It was the late sixties and I was caught in one of the most difficult times of my life…forced busing and integration that has never really taken place. I distinctively remember my classes. I was moved from first chair clarinet to third chair at the newly configured, so-called “mixed school.” African-American students were treated as if we were from third world countries; holding our hands up with the right answer, only to be shot down by Ms. Habick (Blond-haired, blue-eyed English teacher) who would rather call on a White student with the wrong answer, before calling on me, an African-American with the right answer.
Amazingly, we had our hands up back then, hoping to be recognized with a correct response and not shot down with rejection, avoidance, and disrespect. Here we are in the year 2014, fifty-years post Civil Rights Movement, and African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and others, are still marching in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities, with their hands up, asking not to be shot with bullets, pepper sprayed, gassed, or the use of other weapons “of mass destruction,” to silence and control the voices of the people, pleading for their lives….
Unfortunately, there are still many Americans who are stuck in the throws of seeing differences in others, rather than similarities; discriminating against others, rather than respecting them; and showing inferior treatment towards others, rather than accepting them unconditionally. Recently, Ferguson, Missouri was thrust into the limelight as the cover of racism and discrimination were pulled from over them, when an African-American teen, Michael Brown was murdered, by a White police officer. Sadly, there are too many cities in America that are analogous to Ferguson. As a result of Michael Brown’s murder, decades of unfair treatment of people of color have been brought to light in Ferguson and around the country. Many African-Americans seemed shocked and surprised that much of what was happening in the sixties to people of color, is still happening in 2014.
However, as African-Americans, there should be no surprises. Too many of us have become complacent, believing that if some of us have arrived, all of us have arrived. We have forgotten to remember our history. Too many of us believe that THEY will change. We are so busy looking for change to for us to come from others, that we have forgotten who is in in our mirrors looking back at us each and every day. It is time for African-Americans to realize that we are in control of our own destinies and that ‘PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE!!!’ Until they change their hearts and change their mindsets, people of color and people who look different from others will remain an after thought, if a thought at all.
As African-Americans, we must come to change our mindsets about US; change our perceptions of OURSELVES as a people. We must begin to prioritize what is important, recognizing that until ALL OF US have arrived, NONE OF US has arrived. We must stop looking for THEM to make the changes and make the necessary changes OURSELVES. If others see us as unworthy and we begin to see ourselves and continue to treat ourselves the same, we can’t expect others to change their perceptions about us; it takes US to make the changes in how we see ourselves, how we treat ourselves, and how we treat each other as African-Americans.
As African-Americans, when we think about racism, we see 1967, not realizing that it was only yesterday. Unfortunately, too many of us have been given a false sense of security and made to believe that society and the system see African-Americans as equal to the majority. The problem is, too many see African-Americans as being equal only to other African-Americans; we all look the same.
We have worn our rose-colored sunglasses for too long. We have been fooled by the mammoth-sized houses that can be taken from us at any time, the jobs that others don’t believe we are qualified to hold or have a right to hold, the education many NEVER believed we deserved to achieve and still are not respected for achieving, and the cars that we are allowed to purchase, but still not owned.
As African-Americans, until we wake up and see that 1967 exists in 2014, we will continue to walk around with heavy hearts, our heads in a tail spin of confusion, our minds clouded with doubt, and our very rights to equality and our beliefs about who we are will not only be continuously questioned, but taken away. The day we open our eyes and see that the murders of our African-American boys and African-American men are the extensions of the lynchings that took place prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement, we will NEVER see things change for the better for African-Americans in our lifetime. The visible chains and shackles have been removed from our hands, our feet, and our necks. However, we have allowed the system to replace the visible chains and shackles with invisible, more powerful chains and shackles by binding our minds, our hearts, and our thoughts, keeping us focused on material things that are dangled in front of us, keeping us in slavery, believing that our greatest and worst enemy is each other.
