Black Community Letting Itself Down

I am sure that we have all heard, and probably agree with on some level, that black Americans will not stick together.  In fact, blacks will often hold one another back before they will help one another.

Do we not all wonder why other non-Caucasian ethnic groups can come and prosper in America where blacks have been “free” for decades?  Why can”t blacks pool their resources and imitate the success of others?  The easy answer is that other ethnic groups did not suffer from the horror and utter dehumanization of America”s slave trade.  I realize that many people from other ethnic groups have come of their own free will, while blacks were bought and brought to America in chains.  Yes, the institution of slavery has had a profound effect on the black community within the United States.  In some respects, even amidst the modest success that blacks are experiencing, it appears that the state of many black neighborhoods, as well as the black state of mind is deteriorating.

The lack of black unity, and blacks’  inability to manifest their own self-determination would shock many of America”s black predecessors.  Many would not only be shocked by the relative selfishness, they would be appalled by blacks’ willingness to covet and adopt the values of a society that was birthed on the basis of shameless exploitation and imperialism.  Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and even Martin Luther King would probably be surprised by the great economic success of black businessmen, entertainers and athletes,  But they would also be shocked to see the lack of improvement and progress within the black community, and even a retrogression in many respects.  Of course life has become hard for a growing number of people of all racial groups in America due to an economy that is being hijacked by business executives, financiers, political action committees and lobbyists, but the black community has historically felt the brunt of bad economic times, and, more than a decade into the 21st century, it’s no different than it has ever been for millions of blacks just trying to hang on.

Speaking of hanging on, I am pretty sure that Dr. King, W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X and others would be truly mortified to see blacks hanging on the street corner, black couples on Jerry Springer-type TV shows or young blacks on Worldstar acting basically like buffoons, while portraying a lack of morality and pride, or at least common decency, sometimes including violence.  Even with all the blatant perversion and ignorance, what would probably trouble black America’s forefathers the most is the increasing disparity between blacks that are “successful” and those existing in socioeconomic desperation, and blacks’ unwillingness to unify and address the problems that lead to widening divisions within the black community.

Until the 1970s, black unity and focus were omnipresent within the black community.  All blacks had common struggles and goals, and united to achieve greater objectives, sometimes at their own peril.  Their efforts and sacrifices are one of the main reasons why legal slavery and segregation ended.  Today, blacks have plenty of the same struggles, but many seem too ignorant to realize it. Social, economic and institutional racism are problems that still need to be addressed.  But many rich, affluent, and even some squarely in the middle class have duped themselves into believing that they have “arrived,” while others within the black community are caught up in a cycle of self-victimization.  I have a difficult time believing that this is the black America that leaders like Dr. King envisioned.  I know that it is not the vision of America that they fought for.

It is somewhat ironic that once some blacks make great economic gains, they are all too willing to fraternize with the very people that would not give them the time of day if it were not for their economic clout.  Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with socializing with people of other races. In fact, I am all for it.  That’s the only way we will ever genuinely come together as a nation.  But as opposed to valuing a superficial relationship simply for social reasons because you’ve “made it” at the expense of other relationships with persons that you used to identify with for many different reasons, perhaps these people should continue to recognize what is “real”, or—at the very least—try and build bridges of common ground between their new worlds (so to speak). To get “brand new” and “above it all” because of your exploding or overflowing pocketbooks speaks to a certain lack of empathy and wisdom, if not irony and downright hypocrisy.  Another subtle irony is that some of the people that live within these black communities can find ways to scrounge a few coins together to buy a pack of  Newports or a bottle of Cisco, and then sit around and commiserate about how whites have held the black man down.  They may sometimes continue on about how blacks who value discipline, education and hard work are sellouts to their race. Ironically, they offer these critiques while they partake of the vices that that they have cooperated to purchase. This example may seem ludicrous, but it is perhaps closer to the truth than not.  Moreover, even families and friends within the black community sometimes pool their resources to throw some pretty elaborate parties for this or that, but don’t even consider investing in something that may actually build wealth or morale (in it’s truest sense of the word) for the family and each of its individual parts as a whole. And, guess what?  At some of these parties, when politics comes up, there will be the same commiseration about the state of the black community, with no one ultimately raising  finger to do anything for their own families or friends, much less the black community on a wider scale.

What some blacks do not realize is that they will always be black first in the eyes of many whites, and they are subject to these  same whites’ perspectives—the same whites that are more than likely their bosses, coworkers, teachers, judges, etc.  Their black skin color summons the same images that more than a few whites associate with all blacks.  Likewise, there are blacks that always cry “racism”, and are eager to label someone who is “about something” as a sellout. These blacks seem unwilling to exercise the discipline and take the steps necessary to improve their condition while always volleying excuses.  They fail to realize that, in many ways, they are just as much the “sellouts” of their own black community as the people that refuse to give back.  In my opinion, both positions are morally bankrupt.

Let me use a variation of an analogy that my father told me when I was growing up.  He compared blacks that are unwilling to help one another to crabs in a bucket.  If one has seemingly made it to the top and is about to get out, the others—in their own desperation—pull him back down. Ironically, all of them are too ignorant to realize that with cooperation, they can all help to pull each other out of the bucket if they chain in black unity.  But, alas, in the end they are all cooked.

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