Where the Hammer Meets the Nail
Imagine if you will a nail, all shiny and new. Small and slim it stands upright, its pointed tip pressed against a wooden board, its head directed towards the ceiling.
You hold the hammer in a hand of sinew and bone, poised above the nail, ready to strike. You are angry, aggrieved by past sins, slight and large, old and new, fresh and stale. One day you are the victim of the past; the next the victimizer, to the point of utter confusion and bitter resentment. Hatred burns within you; a cauldron that only makes matters worse.
This hammer; this bludgeon is yours to wield. The long slim handle fits your calloused hand perfectly. The head is heavy, the forked tongue of a lying snake at one end, the head of a flat silver dollar at the other.
With each whack of the mallet you bash the nail, striking it with all the rage and fury you possess. You marvel as lightning arcs across the room and amaze at the clang and the thud of each thump as one head unkindly meets the other.
And more intoxicating is the reverberation, the jolt of the assault as it transfers from the head of the hammer to its handle and into your arm, causing it to involuntarily twitch and spasm. The irresistible force of each blow mercilessly drives the nail ever downward, piercing the heart of the board and the soul of the man.
At poundings end, both the nail and the plank are beaten into submission. All that is left is a spoke scratched and misshapen by the hammer and the board, now pierced by the nail.
However, rather than know peace, you grow even more angry, perplexed and perturbed. For despite your best efforts nothing has changed. The nail still exists even if mostly obscured. So you select another peg and begin the process anew, determined to hammer and bash, knock and bludgeon, wallop and wail until you either find contentment or eliminate the very space between the hammer and the nail.
Sadly, this is more than a simple allegory. Where the hammer meets the nail is precisely were African-American can be found. It is more than a hang out and greater than a place to visit. It is our plight, our residence, our abode. Our children are born and raised there, we take our meals here. We live and die where the hammer meets the nail.
Difficult to navigate and hard to traverse, ours is a complicated and hostile environment. It defies simple explanation and is not easily escaped. We are betwixt and between; within and without; buffeted by two utterly opposed forces with irreconcilable perspectives. These incompatible forces are us and them.
Some argue that racism is a thing of the past, “the election of President Obama proving that systematic racial discrimination no longer keeps black men and women from success.” An article by Rebecca Hiscott, posted on June 10, 2014, and entitled “White People Think One Black Person’s Success Proves Racism is Over”, references a comment made by conservative pundit and former Secretary of Education, William Bennett on the significance of the 2008 presidential election. During an interview on CNN Mr. Bennett stated, “I’ll tell you one thing the election means, that you don’t take any excuses anymore from anybody who says the deck is stacked”.
The article also quotes a study by Clayton R. Critcher, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkley and Jane L. Risen, associate professor at the University of Chicago. According to the study, the exposure to a single African-American in a high performing position, any position outside stereotypical jobs in which blacks traditionally excel, e.g., sports and entertainment, is enough to make whites more likely to deny the existence of systemic racism.”
Not for a moment does Blackacre share this belief. We know full well that the deck remains stacked not only racially but economically, politically and socially against all disenfranchised people, regardless of color.
Nor do African-Americans, on the whole, subscribe to the “Bennett doctrine”. Yet, while we may not discuss it, can’t bear the thought of it and abhor admitting it we know that we are far from blameless. We realize that something is horribly wrong; that we are our own worst enemy, engaging in conduct that is indefensible and which only serves to reinforce racism. Take for examples the cultural images we produce.
One such likeness was captured in a recent electronic edition of “Rolling Out” Magazine. Proudly displayed were pictures of the crème de la crème of young black men. The photographs were disturbing to say the least.
With un-kept hair and clothes, threatening facial expressions, and tattooed skin, the men mugged and postured to no end. One grabbed his crotch, holding it as if it were priceless bullion. Or perhaps he viewed the gesture as a sign of his toughness, his manhood, his considerable sexual prowess. And these were wealthy, successfully young black men. If they approached me on the street, I too would cross to the other side, irrespective of their fame and fortune.
Still, the hammer versus the nail dichotomy persists even within the Blackacre community. White followers see the problem as one of personal responsibility. Blacks lean more towards the racial side of the equation.
And at times we at Blackacre question our perspective. Are we too hard on the oppressed while giving a pass to the oppressors? Are we relevant; have we become redundant, beating a horse that has long since died, thrashing its bleached husk to no end; for no purpose?
What makes the black conundrum so unique is that both sides of the divide are correct. Lingering racism combined with our own shortcomings are joint and several factors which literally places us between a rock and a hard place. Still, we must do something to change our predicament. The question is what?
Blackacre is convinced that we must pursue a two-pronged strategy. First invidious discrimination must be eliminated, root and branch. But we must also build rather than simply serve the disenfranchised. This is Blalckacre’s mission.
We therefore advance the following core principles:
1. Our challenges are not a problem of race. They are instead questions of socio-economics; matters of culture, character, conduct, values, public policy, economic opportunities and political influence.
2. Since the problem is primarily ours then so too must be the solution. African Americans and all other oppressed people must therefore take the lead in addressing our issues. No one will save us but us. No one can stop us but us.
3. In order to succeed, we and the strategies we employ must change, evolve and grow.
4. We must not perceive ourselves as victims. We must not enable failure or excuse bad behavior. And we are entitled to nothing but a fair and equal opportunity to participate and prevail.
5. Our primary if not exclusive focus must be internal rather than external. In the final analysis, after all is said and done, the only one we can control is ourselves.
In conclusion, ours is to neither fear nor resent the hammer or the nail. Rather, we should use these tools to build a new and better world.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum