Can slavery be voluntary?


I had a dream last night. A black man dressed in a three piece suit and tie sat next to me. The seams on his pants were razor sharp, to match the neat part in his hair and his well defined mustache.

He sat next to me, his dark eyes beckoned. The words he said next, still remain.

‘Sister, come over here, sit a spell and listen.

There’s a war coming. Not a war that kills people with bullets and bombs; a war that kills the spirit. A war that leaves a man standing but hollowed out from the inside, the way termites eat the insides of a house and leave it upright but empty. Whole but halved, sickened and broken in a way we can’t see, but we can feel. This sickness affects the heart and then the head; we’re loosing our children to this disease. Your doctors don’t have the diagnosis, and your pharmacy won’t have the medicine.’

I opened my mouth to reply, but he put up his hand. ‘Let me finish.’ He said.

‘Distraction comes first. You just can’t sit too long. Can’t help yourself; there’s a nagging feeling. A need to do something. You pull your phone from your pocket, hold it the way you would hold a child. Carefully, gently, maybe even lovingly. When you look into that tiny window, you lose yourself. You enter a world where people like your status. They recommend your words. They approve you and share their approval with the world. Somewhere along the way you accept their validation. You receive the digital blessing as if anointed by God himself and you walk a little taller. You breathe a little better. You are valued. You are worthy.

But you forget the people sitting next you. Your meals are photographed, shared with strangers and slowly cool on the table before you; and what of your value to the people you are with? Reduced to the level of an inanimate object. A television would be better company.

Distraction leads to dysfunction. How are your grades in school kids? How are your social skills? Are you keeping up with your responsibilities? What have you learned about keeping a house and home? Can you cook for yourself? Do you know how to work an electric oven? Can you take care of a plant or a pet or yourself? Have you sacrificed your independence to suck at the electronic tit that fills your mind with emptiness?

You’re an addict, hooked on your phone, your tablet, your social presence. Can you let those things go or are they so deeply rooted in you, that you cannot identify yourself in their absence?

What suffers when you are lost to the world? Your relationships, your responsibilities, your analog life; and your ability to stand up in the real world and get things done. These are the same things that suffer when you are snorting lines of cocaine or tripping on meth.

Sister, this is slavery, moved out of the plantations and into our minds.

Shackles bind you to a place and to a person. Shackles hobble you, keep you back, hinder your progress. Shackles are a mark of your possession. Of belonging to a higher power. A way to chain you in servitude to your masters. When they crack the whip you come running. ‘Yes massa?’

Now, when they call you on the phone? When they text? When they pull you by the wireless chain that confines you? Don’t you respond in the same way?’

He got up then, this strange man, and took my hand for a moment.

‘Think about that for a while.’ He walked away with his words ringing in my ears.