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Chris Hayden recently took our fearless leader Troy to task, lecturing him about brainwashed negroes and their slave mentalities, delivering a very impassioned diatribe in making his case. With a graphic use of rhetoric, citing his hero Ishmael Reed, Chris smeared the canvass with his impression of contemporary Blacks. But, in creating art, Chris also created a problem because, while an artist can use abstract techniques, a camera doesn’t lie.

In endeavoring to reinforce his points, certain things claimed by Chris were more of a stretch than a sketch when it comes to how black life was in the 1950s (a period during which he was a mere child ) Troy couldn’t challenge the statements Chris made. But. I. Can. I am a camera. I was a young adult during the 50s decade and a lot of what Chris ranted about just did not apply to places other than the south. I feel compelled to set the record straight.

In the throes of his frustration, Chris equated aspects of the Jim Crow culture with being microcosms of America at large, and this was not the case during the 1950s. True, things were not ideal in the North and, yes, there was racial prejudice but there were never “Whites Only” signs in public accommodations so Blacks and Whites did use the same bathrooms. And contrary to what Chris further implied, back then black folks were plying their trade as doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergymen, law enforcement officers, and politicians, so the Post Office was certainly not the only job a black college graduate could get! In addition to the postal service, anyone who could pass the civil service exam qualified for federal employment in other areas, and Blacks were very visible in such agencies as the Veteran Administration, The Social Security Administration, The Internal Revenue Service, The General Service Administration, working and accumulating the seniority which enabled them to rise through the ranks, - something they did in great numbers. This I can attest to having known many such people and having, myself, worked for both the VA and the SSA, finishing up my 25-year civil service tenure at the PO. OK? BTW, it was also during this time that the military became integrated.

Or, were we as manipulated as some make us out to have been during this era, and when it came to attempts to devalue us, our brains recognized what was racially-offensive. Yes, we may have tampered with our hair, but we didn’t give up on our roots.

Yet, today, certain accusers sear the “slave mentality” brand on those who haven’t overthrown the standards of the white “slave masters”. But, just what mentality did slaves have? Weren’t they really just adapting and making the best of a bad situation, outwitting their masters with the guile that was superior to the inferiority of white arrogance. Having a slave mentality could have nothing to do with believing the negative messages their oppressors conveyed but more about avoiding getting your ass whipped.

Drowning all of this out, however, is the blare of myopic visionaries with a mission to wake dummies up from the nightmare of mental bondage - so they can dream the “impossible” dream, while wearing the hair natural. Does the way I characterize this crusade reek with pessimism? Yes, I know. “Hope floats“. But does Reality give a “damn”? Not necessarily. It more likely erects a dam - an obstruction that re-directs the currents, sending hope adrift. Spoken like a true, cynic, you say? I plead guilty. I also take the rap for being tired of hearing the same ol buzz words and patented one-sided arguments that misinterpret the survival tactics of a people who have for centuries rolled their eyes at white absurdities and clung to an inner pride that may have been down but never out.

So, Brother Chris, you can continue your illustrating and I’ll focus on my snapshots. And the beat goes on…

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