A cul-de-sac, unless it was your destination, is a sign to turn around. It matters not that you have been misled, or driven like cows to a hemmed in space, or worked like a mule and then turned loose without that promised forty acres and the phantom mule.
You may say it’s a promise not yet kept and so until then, you have a right to demand of the powers that be redress, reparation, apology, and to be treated equally. Your impassioned request, no it’s a plea, is sincere, even as you tearfully await the body of your son. He was killed by the police in the street. He was unarmed.
All you have said is a fact and helps to explain why after all these years and the trail of tears, we are largely still in a cul-de-sac. Yet reality is a strange construct. We may think it’s what we see or be too traumatized to recognize that we are the powers that be.
We have been given an image of ourselves, and even as we have been protesting, revolting, marching, demanding of our civil rights and clawing our way out of poverty, we have largely accepted the imagery of ourselves as victims in this great society.
The cul-de-sac is not a reality made up of our experience only; it becomes our expectations without intervention to change the trajectory. So, reality has to be understood not only for what you see and feel, but how you see and respond to the things that occasion our disquiet.
Whatever we face or have been through, from plantations, slavery, fording rivers or crossing seas, we had a faith to see us through, and great leaders to rally our spirits. What we haven’t yet learned, however, is how not be a victim in our own narrative or history.
A history scholar of our researched past will tell us how we came to be, in this cul-de-sac and even as he marshals place and date to corroborate an undisputed fact, you still have to ask, “With all I know, can I get out of this inglorious spot by asking others to treat me like a man? Or will I have that special talk with my son about how to be around the men in blue or brown who have sworn to protect, with an asterisk? Is this the conversation of a warrior tempered with reality, or a man whose surrender has already been negotiated?
Should you or can you demand of any man, even as you are hurting, things you have not demanded of yourself, or addressed issues real or imagined, of our stereotypical proclivities for mediocrity?
For I’d have you know, or at least consider, that slavery is not our Achilles’ heel. It is more the crutch on which we lean drawing attention to our misfortune and injuries.
Yet that injury, though its rooted in fact, whether it is the color of our skin, where we live, the quality of our schools, or how we are set upon by the police, that ‘injury’ can become psychological and become a function of an explanation, or others’ expectations that we have come to accept as true, even as we march that “Black lives matter” to the confines of our cul-de-sac.
We come to life, ready or not, mostly not with our sense of self and confidence mostly shot. We live lives of stress and anxiety, fearing rather than enjoying our vulnerabilities and our differences, and before long, expecting a wrong to be done to us. It’s not a question of “if, when or I told you so”, but rather one of ‘how the hell (or in God’s name) do we turn this predicament around?’ For without the right approach, skill sets and mostly attitude, the gift of the keys to the most luxurious Mercedes Benz or X6 BMW parked in our driveway will still be a predictable disaster. What this tells me is that we have made our lot a victim’s plot and it leads to a cul-de-sac.
Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow
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