Yes, our his­tory has been full of choices

South Florida Times - - OPINION -

It has taken more than four hun­dred years to go from be­ing born "Kunta Kinte" to be­ing made into "Toby," to be­com­ing Kanye West. What a jour­ney, what with all those choices in be­tween! That’s right, I said choices!

Let’s con­sider a lit­tle his­tory and the many choices made dur­ing the ini­tial pe­riod of barter and ex­change that took place be­tween Africans and the first set of Euro­peans who were in search of , first gold, then other riches from Africa, in­clud­ing hu­man la­bor.

Yes, it is true that in all parts of Africa, there were al­ways some group con­quer­ing an­other. It was just that way. Even to this day, in Africa, there are com­pet­ing tribal al­le­giances, with re­sult­ing fric­tions that are of­ten based on the his­tory of mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity, lan­guage dif­fer­ences, the pan­theon of var­i­ous gods wor­shipped, com­pet­ing in­her­i­tance lines from moth­ers and/or f athers, his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ships with col­o­niz­ers, etc.

Also, re­mem­ber that ‘slav­ery’ was a long-es­tab­lished prac­tice un­der a unique sys­tem oper­at­ing through­out the African con­ti­nent -- long be­fore the Euro­peans came -- and it served many pur­poses: mil­i­tary dom­i­nance; ter­ri­to­rial ex­pan­sion; pop­u­la­tion con­trol, ex­panded la­bor pool; ac­cess to more women, etc. Was it right? What is right? Was it moral? What is moral? Can we ever make the right choice? Hind­sight is 20/20.

The Euro­peans, who were con­stantly look­ing for ways to ex­pand their wealth by dis­cov­er­ing places, con­quer­ing peo­ple with the use of su­pe­rior weapons, bar­ter­ing with glit­ter, and off er­ing the virtues of their cul­ture, struck deals with the dominant groups of Africans, in ex­change for trin­kets, guns, and in some cases, a new God.

Hence, black bod­ies were con­quered by other blacks and traded to the whites in ex­change for some­thing dif­fer­ent. But was it bet­ter?

And just who had choices then? The just, or the mighty?

The At­lantic slave trade be­gan as an eco­nomic re­sponse to the Euro­peans’ ex­pan­sion efforts in the so-called “New World,” since all the na­tives of that re­gion had been used up and/or ex­ter­mi­nated from the white man’s dis­eases and bru­tal­i­ties, they needed to be re­placed.

(It was log­i­cal for the Euro­peans to con­clude that the healthy, black-skinned per­sons from Africa were al­ready used to la­bor­ing in the heat near the equa­tor, and there­fore, would be use­ful on the sugar-grow­ing and other plan­ta­tions in the Caribbean and South Amer­ica).

Our African broth­ers have since of­fered an apol­ogy for their com­plic­ity in the trans­ac­tions that re­sulted in our bondage in the New World. They ex­plained they were not aware of what our fate would be un­der the Euro­pean sys­tem of slav­ery. Their ex­pla­na­tion will have to stand as a rea­son­able, for now. So much for an­cient his­tory. What were some of the other sub­se­quent choices in this scenario?

Dur­ing post- African cap­ture, first there was the choice of com­mit­ting sui­cide; by self-star­va­tion, or by leap­ing into the shark-inf ested wa­ters all along the At­lantic Ocean slave route.

Then, there was in­fan­ti­cide by moth­ers who re­fused to let their chil­dren be born into slav­ery.

Next, there was the choice of run­ning away from en­slave­ment, only to f ace cap­ture fol­lowed by some va­ri­ety of tor­ture, and/or lynch­ing, if caught.

Or, as with the ma­jor­ity, choos­ing life and con­tin­u­ing to sur­vive/thrive within a fam­ily/ com­mu­nity. Now, that’s a choice, for sure. And that brings me to to­day, when our choices seem to be un­lim­ited, es­pe­cially if you be­lieve com­mer­cially-pro­duced mes­sages and images about black folks’ lives where every­body is beau­ti­ful, pros­per­ous, in a nu­clear fam­ily, and in many cases blended, i.e. mixed race.

Seem­ingly, we have been of­fered ac­cess to the prom­ise land.

But there is also a plethora of in-your­face cau­tions to con­sider be­fore mak­ing choices.

Re­cently, Child­ish Gam­bino’s vi­ral video, "This is Amer­ica," chal­lenges us all to look closely at the con­se­quences of some of our choices as black folk in this coun­try: liv­ing with per­sis­tent po­lice bru­tal­ity; ro­man­ti­ciz­ing gun vi­o­lence (we, too, in­sist on pro­tect­ing our sec­ond amend­ment rights), blind and cal­lous pur­suit of wealth and beauty (of­ten mea­sured by non-African stan­dards), and con­stantly be­ing dis­tracted by catchy beats and dance moves -- to keep us off bal­ance.

Yet we are warned in the song’s hook to “Don’t let them catch you slip­pin up.”

Yes, we have al­ways had choices. The real ques­tion is, how wisely have we ex­er­cised that ba­sic right?

“Don’t let them catch you slip­pin up!”

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