Discover more from Stoic Observations
We are living in a world where T Coates is a defacto proxy for the proper interpretation of black…
How exactly would you put that down in a lyric? In what key would Mahalia Jackson sing such a song? How would Duke Ellington arrange the…
We are living in a world where T Coates is a defacto proxy for the proper interpretation of black American history and experience, and that being the case we must (or must we) weight it with all of the deference to his psychological projections of suffering. Or to put it more succinctly, Coates represents a re-inscribing of a DuBoisian dilemma which is always interpreted as something no black American is capable of transcending. That wouldn’t be so horrible, it’s not as if there hasn’t been controversy and disagreement about what America should mean to the colored canaries of civil rights we are often cast to be. What’s more than a little galling is that it is presumed that electoral politics would be the medium, even civil liberties would be the medium of the salvation of the American soul.
How exactly would you put that down in a lyric? In what key would Mahalia Jackson sing such a song? How would Duke Ellington arrange the composition?
I understand that a large number of ordinary people retain just enough racialism in their thinking that they cannot get beyond the age old question ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ and it is through those dark mirrorshades that they view the African American experience. And I know that there are entire schools of thought that suggest with more and more vehemence lately, that this is and always will be a black thing that nobody else can understand.
But how is it that nobody manages to hear exactly the difference between Jimi Hendrix putting metaphorical machine guns in his Star Spangled Banner, and the the love Ray Charles puts into his America the Beautiful? Surely you can hear the difference. I can. And when I do I have to face the obvious but unstated fact of black diversity. Say it with me people, ‘black diversity’. Not something you hear every day, but if you listen…
Forgive me for quoting James Baldwin.
Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which robes one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one’s nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one’s robes.
Can we be naked for a minute and stop dressing up like all we can be are conservatives or liberals or fascists or racists? There’s something beneath all of these fashionable masks that we all are. If you’ve read enough of John A. Williams, you will recall that there have been plenty who have signed up to shed blood for some well-documented American ideals — you know the kind that so many ex-monarchies around the world have used to reform their governments?
I could go on as if I had a great deal of passion behind an agenda, but I’m not so hasty to push people up the sides of an old mountaintop, or to pretend that it hasn’t been surpassed. There are plenty well-lived rich fulfilled lives who have experienced enough to subsume all racial fictions. Still, let me throw back one random softball.
Nobody will deny that Africans in America have survived through feast and famine on the merits of their Christian faith. It should be obvious that conservatives tend to respect that fact. It should further be obvious that we separate Church and State. So if there is one mirror of America’s soul that merits probing it is how the ethics of Christianity have survived beyond the politicking of Left and Right. I hate to remind people how much they borrow from Christianity when they say that America’s original sin is racist slavery for which she apparently has not done adequate penance.
Maybe the kind of salvation Americans need isn’t political. Go listen to some Ray Charles. Go listen to some black conservatives. Go listen for some black diversity. Americans still have souls.