The following is an open letter to Henry Louis Gates Jr. that has been posted to the Cambridge Chronicle website -
Dear Dr. Gates,
A nightmare for every African American man? I suppose it would be if you are a felon or you behave like one when a police officer is trying to establish who a person is inside a residence that may be in the process of being burglarized.
As I wrote the president in an e-mail, I wasn’t born in the United States, which gives me a unique perspective on what seems to be perpetual polarization of the races in this country. No thanks to his own ignorant comments about the situation.
By the time my country (Cuba) was making its first effort at freedom from the Spanish in 1868, our rebel forces had three Afro-Cuban general officers in the struggle commanding both black and white troops that were fighting side by side; a phenomenon that did not take place in the United States until almost a century later. Surely, we had our own racial problems, but my family and I had never known this level of racial animosity until we reached American shores.
By looking at me, you would say that I am white, but my grandmother was darker than you and as a term of endearment, my mother referred to my older brother as, “my little negro”. I can trace my slave roots better than most African Americans, I know which tribe I came from and the names of my distant slave relatives. So, I am not some crazy white man and I am not writing this letter to you from some higher delusional perception of myself. I know who I am and where I come from.
I wasn’t there, so at this point, it’s your word against Sergeant Crowley, the other officers and whatever civilians were standing around when you were allegedly making a public nuisance of yourself. I’m sure that eventually, the truth will come to light, especially if there was audio or video rolling. If you are right, you will be vindicated; if you are wrong, then you should have the moral courage to admit it.
This case aside, surely you must understand that racism in this country crosses all lines and that the African American community is just as guilty of it as everyone else. Are you willing to say that racism or racial profiling do not exist within the African American community? Are you going to tell me that, in many instances, darker blacks don’t regard light-skinned blacks with greater favor when considering romantic attachments, marriage or even professional interaction?
I think that the African American community needs to be honest with itself and recognize the dynamics that drive human nature on both sides of the issue. Given the fact, the wondrous fact, that this country has elected a black president, the ball is now in your corner, Sir. What is going to be your continued attitude as a respected university professor in such a wonderful and prestigious university? Do you choose to continue to stoke the fires of hatred and resentment among your impressionable students? Shall America be able to say in future generations that we overcame our racial hurdles to develop a stronger and more prosperous union? Or, as some desire, shall we continue to drag each other down to our most basic and deprived instincts by inflaming deplorable passions than should have been abandoned long ago?
If ever there was a time when African Americans can understand the vision that our founders had for their country, it is now. Yes, they may not have been able to experience it in their time, but they laid the groundwork for the dream to eventually come to fruition. Yes, some of them had slaves, but they recognized that if their country was to survive, slavery, its hatred and its abasement of human beings would have to end some day.
We stand today at the crossroads, where democracy and this republic is facing a new danger. Shall we abandon the mission simply because some of our founders where faulted human beings, or shall we look beyond our faults to the greater glory of what we see as the true purpose of America in a turbulent world? The answer to these questions can only be achieved if we look beyond our personal and petty concerns to the greater good, which in this case happens to be the continued practice of democracy and liberty in an ever expanding, ever growing and ever wiser America.
Its time to abandoned the “Am I black enough for ya” mentality of the Rev. Deke O’Malleys of this country. Its time to reach deep within ourselves and grasp the greater courage, the greater nobility and the greater sense of love that makes of us what we were intended to be—men of vision and righteousness.
Maximo A. Gomez
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