A long, long, time ago on a television far, far, away I watched a particularly poignant Batman episode. This was one of the cartoon versions of Batman and not the campy version featuring Adams West. Thanks to the Batman show of the sixties, I actually grew up hating Batman. The only cool thing about that particular version was the Batmobile.
The Batman series I’m referring to was one of the many animated series. It started off with Batman sitting on a chair that looked like a throne. He was in full costume regalia. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t talking. He was brooding. The butler Alfred walked into the Batcave. Alfred asked the Batman how well did his nightly patrol of Gotham City go. Batman ignored the question. Instead, he asked his butler, mentor, guardian, servant, friend, and confidant his own question, what was the point? Every night Batman put on his garb and swings or drives through the city doing his best to keep the city safe from people who wanted to circumvent the law. And despite the number of criminals he helped put behind bars, despite his best efforts to keep people safe, the criminals never stopped. The criminals never gave up. Tonight it’s the Joker. Tomorrow it will be the Penguin. The day after that it will be Two Face. The next day it will be Catwoman. The next day it will be somebody else.
What is the point? The police called Batman a vigilante and a danger to the city. He is a menace to the city. By his own design the majority of the people in the city fear him. He is a demon. He is abhorred. He is a man that is misunderstood. He is a man that questions the path he chose for himself. He wanted to do something to give his parent’s death some kind of meaning. But was becoming the Batman the best way to provide that meaning? Alfred offered no answers and the Batman continued to sit.
I really didn’t understand what Batman was going through, at least not fully. Bruce Wayne made the choice to become the Batman and he could make the choice not to continue to be the Batman. He owed his parents nothing. He owed himself nothing. He could take a new path in his life. But his identity, who he had become, was no longer just Bruce Wayne playboy millionaire, but a combination of the bachelor millionaire and the nocturnal, crime fighting alter ego. Bruce Wayne had sacrificed so much of himself to become the Batman that he or they would be incomplete without the other. Bruce Wayne could not give up being Batman no more than Batman could give up Bruce Wayne. But was the sacrifice worth it.
I understand a little better because I feel similarly about all the time I spend writing about issues specific to the black community. Everyday I do what I can to write just a little more to help bring some awareness to people and the conditions of the black community from my rather unique perspective. Despite the realities of racial disparity that manifest itself all around us each and everyday, so many people have developed social awareness blinders that create a tunnel vision of selfishness that prevents the realities of life inside a dysfunctional national community from our comprehension.
White people will insist there is no such thing as racism. Black people need to get an education, get a job, be like Oprah Winfrey, be like Michael Jordan, get over the victim mentality, keep on keeping on, left ourselves by our boot strap, and exercise personal responsibility. Black people will insist that the black community needs to keep looking, keep doing, keep searching, keep being, keep praying, keep singing, and rejoice because things are slowly getting better. How many times has a black person made the suggestion that I develop a plan to undo the damage that million of subjugators have worked over centuries of racial oppression to have developed? How many times have I been told that if I don’t have the perfect plan that I need to just shut up and quit complaining?
I have been asked to leave the country. My life has been threatened. Many men with issues of homosexuality have invited me to engage in sodomy. White women have assured me that black women are not important to most American households and black men are too violent to be allowed to roam freely through American streets. Prayers have been made that I go to hell. People I thought that would understand me the most, some of the people within the African based spirituality of Ifa, try to intimidate me with titles of superiority and demands that I adhere to traditional protocol. What is the point?
I devote a great deal of time and energy in keeping my site current and relevant to the issues that are sensitive to the black community. I have never promoted any supposition that black people should hate white people. But nevertheless, white and black people alike who have a dissenting opinion have called me racist and irrelevant. I have been labeled a white supremacist by black people because I acknowledge the fact that white people control the generic dominant community that controls the vast majority of wealth in the world. Black people who are so focused on racial discrimination are considered the real racist these days. Through a twist of fate the victims of racism are now the perpetrators. The label is just as appropriate as calling a nuclear tipped missile a peacekeeper. What is the point?
Even when I write about the African spirituality of Ifa, babalawos and iyanifas and other people with other titles, as well as some who don’t, come out of the woodwork to threaten me for writing and talking about a new and fresh perspective on things that have been done in a traditional manner for millennia. And then from the opposite side I’m confronted by the Christian who believes that Jesus the Christ is the only way to save the black community. Neither one of these traditional spiritualities appears to be working very well for the black community lately. But to change anything that is doing little to help us all is unacceptable. Just sit back and let the black community keep doing things the same old way without having much to show for it. What is the point?
I wish I knew what the point was. But like Batman on his nightly, thankless patrol, everyday I come back here trying to reach someone. I could do better. I could go and spend more time in the gym. I could get another job and just do what I can to make life comfortable for my family and me. I could just submit my conscious to the television and watch the next episode of CSI without a care in the world. I could stop this, all of this, and do a lot of other things.
But it would be too painful to stop and do nothing. To become silent would be to succumb to the fact that black people are too weak to implement change. To believe that this American way is simply our lot in life is unacceptable. To condemn the next generation to this way of life without even trying to lift a finger to do something to change things is unacceptable. I could no more sit back and continue to watch this racial mess continue to fester as Batman could sit back and watch crime proliferate in Gotham City without doing anything.
Later in the episode, Batman was able to shake off his malaise and went back to work on his nightly patrol. Eventually the Batman ran across a teenager that he had run across before. Previously, the Batman had prevented the teenager from committing some relatively petty crime and handed the malfeasant over to the police as he does with most criminals. Batman suspected that the teenager was up to some more mischief and decided to check him out. The Batman swung into the air and landed in front of the young man. But the young man was not up to anything wrong. He was actually taking the first steps towards rebuilding his life. The time in jail got him to thinking and he wanted to make better choices for himself. The teenager thanked the Batman for helping to put him in a situation that gave him the insight to straighten out his life. The episode ended.
Now ever since I saw this particular show I thought that was why Batman went back out and did what he did. I actually thought that Batman patrols because he wants to help people and is grateful for the one or two who would actually thanked him for his sacrifice. But while that kind of tangible feedback may be appreciated and helps a little to assuage the overall fruitlessness of it all, it’s not why Batman does what he does. The Batman exist for no other reason than to fight against the criminal element of human nature. He does it because he cannot stop. It doesn’t matter that he is one man outnumbered against the world of crime. He does what he can as best he can.
I honestly wish I could be more like the Batman character. When the doldrums hit he can shake it off. It helps to be a fictional character with an author who wants a happy ending. Me? It’s not so easy. Too often I spend too much time asking myself what is the point? I seriously doubt if I’ll shake off my malaise by the end of a thirty minute episode.