Does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney.
From The Archives – Originally Published May 10, 2018. Updated July 10, 2022.
Tao Writer (April 17, 1948)
The mountains outside my bedroom window are always there standing silently in their majesty. They are part of the surrounding landscape for Loja where I live. They are always there, but sometimes they are invisible to the eye, hidden by the clouds.
Some years ago a few friends were sitting around talking about super heroes and the question was posed, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?”
We went around the circle and each participant explained what super power he or she would want to have and why. My colleagues had previously answered incredible strength, the ability to fly, or X-ray vision so she could see what her date looked liked without his clothes before she took him home. When it was my turn, I answered, “Invisibility.”
“Why would you want to be invisible?” the woman next to me asked.
“Because as a Black man to a large degree I am already invisible. I am only visible to society as a whole if I fit the stereotype of their perception of a Black person. The stereotype is that of an athlete, a prostitute, or a criminal. Even President Obama is judged and seen first as a Black man before he is seen as President of the United States. The mostly white Senators and Congressmen/women do not want to see a Black man succeed. It is the true nature of America’s racially divided society.” I continued, “We are only visible either as stereotypes or as individuals needed to fill a void or need of society as a whole.”
Today, Black men and women are killed for doing nothing at all except being Black. A Black women can be killed for simply knocking on a door to ask for assistance following a car accident (Renisha McBride) or can be shot dead while sleeping in her own home. (Breonna Taylor) A Black twelve year old boy can be killed for playing with a toy gun. (Tamir Rice) A Black man can be shot by white vigilantes with shot guns while out jogging. (Ahmaud Arbery) I am judged without a trial and executed by a cop with a gun or any white man with a gun without ever reaching the first step of the white America judicial system. I am invisible to government officials and politicians except during election years and even now some states are passing laws that restrict our participation in elections. We are “invisible” to police as lawyers, accountants, teachers, and law abiding citizens. All they see is a Black person, and in their eyes that person is a gang member, a criminal, a threat, or a person unworthy of being in the same country as himself.
There is no hesitancy in taking the life of a Black man/woman today or throughout the history of this country. The law is on the white man’s side. The common excuse offered is, “I felt threatened.” Threatened by an unarmed Black man when the police officer has mace, electric tasers, hand to hand combat training, and backup support to dissolve that threat before having to pull a firearm. Why do they always pull the firearm first? O’ right. “She was reaching for her taser and accidentally pulled her gun instead.” (Daunte Wright)
Years ago in college I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It was during the Black cultural revolution of the sixties and I identified with his sense of alienation living as a Black man in America.
I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
America was a new world where people came to escape the persecutions of their own homelands but built upon the backs of slaves. Even after we were granted our freedom by an amendment to the Constitution. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act supposedly gave us equal rights and opportunity. Even after the country elected a Black man to be its president. We are still looked upon as second class citizens because of the color of our skin. America sees the, “smoke at the top of the chimney,” when we rebel against the injustice and fight for our legal freedom to equally exist, but they fail to see the “great fire in our souls.”
One hundred fifty years after the signing the the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, I am still an “invisible” man with regards to my equal rights under the law. There is no equal justice for Black people in the land of my birth.
Does it really take sixty bullets striking a man’s body (over ninety bullets were fired) and eight police officers to kill one Black Man? (Jayland Walker) In the eyes of a white racist society, it apparently does.
I am mad as hell and I’m getting up out of my seat to speak out against these injustices in support of all people of color, but then again, I am an Invisible Man.