Saturday, July 3, 2010
Parable of July 4,1910Jack Johnson, Unforgivable Blackness
Parable of July 4, 1910
As Oakland braces for a possible riot in response to the verdict in the Oscar Grant murder trial, let us recall another date in American history that shall live in infamy, July 4, 1910. On this day a century ago, Jack Johnson whupped a white man's ass to become the first black heavyweight champion of the world. What followed his victory was one of the bloodiest days in American history as whites attacked blacks in mob fashion and killed them in vengeance, jealousy and envy.
Jack Johnson was a big, black, bold, arrogant, uppity North American African who terrified racist whites with his bravado. Unashamedly, he paraded through the streets in his expensive cars full of white women. The USA created a law just for him, the Mann Act or White Slavery, to prevent persons from crossing state lines allegedly for prostitution. Jack left the country but eventually returned to face prison time for his "crimes." There is presently a petition before President Obama to exonerate Jack Johnson posthumously.
More than his athletic prowess, Jack Johnson symbolized the liberation of black manhood, for he let it be known he was indeed free to do what he pleased by any means necessary. In short, he was fearless. We would not see such fearlessness until Black Panther Huey Newton drew his pump shotgun on a pig in San Francisco. In that moment, the black man retrieved his nuts from the sand. But today in Oakland we seem to have retreated and the enemy has advanced. We have a black mayor and police chief, yet blacks are being crucified by the police. It is as though the Black Panthers were never here. Is this due to a collective amnesia, a political anorexia? There is most definitely a paralysis in collective action.
Where is the boldness of Jack Johnson, Huey Newton? This July 4th weekend, where is the liberation message of Frederick Douglas? Douglas questioned the entire foundation of July 4, 1776.
Where were you, July 4, 1776
in the celebration
on the plantation
where were you, July 4, 1776....
What is the Declaration of Independence to a slave, or for that matter, to a descendant of slaves in 2010? Indeed, we have made great strides, we have a black President, but he seems to get cut down at every turn, much like Jack Johnson. And in the end, he may be crucified, much like Jack Johnson, or for that matter, Oscar Grant. His generals mock him and Tea Party trailer house trash whites want to lynch him.
Here in Oakland, the consensus was that the judge in the Oscar Grant murder trial would not release the verdict until after the 4th of July weekend for fear of racial disturbances since anger, money, alcohol and guns might be a potent mix in the hood during the holiday weekend. In fact, the jury did not go into deliberation until late Friday.
Perhaps we need to ponder the meaning of July 4th this weekend, for the coming week may portend ominous events here in Oakland, the very meaning of justice may be ridiculed from the courthouse itself. The judge and jury may very well slam dunk justice in the face of the righteous. Just know for every action there is a corresponding and equal reaction. It may not be immediate, but it is sure to come.