The "Go Back"
Way before that tweet last Sunday, I had been planning to “go back” to the place from which I came. As a matter of fact, that’s what they’ve been teaching all of us at my high school here in South Central Los Angeles: “If and when you make it, you have a responsibility to ‘go back’ and help out the community.”
But what if I’m already here? Shouldn’t I be able to “help fix the totally broken and crime infested” neighborhood I wake up in, go to school in, and am trying to get up out of only to “go back” to once I get my college degree?
Either way, I’m writing this to let everyone know that no matter who says it, or tweets it, or believes it, or doesn’t… the “go back” is what people of color do. And regardless of its racist origins or intent, the true essence of “going back” is uniquely American. You see, without the opportunity (even if it’s sometimes just being lucky) that this country affords, kids like me wouldn’t even consider the possibility of a “go back” as a part of my life. Instead, I imagine we’d all feel stuck — kinda’ like those people from those sh*thole countries, I guess.
But because I love America, and I believe in its infinity, my dream is to be like Robert Smith. Go back, and give back. Now I’m not sure if my family is eight generations deep from slavery like his is, but I’m positive that when someone is willing to “put a little fuel in your bus,” a lot more of America becomes possible.
So, I’m making Sunday’s tweets my fuel. And my bus, like Kamala’s, is taking me from here to a neighborhood near you sometime soon.
When I get there, I’m asking that we do it a little differently than how it was done before. Because, I listen to those Malcolm Gladwell podcasts, and I’ve seen that Lester Maddox interview with Dick Cavett, and I know that on the road to becoming an American like Mr. Smith, I’m bound to have a few Jim-Brown-Moments along the way.
But weeks like this one are preparing me for my metamorphosis. I watch CNN and Fox News shout at each other about the same biggots Governor Maddox and Cavett threw down about, and I can’t help but feel like Jim Brown in the middle of two warring White Folk — small and overlooked, yet situated precisely in the chasm being debated and distorted.
The irony, of course, is that where I live, in the space between, we don’t even have cable television, let alone watch it. Our news comes from Black Twitter, and voices like Charles Blow, Jemele Hill, and those shining light on what W.E.B. Du Bois was writing about in THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK back when Robert Smith’s family was a mere four generations deep in the American experiment:
One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
No wonder Jim Brown is so outwardly calm, then. There’s a war going on inside of him. A war that defines his Blackness as it does my patriotism.
So, as America keeps having this “Go Back” Moment, I’m gassing up my bus for the ride ahead. I’m headed to the North, and the South, the Mid-West, and the East Coast. But, ultimately, my plan is to end up right back here in South Central Los Angeles.
Because the “go back” is what people of color do… Regardless of who tweets what.