9/11: White America's Introduction To Strategic Blackness
by Nadra Enzi
As a boy, my maternal grandfather read a newspaper comic strip named, "Buck Rogers." The title character was a 20th Century man who awoke in a super tech, super violent world of the 25th Century.
September 11th, 2001, with its swarthy sky pirates, covert combat communications via public library computers and the call to warrior passenger hood makes me wonder if I'm a "Bro Rogers"- a Black man from the past thrown into a chaotic tomorrow?
If ones definition of being Black includes a healthy suspicion of ones surroundings protected by a readiness for self-defense, then this identity experienced a quantum increase in membership on 9/11.
While some African-Americans are indeed pacifists, most brothers and sisters will fight when necessary.
Our white colleagues, on that day of days, were thrust into a state of consciousness similar to our own. They now find themselves transformed into silent sentries on watch for a much-feared enemy.
Accompanying this awareness is a conclusion, foreign to many White and Black upper income professionals, that they may have to personally risk life and limb without the luxury of someone else (private security, law enforcement or the military) coming to the rescue.
What a difference a day makes!
White America has traumatically entered a combative landscape familiar to African-Americans for centuries.
Our "al-Qaida" and "Taliban" was the plantation, large elements in local/state/federal government and every other institution woven into the national fabric.
Our "Osama Bin Laden" had names forgotten and historically revered and titles: "Massuh", "Boss", "Sir", etc., that we had to use under pain of not only individual execution but also to avoid mass exercises of domestic terror.
The message of Strategic Blackness to a shell shocked White populace is: keep your eyes open and consult your Black counterparts daily on how to oppose sudden, merciless aggression, while still staying sane and happy.
This technique has been perfected from the "out house to the state house," to borrow a phrase from the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
It consists of possessing a heightened expectation of, and planning for, worst-case scenarios in everyday life.
For example, most Black men, straight, gay, liberal conservative, etc., upon observing a police officer intently looking his way, begin scrolling a mental checklist consisting of behavorial, legal, even theological options to be used in the event an unpleasant encounter occurs.
This has nothing to do with presumed guilt or innocence and everything to do with a multi-generational dance between freedom and its instant denial on the part of these two subjects- who may now be the same color, thanks to integration.
A humorous illustration of "Strategic Blackness" is the often repeated joke about Black people rapidly departing a haunted house upon hearing a disembodied voice whisper, "Get out!" while their White counterparts walk blithely into the monster's clutches.
Message: Don't consider yourself too special to be harmed, nobody is exempt from being menaced.
An Israeli citizen, on average, is more apt to entertain sinister possibilities concerning his surroundings than are most Americans.
This awareness is the result of hard-won experience and cultural training and is not the exclusive province of any one ethnic or religious group.
If anything, "Strategic Blackness" provides an opportunity for us to create a more alert, unbiased national identity that uses as a baseline the heightened security awareness that many African-Americans accepted as a given prior to 9/11 and the feeling of safety most Whites fear may be irretrievably lost.
We've been at this survival game much longer than the television show by the same name.
Such information sharing is the difference between life and death in a future where we all feel "Black."
At least strategically.
The author is a security practitioner and civil defense advocate whose lifelong practice of Strategic Blackness means hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.