Rawlins: And what are you? So full of hate you want to go out and fight everybody! Because you’ve been whipped and chased by hounds. Well that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s been what these white boys have been doing for going on three years now! Dying by the thousands! Dying for *you*, fool! I know, ’cause I dug the graves. And all this time I keep askin’ myself, when, O Lord, when it’s gonna be our time? Gonna come a time when we all gonna hafta ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. LIKE MEN!
Glory–a fictionalization of the Union Army’s all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, lead by a white officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw–is one of my favorite movies for a lot of reasons, but, in particular, the last three sentences of the above monologue by Rawlins (played by Morgan Freeman) have stayed with me.
A group of black Ferguson residents armed with high-powered rifles stood outside a white-owned business in the city during recent riots, protecting it from rioters that looted and burned other businesses.
After a grand jury returned no indictment against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown, protesters took to the streets and the demonstrations quickly turned into rioting. Several buildings were set ablaze, but a group of heavily armed black men stood outside a Conoco gas station.
One of the residents, a 6-foot-8 man named Derrick Johnson, held an AR-15 assault [sic] rifle as he stood in a pickup truck near that store’s entrance. Three other black Ferguson residents joined Johnson in front of the store, each of them armed with pistols.
Like men. Not like black men, or like white men–or like puling infants in the bodies of men–but men.
Sure, they liked the owner–who had given them employment over the years, but so what? (Side note: lately I’ve been saying to all who won’t cover their ears that free persons create their own jobs.) One good turn is often reciprocated by a stab in the back. It has happened to me more than once.
But that’s not what happened in this case.
Do either of these sets of men owe anything to the other for doing right? I say no. Any other attitude smacks of patronage.
Doing what’s right is often its own reward and, sometimes, there is only one Observer. And the ripples are seemingly invisible. But they exist.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2015.
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