Invisibility

Does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney. — Vincent Van Gogh

The mountains outside my bedroom window are always there standing silently in their majesty. They are part of the surrounding landscape for Loja where I live. They are always there, but sometimes they are invisible to the eye, hidden by the clouds.

Some years ago a few friends were sitting around talking about super heroes and the question was posed, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?”

We went around the circle and each participant explained what super power he or she would want to have and why. My colleagues had previously answered incredible strength, the ability to fly, or X-ray vision so she could see what her date looked liked without his clothes before she took him home. When it was my turn, I answered, “Invisibility.”

“Why would you want to be invisible?” the woman next to me asked.

“Because as a Black man to a large degree I am already invisible. I am only visible to society as a whole if I fit the stereotype of their perception of a Black person. The stereotype is that of an athlete, a prostitute, or a criminal. Even President Obama is judged and seen first as a Black man before he is seen as President of the United States. The mostly white Senators and Congressmen/women do not want to see a Black man succeed. It is the true nature of America’s divided society.” I continued, “We are only visible either as stereotypes or as individuals needed to fill a void or need of society as a whole.”

Today, Black men and women are killed for doing nothing at all except for being Black. A Black women can be killed simply by asking for help or a Black twelve year old boy can be killed for playing with a toy gun. I am judged, tried, and executed by a cop with a gun or any white man with a gun without ever reaching the first step of the American judicial system? I am invisible to government officials and politicians except during election years. We are “invisible” to police as lawyers, accountants, teachers, and good law abiding citizens. All they see is a Black person, and in their eyes that person is a gang member, a criminal, a threat, or a person unworthy of being in the same space as himself.

There is no hesitancy in taking the life of a Black man/woman today or throughout the history of this country. The law is on their side. The common excuse offered is that, “I felt threatened.” Threatened by an unarmed Black man when the police officer has mace, electric shock, hand to hand combat training, and backup support to dissolve that threat before having to pull a firearm. Why do they always pull the firearm first?

Years ago in college I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It was during the Black cultural revolution of the sixties and I identified with his sense of alienation living as a Black man in America.

* I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. – Ralph Ellison

America was a new world where people came to escape the persecutions of their own homelands but built upon the backs of slaves. Even after we were granted our freedom by an amendment to the Constitution. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act supposedly gave us equal rights and opportunity. Even after the country elected a Black man to be its president. We are still looked upon as second class citizens because of the color of our skin. America sees the, “smoke at the top of the chimney,” when we rebel against the injustice and fight for our legal freedom to equally exist, but they fail to see the “great fire in our souls.”

One hundred fifty years after the signing the the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, I am still an “invisible” man with regards to my equal rights under the law. There is no equal law for Black people in the land of my birth. I am mad as hell, and I’m getting up out of my seat to speak out against these injustices against people of  color.