Until we wake up and see that the modern day lynchings of African-Americans are now in the form of low or no education, guns and other weapons that we tend to use on each other, drugs, sexual exploitations, self-abuse and disrespect, black on black crime, and material things we don’t need (high priced sneakers, purses, and other things we use to define ourselves) which are all forms of genocide, intentionally and systematically put in place, we will continue to see replays of Emmitt Till, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Amadou Diallo, Eric Bell, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and the thousands of other African-American males who have died because they were seen as ‘three-fifths of a man,’ and as threats to others. It is known that for every African-American male who’s jailed, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually murdered, the African-American population is being drastically diminished.
We sat back and allowed prayer to be taken out of our schools, while the devil was invited in. We ask our children what we want them to do, instead of telling them and guiding them to what they need to do. We have thrown discipline out the window, and our children have CHOICES about church and school. Too many of us accept substandard treatment from the post office to the neighborhood stores in our communities. Our churches have become big businesses at the expense of the people who show up to worship, looking for hope and a way out, while the heads, hands, and pockets of the church leaders keep expanding, and hands and pockets of the body (the people) keep shrinking. And too many of us abate our rights to make our voices heard in the voting booths of America. As Malcolm X once stated many years ago, and it still holds true today, ‘we have been hoodwinked, bamboozled, and thrown amuck.” Wake up black folk…racism still exists!!! We are the only ones who can control our destiny and what Happens with the noose is up to YOU and US!
Sadly, when people such as Bill Cosby speak the truth about US as African-Americans and our seeming lack of responsibility and accountability in modern day times, because we seem to be so busy chasing dollars, we get ‘mad’ and become offended. We are constantly looking for ‘A LEADER’ to emerge among us. Look in the mirror!!! The leader is standing in front of you and resides inside of you! What are you willing to do to take on a leadership role to help address the many problems still facing us as African-Americans?
A major issue is the haves believing that they are entitled to having and keeping all that they have, at the expense of the have not's. And the have not's are desperately looking to others (too often to the haves) to help them to reach their destiny in life and gain equality. It is past time for the have not's to recognize that as long as you are waiting for someone else to fix what's wrong within and around your life, or for the haves to take responsibility and become accountable for how they have treated you because of your racial and/or cultural background, you will still not have the justice afforded you under the constitution of the United States. You must take a stand to claim and/or reclaim you position with yourself, with your family, and then with and within society, but with pride and without destruction.
It is imperative that As African-Americans, you must reach out to each other, hold each other accountable, take back your neighborhoods, take back your schools, TAKE BACK YOUR HOMES, YOUR CHILDREN, AND YOUR FAMILIES!!! However, we must also rid ourselves of the ‘crab in the barrel’ mentality that we seem to have adopted in the past few decades. If ten of you can each pass the message to ten others, look at how powerful the message then becomes. If each one reaches one and teaches one, you will have accomplished quite a bit. One of the greatest problems that have plagued us as African-Americans, is that we tend to forget each other as we gain information, gain understanding, as we grow financially, grow in prominence, gain positions, and gain power. In the words of Frankie Beverly and Maze, “We are ONE!” The group goes on to say, “…Can’t understand why we treat each other this way.” So you must ask yourself, why do you/we treat each other the way we do?
As African-Americans, I challenge you to form coalitions and not continue the competitions in order to do the following:
· Define the PURPOSE as a people
· Identify PRIORITIES needed to help fix the plethora of issues
· Discuss and identify the POSSIBILITIES
· Don’t be afraid to see the POTENTIAL
· Develop a PLAN
· Make PREPARATION to implement the PLAN
· Gather together to engage in corporate PRAYER
YOU ARE YOUR BROTHERS’/SISTERS’ KEEPER! YOU not only determine what happens with the noose, YOU control YOUR destiny as an individual and as a people. Stop looking on the outside to fix what’s wrong on the inside! YOU have to be the change YOU want to see!!