I wonder a lot what it would be like to have enormous social responsibility, what it would be like to be a leader on a grand scale and to be able to articulate the vision, hopes and dreams of people. I wonder what it would be like to exercise that degree of freedom. I sometimes wonder about the view and the pride that my daughter and wife would have of me, if I were a man of global stature.
Recently I wondered what it would be like to be trapped. There is no shortage of evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, about the urban black underclass. It is a segment of our society and a portion of our people that are underserved, undereducated, underemployed and is the definition of the American underclass. There is no doubt that the human spirit is and will always be triumphant. Indeed the story of black people in the United States is that triumphant story. There is also equally no doubt that the condition of poverty shackled to race is guilty of the murder of thousands of ambitions, hopes and dreams. What is it like today, to have little or no education, to have your ambitions and dignity constantly under public and private attack? I wonder what happens at the moment when so many young black men, for example, just say, “fuck it” and turn towards the abyss.
Surely, that moment comes at the ends of a path. It is at the end of a path where system failures, benign and intentional neglect and the bad luck of circumstance collude to undermine the spirit. The human spirit of legend is unconquerable, but the human spirit of an individual needs protection or at very least inspiration. My whole life has been on a trajectory that has kept me protected and safe from that path. I had the good luck of being born to educated parents. Their emphasis on education was similar to their emphasis on food. According to them, the substance of my body and the substance of my mind are the elements of my life – without one or the other, I would surely die.
I cannot really know what it is like to be trapped in this particular way and I do not take for granted the privilege that is. If I continue to think about being free, I have to continue to think about being trapped.