Panthers In The Bardo: Part 2

Part 2 of a 3 part series on Blackness in America

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This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the Black experience in America, inspired by the writing of James Baldwin.

Read part 1 here.

The Invisible Community

Black people have the freedom white people have been dreaming of since 1776.

Our communities are invisible in real life, and we only exist in the abstract of culture.

We liter the landscape of America, while we’re the vanguards of freedom.

On the outskirts of downtown Detroit, large homes sprinkle the broken pavement shattered by its misrepair.

These communities hold a few thousand people each, and some of the most wicked pain and suffering happens daily.

Many from Detroit will have a clear image in their heads, and words will fill your head “East Side,” “West Side,” “Bloods,” “The Hood.”

But most likely, the rosy glassed exterior of the white world sees the phenomena of blighted homes, streetwalkers, real-life gangsters, and the innocent bystander between it all.

Most whites are not born in these communities in Detroit.

Most whites will only be in these communities for a few moments as they drive through it on the lodge freeway.

Whites built the same freeway to keep us away and escape into the suburban landfill.

Nowadays, the techies online are seeing the invisible community they drive through by videos on youtube. Where black men put a camera on the dash, and give you a skewed but authentic taste of what it is like.

Perpetual childhood may feel like a new phenomenon, with kids staying home later and later into adulthood, but it was first invented on the plantation.

Then perfected when black men were removed from the home, drugged up in Nam, and imprisoned in the country they were supposedly fighting for.

But what is genuine and honest is that the amount of suffering is so immense that these communities sit in a perpetual cycle of pain authored not just by them and their mistakes and quarrels.

But a concerted effort to cover the “monster” under the bed.

Black people are a caricature to whites. Our problems aren’t authentic. Yet, we occupy space as political currency and are fooled every four years that these are the people that will save us.

The cavalry has never come.

The Compassionless Do-gooders

What republicans want to hear next is that black people need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

Let the markets decide.

But we’ve never lived in the cookie-cutter world they spew.

Especially when 120 republican members of Congress don’t want to remove confederate statues from the capital.

And they masquerade as the party of Lincoln.

In the arena of politics, it seems everyone’s ideology is for sale for the most elusive thing in Washington.

The next election Win.

The devotion to rationality is a place of peace for intellectuals and politicians.

But how many have you heard lies camouflaged with reason to persuade us?

Its rigidness falters to the anomalies of a culture. Trump didn’t win because of rationality. Neither did Biden.

The musical nature of history is leaving us on a cliffhanger, like Beethoven or Mozart. We’re holding our breath, hoping the ride will eventually end. But to look at American history, you must contend with the parameters of battle we are open to.

And just like dominant culture mythologies and refills itself, it’s full of spiritual desires of a sanctum and resolution between the American timeline as Lincoln in the Bardo does and its creeping morality. 

Lincoln’s spirit lives after death more than just fiction.

But what is the “Bardo” — the home of spirits in America — without the black people who built it? If the Jews built the Pyramids figuratively or literally, it is the prerogative of the shared culture to conflate the two.

Wouldn’t the spirits that haunt America and the men who shaped it start with the souls that threw themselves overboard as slave ships brought them to America? Or the original people of this land who were decimated?

The spirits that haunt America are being channeled into people like Jordan Peele. Who is able to give a haunting depiction of America in its most perverse and honest debacle with whites over-reaching, ever consuming problem of the black man, woman, and child.


A Century of Life Tells Me a Secret

What do you do when you see an older man trying to get through a door and is struggling, and you come to help. He’s got to be 80+ and has a smile ear to ear. He’s happy to see you and your help and walks through the door, beginning to speak.

At that moment, nothing needs to be said as politeness goes, as rules of engagement go. This is an elderly man who has lived so much life, and there is a deep respect and desire to learn from older generations.

But to be a “Panther in the Bardo” means that instead after you help this man, he turns and tells you in a sweet old voice that his son was a member of the KKK.

Now this old man has color, and so do I.

What do you do when someone tells you, shyly and gingerly, as if to say an old secret he can’t wait to reveal, that their flesh and blood child I assumed raised was a member of a group that systemically attempted to eradicate black people.

The same group Hitler was inspired by.

How could a black man sitting in the blackest city in America say to such a parabolic reveal?

Maybe he would tell me a story about how his son was radicalized and how terrible it was.

Maybe he was going to tell me he disowned his son for his evil beliefs.

Maybe he was going to say I encouraged my son because sons are like their fathers.

To live as a human being of African descent in America requires sensitivity to white guilt.

And If the Confederacy is in favor and if the Klan has soaring numbers, the baseless radicalism of poor people of every color will smolder into oblivion across America.

Maybe the destruction is the top-down solution that isn’t said out loud.

I don’t know if this man was just a poor old fellow who mixed up his words. At his age, dementia is a possible thing.

And he was alone, which signals to me he didn’t have anyone caring for him—telling stories of a life long lost to a young black man who saw him in passing struggling to open the door.

I said nothing to the old man; I just sat in sort of shock and kept going to my Uber.

Trying to get back into my shell of control in this society.

The place of peace where I can make the impact, behind a computer, leaving the physical battlefield and enter the metaverse, where black people will also reside.

No conversation like this can be had unless in America. So the freedom to say it gives me license to tell honest truths of our lives. We have to bear witness.

We have to become conscious in a time where we’ve reasoned most things to death, with dullness and artificial desire pleased by exterior stimuli.

Maybe there is some reckoning in my heart for having thought over this incident for days afterward. Perhaps I should have given him a piece of my mind right then and there.

This is a decision white people have always had to make:

Racism was invented and perpetuated for power and domination. America was conceived as well, after Racism and Slavery to be fair and accurate.

But it was embraced.

It was hugged.

It was given a warm place to sleep at night.

Racism is ever-present for black people.

And it’s the product of white fear.

And fear never holds anything down. It just makes it grow, grow and grow.

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