CIVIL RIGHTS: Martin Luther King would probably still be alive today if he had waited
BEING BLACK is a waiting game. We wait and you wait and you wait, for whatever it is that we’re waiting for (call it Godot) and, at the end of the day, here we are – still waiting.
Hundreds of millions of Africans have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the internet. And just when they thought they were going to get it free from space, the rocket that was carrying the satellite that would enable entrepreneurs across the continent as well as ordinary people (after all the internet is the poor man’s tool) to improve their lot and turn the continent into an economic tiger, blew up on the launch pad last week leaving the hopes and aspirations of our African people blown to smithereens across the space centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
And you know what we’re like – we love our conspiracy theories. Because we’ve been waiting so long for equal rights and justice anything in any way that makes us wait even longer smells like a rat to we.
Is it a coincidence that the private spaceflight company SpaceX’s rocket blew up just as the waiting-to-join-the-internet-age game was about to end for ordinary Africans? Maybe. But anything that prolongs our waiting needs to be viewed suspiciously. Does our history not tell us that our waiting game has benefitted everybody else but ourselves? Way back into enslavement days.
In the latter part of the 20th Century it was the civil rights protestors that were being urged by well-meaning black and white observers to bide their time. That change would come slowly but surely. All they had to do was wait. Martin Luther King would probably still be alive today if he had waited.
Yes, he would be 87 years old, but he would be sitting in a rocking chair waiting for America to enact the civil rights bill to this day, because waiting is a long thing and if you show the inclination the world will be more than happy to see you twiddling your thumb and whistling in the air as change grinds forward imperceptibly year after year into infinity.
And then of course there was South Africa and (what was then known as) Rhodesia. In the 1960s and 70s black people in these countries were assured by well-meaning black and white people that all they had to do was bide their time and change would surely come. Slowly, yes, but surely. Indeed, anything but extremely slow change, Africans were told over and over again, was not just detrimental to their health but downright dangerous as could be evidenced by the apartheid police killing school children who were not prepared like their children to wait and wait and wait until time eats itself.
You see, the young do not like to wait. They are the impatient ones. Ironic as it is, it’s us who are running out of years on this Earth that should be impatient. But something happens when you’re in your middle age – you concede defeat and join the line of those black people playing the waiting game. You get to the back of the queue and leave your youthful exuberance behind for the next generation to pick up.
I see it with my generation here in Britain. We who were in our militancy in the 70s, 80s and even 90s thought we could change the world and certainly change Britain. We who were not prepared to keep waiting for Britain to change and embrace us with equal rights and justice. We who took up arms and education to fight the power that held us back on the streets, or challenge it in the court of law, are now chastened by demoralisation and are impatient for early retirement to a sunny beach in the Caribbean.
FRUSTRATED: Bob Marley’s music was liberating force for black Americans
The young do not have those options. They don’t want to wait in vain like Bob Marley did, frustrated that black Americans didn’t realise that he was a liberating force for their struggle and that his music was pretty damn good as well.
Back in the 70s when Marley was at his height everywhere else on Earth, black America was still taking the mickey out of dreadlocks. Even white Americans had fallen in line with the rest of the world by this time and were going from North, south, east and the wild wild West on pilgrimage to Marley’s concerts in the U.S. But he couldn’t unbolt our soul brothers and sisters.
Now, of course, black Americans love him.
They love their reggae. They love their dreadlocks. But most of all they love Bob Marley like they love fresh air.
Unfortunately, their love came a little too late for him. He waited and he waited and he waited… and then he keeled over and passed on to another dimension.
That’s not to say that that will happen to the rest of us. It is food for thought though.
Like I say, young black people want black lives to matter NOW. Not tomorrow or the day after or the day after that. NOW. No prevarication, no film flam, no delay. They don’t wanna play the waiting game. And, hell, let’s face it, they don’t wanna be black if being black means playing the game and losing. And that’s just here in the UK.
When we look across to the African continent, the young people there who were relying on SpaceX to deliver a satellite that would allow their continent to be able to compete with the broadband access that the rest of us take for granted, are being asked to wait until the next satellite is launched with the broadband kit that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has promised to deliver them with his billions of dollars of revenue.
They who have waited enough already are being asked to wait and then wait and then wait – six months, one year more.
That’s like asking a starving man to say his prayers before dinner. It can’t work. And for those who can’t take it no more, drowning in the Mediterranean ends the waiting game.
As Billie Holiday would sing:
‘Southern seas bear strange fish
Blood on the waves and blood on the beach
Black bodies bobbing in the Mediterranean
Strange fish sinking in the Mediterranean’