The Negro is the person who needs to express himself in terms of his previous condition of servitude in his approach to life in America. The Negro is trapped in dual consciousness because he is isolated in the world and completely dependent in his self-image to white Americans and his interpretation of America's culture and its place for him. Black consciousness was invented to cure this condition.
A Negro would *never* think of moving to Costa Rica and being done with it. The Negro needs and desires some exceptional accommodation from the white American, something he might get from some white Americans and something he will never get from others. And so the problem persists - how do you exist in a society that you are convinced cannot stand your very presence, or as someone preciently said back when I was a child 'How does it feel to be a problem?'. Thus constrained, the Negro can never be truly whole until he escapes those mental shackles - which is something he can only give to himself. Of course, being a Negro, he can't realize that until he gets a boot to the head.
The great irony of Reparations is that no matter how much money is spent, it doesn't solve the Negro Problem. Neither did the Civil Rights Movement solve the Negro Problem. As Cornel West preciently noted over twenty years ago.
The liberal/conservative discussion conceals the most basic issue now facing black America: the nihilistic threat to its very existence. The threat is not merely a matter of relative economic deprivation and political powerlessness - though economic well-being and political clout are requisites for meaningful black progress. It is primarily a question of speaking to the profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness and social despair so widespread in black America.
The liberal structuralists fail to grapple with this threat for two reasons. First their focus on structural constraints relates almost exclusively to the economy and politics. They show no understanding of the structure of the character of culture. Why? Because they tend to view people in egoistic and rationalist terms according to which they are motivated primarily by self-interest and self-preservation. Needless to say this is partially true about most of us. Yet people, especially degraded and oppressed people are also hungry for identity, meaning and self-worth.
So basically the need for Reparations is not a need for money, it is a need for healing and curing that has still, after the unbelievable election of a black man to the Oval Office, not been satisfied in millions of African Americans. Of course there are many millions of black Americans who have eradicated all traces of the Negro predicament in their own minds. They won't ask you for jack. Then again there is another set of millions that haven't quite made up their minds whether they are Black, black American, African American, Negro, Afro American or some hybrid. Still, I know a Negro when I read him.
As I think upon this, the predicament of the Negro reminds me of Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark. Hmm. all over again.
'At last he lays his head flat on the ground, close to my foot, and sets my other foot upon his head, as hea had done before; and after this, made all the signs to me of subjugateion, servitude, and submission imaginable, to let me know how he would serve me as long as he lived.' -- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
'The problem of internalizing the master's tongue is the problem of the rescued. Unlike the problems of survivors who may be lucky, fated, etc. the rescued have the problem of debt. If the rescuer gives you back your life, he shares in that life. But if as in Friday's case, if the rescuer saves your life by taking you away from the dangers, the complications, the confusion of home, he may very well expect the debt to be paid in full.' -- Toni Morrision, 1992
Morrison brings up an interesting tangent. If America paid the Negro his Reparations, what do you think it would ask for in return? It doesn't matter the actual price, it's a psychic bargain, a deal with the Devil if you will, another form of shackles. Perhaps we ought to note and confess that the Negro is always with us.