Touching Babel and Social Strife Makes Me Better

October 22nd, 2012

Globally, and particularly in America, the issue of race and racial justice has been grand, dynamic, and an argument. Time to focus on different parts of the story? Time for us to remix the conversation? Are you in a better position than I am – less cynical and politically unburdened – to lead the convo?

A recent article shook me from my dungeon and this program got me thinking:

Watch Race 2012 on PBS. See more from Race 2012.

I come from that sturdy stock of people who farmed and picked cotton in the southern parts of this country.  Despite what the odds would tell me, they kept a dignity to which I aspire. After being pressed into service as young sharecroppers, my parents were able to be successful after being refugees in a second, racialized civil conflict.

All I had to do was live in the freedom they laid on me. Too bad that now – when it comes to race – I’m tired and loaded down. I’m tired of the conversations that bludgeon mutual exchanges of ideas. Exhausted with self-doubt and weary around a lack of confidence about my own competence. I’m worn out and worn down by the talk, slurs, symbols, left-handed compliments, offensive behind-the-back looks, and naïve treatment I frequently observe. I’ve grown weak making overtures and gasp at my self-censoring to make others feel alright. I’m just able to balance an anchor in my racial self without being unfairly constrained. And, I am limp going through the smokescreen of excuses not to talk about the real subject – class.

On my last nerve as so much of this is, it is not time to give up. Now is the time for me to put more social strife in my life. Time for me to dig in and use the urban setting I am fortunate to co-inhabit. Instead of pulling back and staying to my self, I’ve got to challenge my own social disconnects, comfort, safety, convenience, and fear within the community I hang. It’s the only way my convos, the way I view other folks, and, my life gets better.


I am certain that James Balwin’s My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation and Toni Morrison’s 1993 Nobel Lecture influenced this post.

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