My baby boomer generation produced many musical giants. They are so iconic, if you mention just one name, they are instantly recognizable: Aretha, Michael, Nina, Stevie.
There are many more.
In their discographies, there are songs that speak to the yearning of millions of black people in America for full and complete freedom, justice and equality. Chief among them, in my book, is Aretha’s “Wholy Holy,” on the album “Amazing Grace.”
“Jesus left us a long time ago/He promised to return/But he left us a book to believe in…We must believe in each other’s dreams.” I’m sometimes moved to shed wet tears when I hear those words from The Queen.
We black people have believed in everyone’s dream, but rarely do we feel the love reciprocated. People just solicit our solidarity with them.
A black man was the first to die for the American dream in which he believed: Crispus Attucks, killed March 5, 1770, in the Boston Massacre. He was the first “believer,” the first casualty in the settler uprising against British colonial rule. Since then, black men and women have died on every battlefield, in every war where White Americans have died.
Black folks believed in dream of a little land, a little “grubstake” as it were, to help them get on their feet after slavery, as others had received at various times in U.S. history. But instead of free homestead land, or government “land rush” land in Oklahoma and other new states in the Union, black people never saw the “40 acres and a mule,” promised in legislation passed by Congress, but vetoed by President Andrew Johnson. No, black folks got ample doses of Ku Klux Klan murder and intimidation.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rosewood, Florida, despite hate and segregation, prosperous black communities grew and thrived, until hateful, envious whites attacked, burned, bombed and destroyed even the symbols of progress.
After the World Wars, African-American renewed their struggle, and the civil rights movement gave fuel to the anti-war movement of the 1960s, as well as the women’s liberation movement, and even the gay rights movement, inspiring tactics and lending support. But even as those movements grew to commanding importance, they hardly looked back at their black friends, their former “fellow travelers.” Black folks were once again, left to their own devices.
And today, even as dozens of blacks have been murdered at the hands of citizen vigilantes, and especially by blood thirsty cops, egged on by a president of the United States and his team, who seem to delight in heaping disdain on African-Americans, often “the least of these” in this society, black folks are apparently on their own again, required to mollify their claim that “Black Lives Matter,” in the face of competing “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” slogans.
So let me be clear about my pledge of solidarity. I invite others to do likewise: “Be for who, who be for you!” In other words, “I’m down for your cause, but first you have to be down for my cause.” I will not automatically rally for something because it looks or sounds good on paper, unless those who advocate the cause stand in solidarity with me and my comrades.
Even as the president and his pals in Congress work feverishly to destroy the Affordable Care Act and remove medical insurance coverage for tens and tens of millions of the most vulnerable (beginning with black folks on the bottom), his warmongering foreign policy team is beating the drums of war in every corner of the globe, and they fully expect that black people will once again identify with our well-known white oppressors, joining them to fight against the non-white enemies they are inciting around the globe. Nope. I will not.
I will remind my people that these white warlords have been so dismissive of anything and everything that might comfort black folks. And besides, theirs is an all-volunteer military nowadays, and they have so many fake boot camp-type TV reality shows with wannabe soldiers, that they won’t need any black bodies going overseas to fight and die in useless conflicts that don’t make Americans safer, but only line the pockets of the military-industrial-complex.
“The Viet Cong never called me a nigger,” Muhammad Ali famously said 50 years ago. Today, the same can be said of the Chinese, and even as loony as the North Korean president may be, he has not sided with the American racists, as the president of the Philippines — a U.S. ally — did with comments about President Barack Obama’s mother too disgusting and unsuitable for me to repeat.
So if white folks want my solidarity with their cause, they’ll have to show solidarity with me and my causes. “Be for who, who be for you.”