A repeat that looks at a number of current issues…
Monday’s newspaper was an exercise in serendipity, presenting, as it did, the ever-thorny issue of black slavery in its past and oh-so-present facets and proving, once again, that there is no easy answer – if any, at all – to the conundrum of reparation.
The editorial, “Lest We Remember,” was a take on the Jewish caveat, “Lest we forget.” But, while we believe the two issues are really a contrast between apples and sugar-apples, we agree that there are object lessons to be learned from the Jewish experience.
First, why the comparisons? Is each experience not horrific enough on its own? Do we really need the one-upmanship between a brutalised racial group and a demoralised ethnic group? We strongly believe that, instead of laying wagers over who suffered most and who was paid how much and by whom, we should, as a predominantly black nation, be picking sense from the nonsense and customising it to suit.
How has the Jewish diaspora risen from the collective ashes of religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, and geographical displacement? Some may say that theirs was a period of suffering, not slavery (forgetting Egypt), and confined to a relatively short period. Others may contend that their skin colour allowed them to penetrate and integrate. And still others may say that reparation – being financially compensated for their documented losses – gave them a leg up; maybe two.
And these answers all have some merit.
Some also contend that black slavery went far deeper than the flesh of our ancestors; it penetrated their spirit and made them believe – and their generations to come – that we are an inferior people. And for that, somebody owes us something. With interest!
Nature has taught us, however, that an inherently weak organism will, on its own, perish; that the strong survive, even if it means having to transform. Well, we’re still here, the descendants of those folks upon whose backs economies were built, proving to the world that we are not an inferior people, physically, mentally or spiritually.
Papa Sammy opined that we came out of slavery better equipped to make a living than the whites whom we had served. And in fewer than 200 years since abolition, we have gone as far – as individuals if not a group – as persons from any other race, ethnic group, or geographical location.
It did not happen by chance, however. It happened because our great-great, great, and grandparents realised that slavery was a learning experience, and they applied its lessons, literally and lavishly, in the absence of the schoolroom and the textbook.
And after they worked out their soul-casings to shoot hard labour, they expected us to spend their back pay – by building on the foundations of family, community and church that they laid. By telling our generations of their greatness and how we, too, are a chosen race, a peculiar people, ordained to survive and to prosper.
What have we done, instead? We rationalise that if the authorities want our young men to work, they should go into their communities and pick them up. And while they are absent from the schools where their children’s report cards wait to be picked up, our men are very present, picking up and being picked up, along the corridors of Popeshead Street.
The nation is looking to celebrate the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade. But we look forward to celebrating at least the diminution of the local drug trade. Sure, the Jews were crowded into tenements in Europe and America; in fact, many of the current black ghettos in New York were originally Jewish neighbourhoods. So what is it that prevented their young boys from consoling themselves with dope? What kept their girls from being used as mules and baby-mamas?
Was it because the Jewish grandparents whispered in the children’s ears, “Never again!?” Was it because they believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and sought Him often, at home and at temple, lest they forget from what He delivered them?
… Two hundred years down the road, and we continue to spend Grandfather’s back pay in the crack houses and at the coke parties, pausing in a bleary moment to rail against what they have done to us. And the dealer, too, pauses, to pump his fist – full of blood money – in the air and declare, “Black power!”
Meanwhile, our youngsters burglarise houses of worship so that they might have the equipment needed to blast the music of their own degradation, singing dutty lyrics and dancing dutty w’ine, in a joyful collection of bitches, ho’s, pimps and dawgs …
… While Grandfather’s backpay cheque bounces like a rubber ball.