Nonfiction Societal The Word 4 minute read

You Betta’ Smile!


I challenge you to find a greater feat of mind-fuckery in the history of the United States than this one: You kidnap Black people from their countries, make them slaves, benefit greatly from using them as free labor for 300 years, while simultaneously inflicting gross psychological, economic and social damage on them.  And even once freed, these Black people continue to be provided with inferior education and communities; and are persecuted at significantly higher rates for lesser transgressions than their White counterparts.  AND, should they dare complain about their past treatment or present conditions, even a peep, they are deemed ungrateful, un-American, angry or a problem.  So the burden of slavery is twice on the Black man’s shoulders: 1st to bare it and then to act like it doesn’t bother him a bit.

Black folks don’t want to be burdened by or defined by our past. And while we aren’t defined, we all–our country–is forever affected by our past. It is difficult for anyone to look at the crimes that they or their ancestors have committed.  It is understandable, yet not acceptable for White people to ignore the legacy and weight of slavery. It is understandable for a White person to be uncomfortable when a Black person talks about any sort of mistreatment due to institutionalized racism or personal prejudice.  But that shouldn’t mean that to be Black and successful in America, you must remain silent about any complaints regarding race;   you must act as if the American Dream has worked out perfectly for you; as if racism does not exist.  Most Black people know that if you want to make White people comfortable: you betta’ smile…and remain silent.


So, guess what, we do. We smile. We pretend. We participate in the lie — the facade.  And we talk about the anger, sadness, the fear only with with our families or our Black friends.  We are still to a certain extent enslaved.

I know that it is a strong assertion and it pains me to say it; but current events have truly made me reflect on the state of Black America.  Consider the picture and the headline below:

download-1Jay Gruden: The Redskins Will Stand and Give Respect During the National Anthem

Jay Gruden, the White coach (of a team with a racially derogatory name), declared that all members of the R**skins, including the players–almost 70% of whom are Black, will stand during the National Anthem.  In other words, they will not be supporting Colin Kapernick in his kneeling protest of how Black people and people of color currently are oppressed and treated in America.

That Black men are 70% of an organization yet feel powerless; that not even 1/2 would even think to walk off of the field and not play is telling.  Hell, not even 10, or even 5 joined Colin in his kneeling protest.  We just won’t complain.  You know these men, with these large salaries and their gated communities have been harassed by police.  You know they have lost friends or family members. You know that they cannot live in this world and not be displeased about the way black men are being treated by the police.  Yet they stood.  Not because of their unwavering patriotism, but because they have big bills to pay and even more fear.

If these men feel powerless, what about the men and women who are “the only” — the sole Black person in a company of 50, 100, or more?  What about the average guy? What about you?  None of us have ever heard of the celebration of a Black person for pointing out any problems with the way White people have treated Black people. Rather, it’s isolated to the few with the oratorical skills of King or the patience of Parks.

And this is the crux of America’s race problem: some White people want to pretend there isn’t one.  We, Black people, facilitate that farce — mainly for self-preservation — by remaining silent.  So we all have this grand act being played out and the directors and producers get pissed off when someone doesn’t follow the script.  I am hopeful that some of the players in this weekend’s first regular season games take a cue from Kapernick and ad lib, so as to change the scene.

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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