Every Fourth of July to me is a countdown to 2019, when it will be 400 years and 17 generations of Africans imported and enslaved in the United States. Everything we do in our present is colored by our past, and every decision we make today forces us closer to making a firm decision about how we are going to handle our future in America.
Your relationship with the nation of your birth is probably the most important factor in determining our view of ourselves and the world we live in. If we are one with the nation, we see the world through the eyes of a nationalist. Everything is perceived as being either in the best or the worst interest of the nation, and you fight for one or fight against the other.
But our history in America has given African Americans a national and world view unlike anyone else, except some Native Americans.
It's a view dominated by the nation being the oppressor rather than the protector, and a personal and political relationship that is at odds with most of the domestic and national policies of America. We have a constant specter of racism within America and a belief that most of the nation's international decisions are not in the best interests of the Asian or African countries with which America has interacted.
These national and international views color everything that we are confronted with, and it can easily turn a small incident, like the jaywalking incident at Franklin High School, into an international incident that can been beamed round the world.
I was thinking about this during a recent community meeting at the Douglass-Truth Library. The meeting organizers wanted to get a handle on how to handle the jaywalking incident and the attention it has attracted around the nation and the world.
We wrestled with a lot of issues, but the main complaint was that James Kelly, head of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, had the young lady who was punched apologize to the police officer, but the officer was not required to apologize to her.
Maybe Kelly wants to help her avoid an assault charge because she obviously pushed the officer. But Kelly's problem is also one of style and his obvious reluctance to interact with members of his own community when he makes decisions.
The other problem that did not get addressed as deeply is the decisions that our young people are making when dealing with the police. If one of my daughters were in a similar situation, she would hear a lot from me before and after I went out to deal with the actions of that officer. She should never put herself in a position where she had to rely on a white police officer doing the right. She should never allow her emotions to put her and others in a dangerous situation.
In the wake of an officer being killed in Seattle and four more being killed in Tacoma, both times by an African American, the situation is even more dangerous.
I am not implying that the officer in the Franklin jaywalking incident was ever in a life-threatening situation, but for any black person to physically confront a white police officer often ends in a dead black person.
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper wrote in his book "Breaking Rank" that white officers have always had a fear of black people, men in particular, and they often made irrational decisions based on those fears.
This officer was fighting with black females but afraid of the crowd of black males gathering around, and I believe he made one of those irrational decisions out of fear. This justifies nothing on behalf of the officer, but it is important to know if we want to keep our young people out of jail or the graveyard.
In the meantime, we have a future in America that must be reassessed, and I believe the answer is simple. Fifteen to 16 generations of African Americans have been buried in this nation's soil, and their eternal presence has now made this land sacred soil. Their spirit is now part of America. We can visit the land of our origin, but we cannot tend their graves from Africa.
Those of us in Seattle have an even greater opportunity because we live in Martin Luther King Jr. County, and its time for us to demand that the county's social and political platform line up with Martin Luther King Jr.'s hopes and dreams.
Since we have the world's attention we should use it to forge a new understanding of who we are and what our relationship will be with Martin Luther King Jr. County.
It's also a great opportunity to come up with a new and better definition of what it means to be an African American. We have a responsibility to our ancestors to complete their journey of transforming ourselves and this nation.
Charlie James has been an African-American community activist/writer for more than 35 years.[[In-content Ad]]