D is for Difficulty


The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.  — Epicurus

Difficulty is one of the meanings of my son’s name. It comes from his father’s village in Kenya where legend has it that one man there was so tough that he used to butt his head against the head of a ram for sport. Well, then. Never did I imagine that my boy would have his share of difficulty that would have him mid-thirties suspended and alternately looking for his way.

Dictionary mentions trouble or struggle as the meaning of difficulty. It didn’t help that his father left the U.S. to return to Africa when his son was only six months old, never to see hide nor hair of him again. Like so many black boys in America struggling to find their way, difficulty seems to be around every corner. Black life, especially of young men, seems to be devalued so easily. Any trouble that comes upon them can be rationalized away, much like a rape victim is blamed for her troubles and accused of bringing it upon herself.  They asked for it.  It cannot be that the system is problematic. There must be something terribly wrong with these young, often fatherless men. Black people are full of pathology, dont ya know? No one really sees them.

“…I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”      — Maya Angelou

I worry incessantly about this.  Besides my son I have nephews I love dearly and worry over. And there are the young men important to friends and acquaintances that matter to me back home. And even in 2015 when I should not have to be thinking about this, (we have a black man in the White House, after all), I watch the slow decline of the country that calls itself “Land of the free and home of the brave,” and like during the time of Lincoln where a whole war waged around that system built upon racism, we are still stuck. Even in 2015, the playing field is still not level, and there is even more cause for concern. And if we can never truly face the past that haunts us, we are going to roll back, back into oblivion. America cannot remain great when in modern times her inadequacies are glaring and we pretend not to see.   If there is no true reckoning with the past, no real acknowledgement that the root of problems which began long ago still flourish in a racial garden, there can be no continued growth, and no glory.

For this reason, I whisked my son away from America in hopes that he would find new possibilities, new life in a new setting.  Nothing can be as bad as the problems of race in America, after all. Right? And so far, it has seemed to work.  He is slightly more relaxed (and so am I). Being in another country brings its own challenges. But it is a relief not to feel the slings and stings of institutional racism that zing through the airwaves back home taking no prisoners. He is restless and ready to get on with his life back there, and I cling desperately wanting to keep him safe as long as possible.

Right here, right now in this moment there is a respite. And in this space I think my son can prevail. And while being named in the African tradition is usually a hope that the child will grow into the status bequeathed him by his name, I pray that Difficulty will be able to rise above all, reach the status of perfection in his own mind which is his divine birthright. May he damn the prescriptions against him and others of his kind, which weight him to the dense unreality of a human life in this world.


© 2015 Egyirba High All Rights Reserved

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2 thoughts on “D is for Difficulty

  1. I wish in our world difficulty was the same as the word chaos – in Chinese that means opportunity so I hope that all of this difficult creates an opportunity for your son. I salute you for getting a black man out of America – especially one in pain. If the ambient atmosphere is as full of racism as it is smog in LA then he will breathe easier. The effects of racism can drive you insane. You are a good mother.

    Liked by 1 person

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