Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On the Eve of Lincoln's Birthday

If there was such an event called White History Month, I wonder if white people would make a big deal out of it. Would it be something that they look forward to or would it be a celebratory four weeks that they could really do without? Who would be their most honored and revered icons? We (black folk) know ours without even thinking. Martin, Thurgood, and Harriet. The same ‘safe’, but critical for the movement, figures are prefaced in church, some schools, and over our media airwaves each and every February. Ironically, Angela Davis and/or Assata Shakur are not discussed!

I guess white people could list presidents. Abraham Lincoln would be one that I am certain would continuously surface. President Obama has listed this slavery proponent as one of his “heroes and respected men”. A man who was FORCED to do the RIGHT thing? “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it." Let’s keep that quote and the other atrocious detail (inability to free slaves because it was the humane thing to do) about Lincoln in mind as we witness good ole Abe praised and placed on a pedestal during this Bicentennial year.

This February 2009 I have decided to do what some black and white folk do when they want to honor a historical figure: They take every measure to infuse the character of the iconic individual into their thoughts and actions. These people actually attempt to embody the personality traits of their heroes/heroines – but not only for a month. The people I am referring to have made the figure a part of them in word and deed. Perhaps, this is why the overseer (Abraham Lincoln) of numerous hangings is cherished like today’s gold. Nonetheless, he at least did commit to one righteous act that we all are familiar with: Emancipating America’s Negroes. Just ask anyone, ‘What is President Lincoln’s legacy?’ You will get in response, ‘Uh. He freed the slaves.’ You best believe that my nine year old is not walking around with that incomplete response!

A legacy I have been interested in and willing to embody is Jack Johnson’s. Not the Hawaii born singer and surfer. The great Galveston born boxer of the early 1900’s was not only the first African American World Champion he was one of the few black men in 19th century Western History who defied and rebelled against the white establishment. Jack Johnson was so daring that he fornicated with and later married a white woman during those blatantly bold racist times. He was one of the few black men in history who was not ridiculed and/or castrated for mingling with America’s Lilly. But, this is not my justification for embracing the Galveston Giant.

Jack Johnson was unbelievably persistent. Just to have his opportunity to become the world champion he took pay cuts, was forced to fight unqualified fighters, and he ended up traveling all over the world following the then Canadian champion, Tommy Burns, demanding a chance for the belt. Unfortunately, Burns was initially unwilling to get in the ring with a “spook”. Eventually, Johnson was granted a fight for the title. The story ended, of course, with him obliterating Mr. Burns.

Persistence is the heartbeat of motivation. Without it all one has is the average run of the mill drive to achieve. Thus the reason champions are not average. Edwin Moses, Allen Johnson, and Renaldo Nehemiah were cut from the same cloth. That cloth that started with our first world champion, Jack Johnson. All four are worthy of my unapologetic adoration. Not Abraham Lincoln, or the likes of him e.g. George Washington, Ulysses Grant, James Polk, and other protectors of the Constitution and not humanity.

Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by the heroes some would like us NOT to honor:

H. Rap Brown - Louis Farrakhan – Stokely Carmichael - Nat Turner – Bobby Seale - Denmark Vesey

Unforgivable Blackness, The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson:

12 comments:

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

I was and am well aware of the fallacy of lauding Abe Lincoln. I have no intention of misleading my daughter either. Although his intentions were not what we would have liked, he did in fact play a role in ending slavery. And although he was not outspoken and outwardly supportive of radical change (like Jack Johnson), he was considered to be radical for his time. I've long wondered who will be considered to be understated for our time (i.e. who will go down as radical for now but not radical enough later in history).

You've also made me wonder who among the white people in history I admire. It's not as easy as you may think. Everybody has a dark side and I hate to put anybody on my list who may disappoint me in other ways. Albert Einstein comes to mind. Perhaps John Muir or Virginia Wolfe. It would take a lot of thought. Nobody is perfect. Even MLK (who is at the top of my list for all time greats) cheated on his wife and she knew it. As a woman, that makes me irate. People say, "it was accepted at the time" or "he is a man"...statements that make me more angry. (btw, a very well respected African American mutual friend of yours and mine excused him saying, "he wasn't perfect, he was human after all.")

