love you because you love my father deeply, in word and in action. For that, I am forever grateful for your presence.
It is because I love you that I am writing this letter. You have watched me awkwardly grow into my adulthood. You know of my triumphs and my failures. But you may not have an accurate gauge on how I have developed ideologically over the years - and it is in this vein that I have changed the most. I am increasingly social and political. Moreover, my political ideologies are quite often categorized by my peers as quasi-militant and fully radical. I will not reject that classification. I say unapologetically that I am focused on the advancement of the Afrikan diaspora (in general), and the diaspora's contingent in America (in particular). It is for this that I participate in community outreach initiatives like the "Brother's on the Block" campaign. And as I continue to involve myself politically, and as my efforts are increasingly successful, I will become a target for those who might oppose that work. They will attempt to distort my image publicly. They will use my own words against me by taking them out of context. They will attempt to turn those I love against me by lying about who I am and what I believe. So before they do, allow me to reintroduce myself :-)
I am assuredly your stepson. I am NOT your black stepson, however, because I no longer identify with being JUST black. Black, within the racial context, is merely a color that provides no information about a person's land of origin. "Black" provides no information on the ethnicity or cultural identity of the person who wears this derisive identifier. It gives its reader no clue as to the rich and diverse history of the person who wears this label. "Black" lumps every member of the Afrikan diaspora into a shapeless pile of melanated skin. It's a false implication that the black person from Cuba has much in common with the Black person born and raised in Jakarta and that may not be true.
Moreover, I am not your African-American stepson. I was at one point, but today I do in part reject that label in the same spirit that I reject being merely "black". In this person's humble opinion, many so-called "African-Americans" have more in common with the typical European-American and I am purposefully transforming into someone who is different than that. Not necessarily someone BETTER per se, but just different.
I am your Afrikan stepson. Not because I was born in Afrika and not simply because my ancestors originated there. I am Afrikan because I have undertaken a pilgrimage to my motherland and the first step began with a change in how I view myself, my family, and my environment. I am actively trying to distance myself from what I deem to be the typical African-American AND the European-American worldview - not because I believe it to be inherently negative, but because I do not believe it will serve my socio-political agenda. You see, what the Afro-American and Euro-American worldview have in common is that they are both AMERICAN. In America, individualism is paramount. Americans are encouraged to think only of themselves and this nation - at the omission of the rest of the globe. "We" are encouraged to work hard and advance ourselves," community be damned. For me, this is very, very, very problematic.
We are told that everyone has the same opportunity. We are told that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; however, what I SEE contradicts this notion.
I find it problematic because I am confronted by hypocritical contradiction on a daily basis. We are told that everyone has the same opportunity. We are told that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; however, what I SEE contradicts this notion. For example, why can a wealthy European-American kill two people while driving drunk and escape imprisonment (Ryan Levin 2009) while a young Afrikan from Texas can be arrested for having overdue library books? Or for parking tickets? And, why are African-Americans disproportionately slain in extra-judicial killings year after year?
The self-centered, and VERY American, way of looking at the world is diametrically opposed with the Afrikan worldview. You see, the traditional Afrikan worldview regards the community's welfare as greater than the welfare of any individual (I hate to do this, but I have to disclaim and emphasize the word traditional here. Sadly, many contemporary Afrikan worldview's have been bastardized by colonialism.) It is this core distinction that I am actively striving to embody. Partly because I want to and in part because I feel that I HAVE TO. You see, the Afrikan in America is a disenfranchised, and highly marginalized human being. We do not have an abundance of community based institutions that protect so many of our most vulnerable from having our human rights violated. It is for this reason that in many urban settings, Afrikan people have been viciously targeted for economic exploitation. And I don't mean SUBTLE economic exploitation, I mean OVERT and inarguable economic exploitation. The video below details an antiquated, draconian, and highly popular home buying scheme that was aggressively solicited to African-Americans in Chicago circa the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's. Called "contract buying", the scheme worked like this: since Afro-Americans were so often denied credit, real estate speculators would often make home purchasing possible via a set of sub-optimal conditions. These homes were often sold to black people at double and triple the market value, they were sold at usurious interest rates that far exceeded those commonly available to Euro-Americans via the FHA, and if the "borrower" missed any payments, their home was stripped from them. Policies like these were integral in the formation and perpetuation of today's "black ghettos".
This video is hosted on TheAtlantic.com in the original piece, "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
It is the African-American's disenfranchised state that encourages me to adopt, retain, expand, and proliferate my Afrikan worldview. A worldview that reflects the Afrikan cultures that do not have m/any words for friend or cousin - only sister and brother. Cultures that demand you treat your "cousin" as your brother in absence of the word cousin and in absence of the loosely acquainted responsibilities owed to a loosely related "cousin". In my worldview, I am committed to thinking of "we" before me. My friend is not my friend he is my brother - and I am my brother's keeper.
Also, I emphatically assert that my people do NOT have the luxury of continuing in a self-centered way. We don't have enough collective power. We are far too vulnerable to the kind of exploitation that has persisted in our community. The kind of exploitation that spawned contract buying and the "War on Drugs" which disproportionately prosecutes people of color for non-violent drug crime. The Afrikan in America will only eclipse this collectively powerless state if we move away from ME and strive toward WE.
And speaking of Afrika, you are probably wondering why I have been spelling it with a "K" and not a "C". Simply put, the name "Africa" is an affront to the indigenous people of Alkebulan (the region of the world now commonly referred to as "Africa"). The word "Africa" comes from the name of a Roman general named Scipio Africanus. As an Afrikan, I refuse to knowingly adhere to this colonial re-labeling. My land had a name before this marauder came knocking and accepting Alkebulan's imperial renaming is as ludicrous as referring to YOU by a name given to you by some random stranger off the street. This reclaiming of a continent's original name might seem peculiar to you and other people reading this, but so does America's proclivity toward gun violence to me and the rest of the "developed" world. And THIS also is indicative of my Afrikan worldview.
I do not love you any less because you are white. I do not hate all white people. And I am not using this blog entry as purely a vehicle of pseudo-political expression. I really need you to know the unequivocal, unadulterated, and uncontaminated TRUTH. I need you to remember this if and when the wolves come howling. I am nobody's bigot. I am simply a person who has chosen to commit himself to the Afrikan's right to self-determination.
For many, this term "self-determination" is a vague and abstract expression that might elude even some of the people who use it. For me, self-determination is truly living with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - not just nominally. I will work for this and I will live for this. And with the love and support of you and the rest of my extended family, my efforts will help further a world that does NOT perceive Afrika as a resource to be exploited, a world that does NOT see young men of color as potential slaves for the prison industrial complex, and a world where the transmission of Afro-centric ideas and blogs is not stifled by the fear of compromising one's "employability".
**EDITOR'S NOTE** We acknowledge our "inaccuracy" in relation to Scipio Africanus and the naming of the continent. However, Africa wasn't the name given by the indigenous people and that's the point. Thanks for the catch though!