If Given a Choice: Would You Stay in America or Leave?

May 14, 2012  |  

If you couldn’t tell by now, I am infatuated by race and identity in this country, particularly how we as black folks relate to both race and identity.

My general belief is that our inability to reconcile with or even denounce one or the other is the main causation for why our community struggles to progress in this country. In short, we are serving two masters: We are trying to buy/work our way into the American dream while also trying to fix and build the community. I have found that those two concepts are often in opposition to each other, which is often demonstrated by our reluctance at times to unify and work together. And sometimes I wonder if Abraham Lincoln had followed through on his plans to resettle recently freed blacks back in Africa, where would be now?  However, the way in which some of us refuse to act in our own self-interest, especially politically, I wonder if emancipation and self-determination is what we really want?

Those questions are very important to answer if we are ever going to properly educate children, build economic infrastructures and generally move the community ahead. However, those questions are as old as our history in this country itself. And many great leaders, from the likes of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and both Malcolm and Martin, have all been debating for hundreds of years and yet have failed to reach a consensus. So in an effort to once and for all settle this debate, let’s put our thinking caps on and consider this hypothetical situation. Keyword: hypothetical.

Before I get to the actual theoretical situation, let me tell you first about the inspiration. Last week, I was re-watching “Cosmic Slop,” an early 90s television special, which originally aired on HBO. The series is like Twilight Zone but with an anthology of stories about race relations. One such story is called Space Traders, a 30-minute short about a U.S. President faced with the dilemma of having a clean environment, and living in world peace and prosperity in exchange for giving all the black people on the planet away to bartering aliens, who offer no assurance of their intention with them.  The story first appeared in Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, a book written by scholar and Critical Race Theorist Professor Derrick Bell.  And while I won’t give away the story, I’ll just say that people shouldn’t be surprised how that story ended.

But in that situation, the black community didn’t have a choice.  SO in the spirit of the late great scholar Professor Derrick Bell, mixed with a little John Quinones of the “20/20″’ show “What Would You Do?” fame, I’ll give us one.

Let’s pretend that it is the year 2013. President Obama has won his second term as President of the United States. He is standing at the podium, in front of a live audience, giving the first State of the Union Address of his second term. He spells out his goal for fixing the economy, he talks about immigration, he gives his plan for gay, lesbian and transgendered equality and now, for the first time in his presidency, he speaks about a black agenda.

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