“The calm, Cool face of the river, Asked me for a kiss” Langston Hughes
The moonlight betrays the body of a black male at the foot of the bridge. His stillness conceals his face and disposition to the casual onlooker. His head is slightly lifted and pointed towards the moon in a frozen like stance as if it holds the answers to all his unasked questions. Childhood questions that grew into adult confusion. A confusion that yielded to the strategy of white supremacy, leaving him despondent and yearning for an acceptance the white world never be willing to provide. A despondency nurtured by the oppressive forces that rendered his twenty-six-year-old black male body “overstaying its welcome” on this stolen soil.
His gaze shifts to the water. Tired of the world’s obscurity, the water’s transparency seduces him. Its quiet whisper serenades him with promises of a peace and freedom. Ultimately the black man on the bridge is the black man in the water, floating downstream to his new home in the sky.
Disenfranchisement is an inevitable burden displaced onto the black collective. This disenfranchisement commonly manifests as destruction. This destruction historically manifested as drug addiction, alcholism, gambling, thievery, consuming deadly foods or a recent abundant occurence. However, the contemporary world depicts a growing trend in black destruction in induced transitiond, or what is commonly regarded as suicide.
Overt destruction cast onto black male bodies like lynching, torching, beatings, shootings and castrations in traditional and contemporary settings garners continued attention and study. What receives consistently less attention are the subtleties, the mental bludgeonings that figuratively acts as a noose against the black male neck, slowly draining the life from his body. These subtleties deem the black male experience comparable to wading the deep tides of an ocean whose sole predictable feature is unpredictability.
These complexities become apparent in institutions like jail, education, and employment—all designed to profit from black male conventional failure. These complexities manifest in the fatherless boys left to bear the wound seemingly cast by their father, veiling white supremacy as the true assailant. The fatherless child is a victim of a black male emasculated by the western world. The western world designates strength and the ability to provide as key masculine attributes, attributes that when aligned with black masculinity issues one of three fates: exile, death or incarceration. These complexities manifest in the feelings that suggest that talent and ability are simply “not good enough” to achieve conventional success, that an inability to enjoy all that this country “has to offer” reflects his own personal shortcomings, not a systemic disadvantage. In support, consider the following:
Deliberately preventing a people from developing life-sustaining options and promoting conditions of self-destruction are acts of genocide. Therefore, Black suicide is a method of genocide promoted and controlled worldwide by the White race. (Wright 17)
The western world hands opportunity to whites in the same breath that it hands oppression to blacks. This same society prompts whites to walk over bridges erected by abducted labor or to use blacks–those fictively construed as inferior–as bridges to cross. Alternatively, the western world prompts blacks to erect or become figurative bridges that complicate their plight to the other side. These bridges exist as a means of destruction. Namely, these same bridges exists for black action to reflect what westernized police, teachers, and other figures of authority do to the black body. As Dr. Bobby Wright declares in essay “Black Suicide: Lynching by Any Other Name is Still Lynching,”
“For political reasons, Blacks are being programmed for self-destruction and ‘Black suicide’ is one of the results. Lynching by any other name is still lynching.” ( Wright 17)
The destruction of the black mind is not only a casualty of white supremacy—it is a necessity. The mind acts as a gateway to the body—deeming seemingly black-induced transitions a direct product of a deteriorated psyche. Thus, the black man is not the fatal being of American society despite what the western world seduces many to believe. In actuality, the opposite is true. The black man is a fatality of America.
This post focuses on black male disenfranchisement, not to discount the extent or existence of black female suffering, but to acknowledge that the black female body often acts a tool to disenfranchise the black man. Specifically, the western world often allows black female “success” more readily and more frequently than it affords these same attributes to black men. Similarly, black female strength, while discouraged is generally regarded as significantly less dangerous due to her dual oppression in a racist and patriarchial western world. The western word does not doubt that the black man is a powerful and a superior being due to their intense investment into the masculine narrative. This prompts a lifetime of castrating experiences to ensure that the black male is both unaware and doubtful of his full potential.
