(The following is an excerpt from Charles Johnson’s America, Land of the Fee and the Home of the Slave, published by Wumpkin Publications (2016). His wife Bette Jean Guy Byrd Johnson and daughter Koya Tynisa Johnson died in Jonestown.)
This affects me on a personal level. I watch sports morning talk shows on a national sports network. I look at sports as a pastime, a diversion from the complexities and stresses of the real world. Occasionally an African-American personality will use the term, “I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid,” referring to the 912 mostly African-Americans who lost their lives in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Among those who perished were my wife and two-year-old daughter. To have those painful memories brought back, and in such a disrespectful way, is shameful. Why are African-Americans trivializing such a tragic event where so many poor and desperate people lost their lives?
I wonder what would happen to these same personalities if they were to use the term “I’m not walking into that oven,” referring to the Jews who willingly went into the ovens to their tragic deaths? I’m willing to bet that they would be reprimanded if not outright terminated. Why is it okay to disparage our own people’s suffering for the entertainment of others? Is it self-hate? Or just a lapse in judgment? This is not a case of the press of the dominant society brainwashing us. Sadly, it is some of our own giving permission for journalists of all persuasions to mock the deaths of Black men, women and children. Shame on any person and especially any African-American who is so cavalier about the tragic annihilation of so many Black lives. I guess Black Lives really don’t matter after all!