Anyhow, thanks again for geting me to think beyond the everyday.

-TS

btw, if you hadn't clarified, I would have been perplexed thinking you were referring to Jack Johnson, the current day singer. :)

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

Jack Johnson is NO hero of mine. He chose to defy white American that’s good and all for. However, he looked over many many beautiful black women for those that had a skin color unlike his own. His wife was depressed and killed herself. He cheated on her with countless of these Lilly women. He had clubs, money, flashiness and arrogance and his life ended with a car accident after he returned from being a furtive for facing court charges that a Ms. Lilly lied to the jury about her dealings with him. A prostitute at that that! One that he took care of, which did him in- in the end. How ironic is that! In the end he was reduced to fighting lesser fights for little money and riding around in his ‘fancy’ car. All of that for what? Because of his love for Ms. Lilly.

Mr. Johnson because of his love for Ms. Lily caused=2 0President Woodrow Wilson and his associates to put out the racist film of all time “The Birth of A Nation” which featured many Ms. Lilies jumping off cliffs to their deaths to get away from this beast of man with dark features. This film of hate graced the theaters for 52 weeks. ONE FULL YEAR OF HATE ON THE BIG SCREEN. Thus, reignited the clan and ITS HATE. Thus, causing many blacks to be killed because of Mr. Johnson’s so called defiance to rebellion.

As for this black woman, I will have NO part in the celebration of this man Mr. Jack Johnson. You can go ahead and celebrate him, while I’ll reflect on what a travesty it was for one to be so selfish and allow HIS FLESH to rein supreme over his decisions!

-FREEDOM

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Muat responds to Freedom:

Freedom-
Thank you for providing that part of Jack's history. It is definitely a sore spot for me. I promote people like Jack Johnson because he defied and rebelled against the American way at the time. Any man who steps out their to rebuke this lie-filled country is a hero to me. He was not a crowd. He was a man willing to die for what was rightfully entitled to him: an opportunity to be the World Champion.

I wonder how you feel about Malcolm X. He did have his dealings with white women. More than what the movie revealed to the world.

By the way, Jack Johnson was a car enthuist. A collector of cars. He just happened to like speed. Also, the Klan did not need any reason to kill other than hatred. Jack Johnson did not cause a black man to be strung up. Those hate-filled men/women wanted to kill anyway. Let's not give any reason for them to be so murderous. It was not our fault. They hate/hated us because of several reasons. Two being: skin color and fear.

Thanks. I DO respect you position.

-Muata

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

I, myself, have more of a respect and adoration for warriors such as Yaa Asantewaa, Nzingha, the Dahomey warrior women, Malcolm, Garvey and a host of unsung warriors who walked the soils of this global continent and fought and died in the hopes that we'd continue to carry the baton. Sadly, many of us have dropped it and aren't looking to pick it up. We either want to continue riding on their coattails or believe that we live in a colorblind world, one where little black boys and little black girls are holding hands with little white boys and little white girls, singing "Free at last! Free at last! Thank god almighty, we are free at last!" Even in that, those of us with the capacity for critical thought can see the fallacy. Even King saw the fallacy. A good source of that is the Vietnam speech he made a year to the date he was murdered. Read the full transcript or listen to the audio in its entirety (you can find it at my blog: www.juswritinlife.com). He called this government, this Amerikkan government, the greatest purveyor of violence.

And in this day when young Black men like Oscar Grant are being shot in the back for no reason and unarmed Blacks in Algiers (near New Orleans) were being shot down by white militias for no good reason, I can say that it is a fallacy indeed. The Black Revolution is the only "revolution" in the history of revolutions to be bloodless. But in a sense that isn't even correct, because we are the ones shedding our blood on the battlefield. If only we realized that every day we wake up, we are at war and that we will be so until we come to the realization of how one-sided it has been and that it has to end and that we cannot be pacified with so-called Black leadership appointments--not even in the WHITE house. And that's not being pessimistic, that's being real.

