The American Dilemma
The American Dilemma explores and documents the origin and far- reaching impact of racism in America.
HOW I BEGAN THIS JOURNEY.........
I grew up in the Bronx. Most of the people living there at the time were working class blacks from the South who had come North to escape the grinding poverty of the rural south, and seek better opportunities for work and education for their kids. They also were fleeing the systemic brutal racism and segregation of the deep south.
But what they found instead was a more subtle form of racism where the housing, education and employment opportunities in the northern slums were just a few steps above where they started.
My family who were part of that northern migration, lived in five room railroad apartment in a six story walkup tenement which faced the Third Avenue “El” the elevated subway. I would peer out our window and watch the faces of the riders as they went to and from work. They would to be staring right back and I wondered who they were and what they thought as they passed by.
But we weren’t alone. It was a diverse community where Irish, Italians, Jews, Puerto Ricans, Caribbean Blacks and Chinese people shared the same tenements. Our next door neighbor was an Irish family who’s daughter “Chickie” was a playmate of my sister and the people above were Puerto Ricans who had two sons. We all knew each other and went to the same schools and played with each other. And on Saturday’s we all went to the movies to watch westerns, cartoons and adventure serials like Flash Gordon, Rocket Man, Captain Marvel and Clyde Beatty.
But what stood out to me as a kid was even though everybody who lived in the neighborhood was pretty much in the same financial boat, I sensed that we were perceived as somehow different, even from black people from the Caribbean. It was a sense that we were inferior, akin to the untouchables of India, and it began with the educational system.
In school from a very early age, I was indoctrinated with a message that Negros were were descendants from African slaves who had been ignorant savages in their native land and were rescued from their primitive state. As we were inherently inferior to our white European kidnappers. The message was consistent and systemic and reinforced by a steady steam of negative portrayals of the Black community and what it meant to be black in America. The movies that we would go to enjoy ourselves would serve this same purpose: Tarzan, king of the jungle, would project a white man lording it over the denizens — man and beast of Africa; negative portrayals of subservient blacks presented a depiction of whites in charge. It was always the same.
Then there was the terror factor of the lynching of black men and women taking place in the South. Because many blacks had roots and relatives still living in the South when we would go to visit, there was always an underlying fear associated with “goin home”.
This fear permeated the Negro community and engendered an unstated rage so eloquently described in Richard Wright’s “Native Son” and like the main character, Bigger Thomas who lashed out in a suppressed rage, needed to vent itself.
The lynching of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black teenager from Chicago visiting his relatives in Mississippi was killed for alledgedly whistling at a white woman. His murder was the impetus for the civil rights movement of the sixties where thousands of people both white and black took part and marched together for African American civil rights. But it also showed me and the black community that Racism wash’t just a black thing, its effect was to galvanized many in the white community into action in support of civil rights for blacks.
This was a eye opening event for me and many other Americans. Not since the civil war had so many whites and blacks come together to stand against racism, segregation, and white supremacy. Thousands of Europeans participated. Many were berated, assaulted, spat upon, and some lost their lives. But they continued to march hand in hand, side by side with blacks for their civil rights. This was inspiring to me and made me question many of the ideas I had absorbed as a young black person.
I had recently read “100 Years of Lynching” by Ralph Ginzburg, a complilation of actual lynchings that had taken place across the South and middle America. I was both horrified and fascinated to learn that this practice was not confined to the deep south or to a few hate groups in hoods. Whole towns and villages — men, women, and children — were gleefully involved with burning alive, castrating, disemboweling black men and women and I thought “why do they hate us so much?” What was the reason for such incredible brutality and hate; was this the true nature of white america or was this a aberration by a small group of racists? I began to read more and seek answers based on what I thought I knew about race relationships in America. The first question was: Is racism a product of past African slavery?
The idea that it was linked to our being descendants of slaves rang false because I found that other racial groups suffered slavery, the Greeks, Scots, Irish, Jews, Native Americans. In fact mankind in general has at some time or another been enslaved as a group. This contradiction made me confused and wondering what was the real genesis of racism, why is it that Africans have been so socially, politically, culturally stigmatized for something they were victimized by. Was it our skin color? The idea that whites were genetically or biologically superior to Blacks was being disproven by the facts of black accomplishments in any field of endeavor they were given the opportunity to succeed in. Heroes like Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Jackie Robinson proved to me we were not physically inferior, and Duke Ellington, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Adam Clayton Powell, Paul Robson and Malcolm X certified out mental equality.
But the questions persisted — if we as a people were not inherently inferior, was it that white people were inherently evil? But then how did one account for the abolitionist movement, the thousands of whites who fought and died in the civil war and the thousand involved in the civil rights movement. I began to realize I was asking the wrong questions/ I began to ask: What is racism? Where did it come from; and how can it be cured? Who started it; and were the things it was based on true? So i began to search for the truth. And what I have found will amaze you and it will answer questions that have haunted this nation for 300 years.
I wanted and needed to know why and began to realize that the answers lie in understanding Racism, so began my journey. But all Americans have a stake in this journey to find and answer the questions that have haunted me. As the greatest social and cultural experiment the world has ever known, racism subverts the very concept of a nation of laws and puts at risk the ideals, values and democracy that has been a magnet for millions of people around the world to come to its shores. The goal of the documentary is demystification, to open up and shine the light of truth on the social control system we know as racism. Thats why I call my project The American Dilemma. This may be the most important video you will ever see.
I invite you to take this journey with me by supporting its completion with a donation. You will be rewarded by the eventual enlightenment and liberation you will experience with the finished product I promise.
Plan and Schedule
This is a complicated story that begins in the 15 and 16th century and has required and will require much research. That is why I have reached out to a number of historians and experts who I will interview to document the facts which are the keys to uncovering and documenting the truth about the origins of racism. This means much travel in and out of the country. Interviewing will begin this fall.
The story is obviously complex and extends to the present, so it needs to be told in parts — it will be a 3 part multimedia documentary. I will use the same techniques employed in my award winning documentary which utilized music, narration, and animation. We will employ poetry and rap, so it will be both entertaining as well as informative. The music will be original and composed by well known jazz, hip hop, and rap artists. This music will be available as rewards for supporters upon completion of the project.
The first part to be completed by mid-2017, the second January 2018 and the third and last by September 2018. Upon the completion of each part, it will be entered into various festivals around the world. Each segment will also be offered to non-profits around the country for a single viewing, to help start a dialouge about racism and finding solutions to overcome the conditioning that allows it to continue to exist.
Risks and challenges
The challenges I expect to be confronted with and to overcome is the sheer about of information necessary to explain this complex issue. Fortunately I will have at my disposal historians and experts who will be involved in the project. I also expect to launch additional Kickstarter's for each phase of the documentary. I am fully committed to this project and will do whatever needs to be done to complete it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)