I also chose to focus on black men due to the untimely passing of my cousin–a young black male whose passing became a factual after his body washed ashore last week. His passing casts a page in a collective tragedy that unveils the contemporary world as demanding the same destruction as our not so distant past. This collective tragedy exposes talk of improvement and the phrase “things are so much better now” as a farce labeled contemporary optimism.
Whispers surrounding his premature passing say he jumped, but I say he was pushed. Pushed by a society that solely guarantees his murder, castration or self-destruction. Furthermore, the western world murdered my cousin in the same manner that the western world murdered Kalief Browder, Lee Thompson Young and the countless other black bodies suffocated by the unrelenting chokehold of white supremacy.
Some will read this piece and deem my analysis the result of grief. Others will deem my cousin’s actions as reflective of his own personal shortcomings. Conversely, I regard such criticisms as a cowardice. Such criticisms cast blame onto the victim with lowered eyes to avoid casting a deserving gaze diectly onto the true villain. Others will assert that my cousin, like Browder and Young induced his transition due to “free will.” Commonly, these criticism illustrate a dangerous ignorance to racism. For blacks, to misunderstand racism can be compared to bearing a terminal illness that you hope to recover from despite bearing no understanding of the disease. Dr. Amos Wilson delineates the extent of black suffering in the following excerpt from The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness:
“For oppression begins as a psychological facet and is in good part a psychological state. If oppression is to operate with maximum efficiency, it must become and remain a psychological condition achieving self-perpetuating motion by its own internal dynamics and by its own inertial momentum” (Wilson 3).
To be oppressed is to possess a state of psychological captivity. To conceptualize oppression as anything different is to dangerously misinterpret the complexities that accompany blacks upon birth.
For these reasons, it is not surprising that psychologists Dr. Bobby Wright and Dr. Amos Wilson similarly discount applying white ideology to not only diagnosing black behavior or thought but in labeling black action and thought. Dr. Amos Wilson states:
“…its explanatory systems and its treatment approaches ultimately must be exposed as political ideology and oppressive political governance parading as empirically validated principles of psychological and medical science, and as “objective” psychotherapeutic and psychiatric practices” (3).
Thus, western diseases and labels function as oppressive tools to hinder black advancement and understanding.
Similarly, “free” will as a source of black induced transition ignores black oppression by suggesting a pseudo-freedom. Dr. Wright addresses the concept of “free” will in the following:“…Black acceptance of the concept of ‘free will’ absolves Whites of any responsibility for their victims’ condition” (Wright 18). To render the acts of black victims as their own “free will” overlooks that freedom does not encompass the will of black people, oppression does.Consequently, there is no such phenomena as ‘Black suicide.’ when suicide is defined as the willful and deliberate act of taking one’s own life (Wright 17).
Much like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, John Crawford III, Kalief Browder, and Tamir Rice, my cousin remains frozen in time — an unhealed wound in the hearts of everyone who knew and loved him.
We did not talk every day. We did not see each other often. But my cousin was the most gentle soul I have ever known. He grew to be six feet and seven inches tall but despite the height his stature afforded him, his feet never left the ground. I’ll never forget texting him while we both away at school, or that sweet smile he gave me every time I saw him: from childhood to adulthood. But most of all, I won’t forget that he suffered in silence. I won’t forget that his physical absence also warrants an absence of pain stealthily concealed in a strong, positive, kind exterior.
It is for these reasons that despite the finality of my cousin’s transition, a part of me finds repose in knowing that his transition affords him a peace that life as a black man would not. Thus, I regard the passing of my cousin in the same ambivalence that esteemed scholar W.E.B. Dubois showed following the transition of his first born son:
“Not dead, not dead, but escaped; not bond, but free.”
I love you cousin, you were one in two million. Until we meet again…<3