Abibifahodie! (Afrikan Liberation)

-YJ

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Muata responds to YJ:

I love a radical sista! Seriously, you are a minority among black females. And, people with your mindset are an increasing minority. I guess because we are able to eat and dine with white folk we have arrived. Oh! We have a black president contributes to the forgetful attitude too.

I just cannot forgive some of them for what they did and what their ancestors continue to represent. While we are responsible for moving forward I still see some of them as the reason we are in a tough spot in so many areas. That is not blame. It is the truth.

I just interviewed a 61yr old white man. One of my standard questions:

Have you ever worked in an environment where you were the minority?

Every time I ask that question when a white man is across from me he stumbles. Unable to answer. He becomes a damn speechless dummy. Why? Because he has rarely been in that position. Now, that the economy is bad (partially because of greedy white men) they have to humble themselves. Being unemployed is tragic to them especially the ones I interview e.g. had it all at one time. They NEVER thought "it" would happen to them. I am not mean-spirited, heartless, or evil - but I somewhat get a sweet taste of justice when they have to humble themselves.

You best believe that they hate facing a big black man like me. The white guy today told me as we talked about race in America:

"You apparently did not have the "woe is me/I am black" attitude. You did something with your life. You are obviously successful. You are in here interviewing me." Wow!

-Muata

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Responds to Freedom:

Free,

I don't know you but I appreciate you. I love being educated as I feel we are never to old to learn. I didn't know the history of Jack Johnson but I did know about the Fild "The Birth of a Nation" and how it single handley increased Klan memorship by droves during the time it was out. It has been long thought the most racist and fear baiting movie ever made and has since been shelved. If I'm not mistaking, the Screen Actor's Guild Award used to be named after the guy that made the movie until many black activists and actors protested to have the name changed (to Screen Actor's Guild Award). Although I feel who you love and decide to be with is a personal choice, I can definitely see how Mr. Johnson's choices (considering the era and the infidelity involved) may lead some to disapprove.

-DM

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

If only blacks would take on some of the mindsets of whites......................Respectyour worth! You have to know first.

-PM

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

White people do have a White History Month...It's in January, February, March April, May, June, July, August, September October, November and December.

-DM

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

I feel you......However, besides Jack Johnson being the kind of man who did what he wanted when he wanted, in the end, he still came off as a coon who lived fast, chased white women, and died broke....

-NR

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Muata responds to NR:

NR-
He did live on his own terms which was remarkable for that time. A black man doing what he wanted when he could have easily been strung up? Not many black men can say that they have lived a life without outside influences shaping/molding their mentalities. That alone is worthy of praise.

-Muata

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

Gab prosser, nat turned

Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader's response:

Sorry, but Jack Johnson isn't one of my heroes.

He had a thing for White women. And he beat and otherwise abused the White woman he married.

Both are manifestations, IMO, of deep-seated self-loathing -- despite all his swagger and mouthiness.

And with all his money, he didn't hire Black people -- preferring to swagger about with Whites in his service. Another, in my mind, sign of self-loathing. Rather than hire his own and provide employment to those who desperately needed it, he gave his money to White men and dined in White establishments.

I agree w/Napoleon. Johnson did come off as a loud-mouthed, self-loathing Blackman. After all, narcissism is often only the flip-side of self-hatred. In Jack Johnson's case, I think that was pretty much the case.

In the end, he's a tragic figure -- and not because he died broke or because of his hounding and imprisonment, but because, despite all of his braggadocio and swagger, he was a tormented man, uncomfortable in his own skin.

Yes, he was a great athlete, and he had guts -- but that's about all I can say for him.

He was no kind of example of a Black man I'd want anyone to emulate.

-KW