The Genesis of Independence Blues
In my previous post Who Are We … Really? I challenged David Brooks’s thesis that America is Falling Apart at the Seams by examining how the country’s dehumanizing conception of Race fosters cultural schisms that can both distort and reconstruct black identity. My three upcoming entries will explore the conflicting aspects surrounding identity and their impact on Independence Blues.
It is often said, disingenuously, or perhaps even, wishfully, that a child does not distinguish humans by color; when, in fact, what he does not see in his tender years is Race. In writing Independence Blues I recalled the events that exposed me to the afflictions born of America’s foundational sin and how they dispelled the illusion of my ‘idyllic’ childhood in 1950’s Los Angeles. I showed how this country’s Race obsession had quietly deformed my parents’ marriage even as they strained to surmount it and shield me from the barbs of prejudice. Working on Independence Blues, I came to understand the personal, socio-historical and political reckonings inflaming their conflict and what ultimately compelled my father to abruptly abandon the lives we had built in California.
Who Are We … Really?
In a recent NYTimes column, writer David Brooks laments that America appears to be ‘falling apart.’ Observing the rise of estrangement and hostility on display, Brooks admits that he is at a loss to explain why so many of his fellow citizens are increasingly behaving in anti-social and destructive ways. Before we can attempt to answer that question, we must decide whether these ‘fellow citizens’ seek to escape to, or away from, their country, especially at this time when it seems that every other word being spouted by our political gurus is ‘polarization.’
At a New Year’s Eve party shortly after I moved to New York City I asked one of the guests what was this Kwanzaa she was discussing. “What is Kwanzaa?” she retorted with shocked disgust. “And you call yourself an African-American?” It was 1977 and as I absorbed the roomful of astonished stares, I saw little point in trying to explain that I had spent my childhood in Kingston, Jamaica where we celebrated Christmas in the tropical warmth, without fir-trees, snow or Santa Claus.