Friday, July 15, 2016

My Generational Guilt

I feel such a need to act against the violence that threatens to overwhelm. And I do nothing. Have been unable even to write on it.
I’m steeped in guilt. About what I have not done. And generational guilt, about what we haven’t done.
Why are so many of ours locked away, with little hope of living a life they dream about?
Why are so many of us being murdered outright, in the name of law, and in the service of greed, gunned down by those sworn to protect us, and more grievously by ourselves, hate on top of self-hate? Let me not forget fear and shame and pride.
And why do we – in righteous pain from our dehumanization, seek to dehumanize in turn, as though becoming our oppressor is the key to liberation, rather than an act of self-enslavement to the very creed that has crippled us.
My generation has ascended on the bowed backs of generations before us. These backs were bowed in devotion and commitment as much as in suffering. It was defiance and pride and suffering and faith that brought us to where we are.
And whoever says we’ve come nowhere shrugs away as inconsequential the rights to speak what’s on our minds, to work for ourselves and to build and to own. All God given rights due anyone. But few in this world have them as we do.
The shame of it is we don’t use them. Don’t use what we have. Or else so many of our youth would not be killing one another, wasting in jails, hopeless.
That’s the generational and personal guilt I bear. I haven’t done enough. Not nearly enough. I’ve done some things that might appear to have been enough, but they aren’t. Too much of my energy and focus has gone toward enjoying all of what my father and his father’s generation’s suffering made possible for me. And I’ve done so little to pass this inheritance on, to the next ones coming. Maybe for the first time, we haven’t left those that follow with better opportunities than we ourselves had.
When I was in my teens, it seemed as though the world was truly beginning a transformation. Young Black men in particular were making first steps into every realm of activity possible. Gaining recognition and access.  No, it was never enough, always too slow. But I have only to remember the experience of my father and grandfather to know how valuable each small gain has been. I grew up knowing, believing that I could do what I wanted in life. Not that there were guarantees, or any expectation that life would be pain-free, but that there was opportunity – so much more than what my parents and grand-parents had. I/We haven’t done enough to pass it along.
To be continued...


  1. You are describing the despair of a black man, yes, but also what goes with the territory of being the age we are. Perhaps our personal lives have brought us unexpected blessings that we didn't imagine when we were first approaching adulthood, but much of the promise that we once showed--that any bright, lucky young person once evinced, remains unfulfilled--and there is no longer a sense that the future spreads before us with no limit.

    Perhaps you already knew how truly retrograde a large portion of the human race is--not just the people blowing each other up in the Middle East or gang-raping children in Southeast Asia, but a sizable portion of our own citizenry. For me, although I knew that justice for black people was not and is not the same as for white people; that we Americans are a violent, irrational, ill-educated people; that humans are more apelike (particularly as we sort ourselves into clans of us and not us) than we care to acknowledge, it is quite shocking to see just how bad things are. Current social foment and the frightening state of politics has made me think a lot about the despair of 1968.

    1. Thanks so much, Lucie. Your insight, understanding and generosity give me hope!