“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others . . . One ever feels this two-ness — two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
Dr. William Edward Burghardt DuBois
“Souls of Black Folk,” 1903
Over 40 years ago, commenting on issues of law enforcement and justice for fellow back Americans, comedian Richard Pryor quipped: “If you’re looking for justice, that’s what you’ll find — just us.” With his usual biting humor, Pryor was making people laugh, but he wasn’t joking.
In his classic little book, “Souls of Black Folk,” DuBois was expressing the same idea in a scholarly way, and across a broad range of social, economic and political issues. In spite of the 70 years that separated the two statements, however, their meanings are quite similar, perhaps due to the documented lynchings of more than 5,000 black men during the same period.
With these thoughts in mind, I have been watching some of the painful proceedings of George Zimmerman’s 2nd-degree murder case. Without regard to the eventual verdict, the pain is in the fact that his victim, Trayvon Martin, is dead and that death, as we all know, takes away from us all we have, ever had, and all we ever hoped to have.
The trial is painful, too, because it brings to mind another black boy who was killed, lynched really, about 60 years ago. His name was Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year old boy from Chicago who went to Money, Miss., to visit with family there and made the mistake of whistling at a white woman.
A day or so later, the woman’s husband and another relative came to his relative’s house in the middle of the night, dragged him from his bed, degraded his body, shot him, and threw him in the river with a heavy weight strapped to his body with barbed wire. The brutal nature of his death is credited to have been one of the sparks that lit the fires of the 1960s’ civil rights movement.