From Where and Through Who Is Revolution Born?
“In 1600 I was a darkie
And until 1865 a slave
In 1900 I was a nigger
Or at least that was my name
In 1960 I was a negro
And then Malcolm came along
Yes, but some nigger shot Malcolm down
Though the bitter truth lives on
Well now I am a black man
And though I still go second class
Where as once I wanted the white man’s love
Now he can kiss my ass”
- Gil Scott Heron, Evolution (And Flashback)
I understand that there is contradiction in me writing on issues of African American oppression, there could be a strong argument asserting the fact that I have no business investing myself in something I’ve never experienced. However my humanity begs me to understand the conditions faced by others, I wish to help through my understanding, how can I better my perspective in order to further comprehend the struggles of people of color?
I approach this topic thinking strictly on Equiano’s story, one that revealed the horrors of slavery but one that also revealed the fickleness of man.
Why did Equiano assimilate himself to white culture? And why after experiencing such awful trauma from white men would he even consider admiration and emulation an option? Is it because he was stolen from his own lifestyle? So the only culture he could develop or mimic was the culture that was presented to him?
Where does individuality root from? In some aspect you almost wish for Equiano to instead be an unapologetic liberator of his people.
At least I want him to be.
Or is time the overall controller of these events? Was it simply too early in time for an African American liberation movement to occur?
And yet, despite Frederick Douglas coming later, I don’t believe for one moment he hesitated in what his mission would be, nor did Nat Turner or Marcus Garvey.
The idealist inside of me wishes to mark Equiano a coward for his heavenly regard for the white man, and yet for him to detail his encounters (or his people’s) potentially sewed the seed for the future of Abolition movements and African American civil rights movements. Maybe I’m the fool here, and Equiano new very well what he was doing. He couldn’t develop empathy amongst the white community without first showing them his own humanness.
It says a lot about the people of that time for them to not be able to develop this empathy without being shown these horrors outright, but that’s a philosophical discussion for another time.
As I often do I expect too much out man, so I refrain from my harsh stance on Equiano.
However my harsh stance is not, nor ever will be lessened for those people who were the possesors of power at that time. What the hell were you doing? Morality does not bend, setting and time do not justify any form of oppression, let us hold those involved in slavery accountable. Yes, that even means you, the divine and untouchable Founding Fathers America adores.