Dear Black America

By Uloop Archives on July 26, 2013

When writing this, I should have been asleep. Instead, I sat on a couch, in a cold room, trying to piece together my thoughts so I can say what I’m about to say in the best way possible.

 

In light of recent events: Edits to key legislation in the Voting Rights Act, additional measures colleges must consider when choosing to implement affirmative action policies, the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict, “No Justice for Trayvon Martin” rallies, President Obama’s speech on race relations/racial profiling, and even Bill O’Reilly’s evening memos this week calling liberals and black leaders to basically get their sh*t together when it comes to the revival of the black community—this is my attempt to somehow enlighten each and every one of you and share what I think we should do as black Americans.

But before I get to that, I just want to say I am proud of us. We’ve come a long way. We survived the atrocities of slavery, the false virtues of the-Jim Crow-separate-but-equal-nonsense, voting discrimination, threats, murders, ongoing racism, stereotypes, bullying, abuse, people minimizing our racial experiences, and main stream society under representing us in the media and popular publications Americans indulge in at their leisure.

We have made a name for ourselves. We have created our own massive culture (given, there are sub-cultures as well); one that is so unique and so beautiful, other racial groups try to emulate it to be cool or find something that “feels black” (Hey, Miley).

We hold the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement—a series of events in America’s history—that are appreciated by citizens all over the world. People in other nations admire our strength, our persistence, our desire to live a life of equality, and our efforts to go about earning those rights in a mostly non-violent way.

Certainly, our ancestors didn’t necessarily ask to be here. They weren’t given the option to board a ship and enter through Ellis Island like most European immigrants did. Our ancestors were brought over here against their will, chained, whipped, and raped so more slaves could be made and sold—all so America could be among the leading world superpowers. It’s understandable we may not be overwhelmingly ecstatic on July 4 as say, descendants of immigrants.

And still, we have overcome so much.

Despite our accomplishments and our contributions to society—no matter how undermined or celebrated they may be by the masses—we still have a long way to go. Poverty still reeks in our communities. Crime is a serious problem. Changes need to be made.

And it all starts with us.

Combating these social realities and economic disparities is not an effort that can be done alone by the government. We have to want change, too. It should be the effort of both parties, as solving societal problems is a group effort.

I understand not every black person has the same set of experience or realities. Not every black person is a Claire and Cliff Huxtable, an Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil, a Precious, or a Madea. Every black person does not come from a poverty-stricken background, is a high-school drop out, had children fairly young, or has the same mindset.

Nonetheless, it is a message I want us each to grapple with as we contribute to the success of our community at large, no matter where we stand on the socioeconomic or political platform. That means the successful black folks who “made it” shouldn’t look down on those who didn’t, and those who haven’t “made it” shouldn’t look at privileged black folks and call them sell-outs.

That only separates us even more.

The legacy of slavery and the vestiges of legal segregation has left our people disadvantaged and disenfranchised for years, and in many cases, it still does. We are a product of history; a product of racial oppression and subjugation in the United States.

But consider this: When do we draw the line and start taking responsibility for ourselves? When does this victimization end?

Not all of us asked to be born in the situation we were in. Not all of us come from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds or successful family units. But we can at least try to outgrow the situations we are dissatisfied with.

Not all of us are lazy bums who “blame the white man” like so many non-blacks think we are. Some of us live in poverty and do try to get out. Some of us actually need welfare programs even when we are actively looking for a job because no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to get out of the projects.

Those of us who do sit back and don’t take advantage of opportunity, however, need to get it together.

Like Bill O’Reilly said, “The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family.”

Too often in black life, the father is not around and single mothers are forced to depend on themselves to raise their offspring. The cycle is continued when the male offspring impregnates a young girl in his teen years and consciously chooses not to bear the responsibility of fatherhood.

Too many times are black males caught up in drugs and violence; lacking the discipline to stay in school and stay out of trouble. Some enjoy the use of drugs because it lets them slip into a different world where problems are forgotten, worries are non-existent, and quite subjectively, happiness reigns.

Too many want an easy escape. Thing is, an easy escape doesn’t necessarily instill an easy destination.

Too many of us do not complete school. We want money and rewards to come without effort. We look at these rap artists, football and basketball players and think, “If they made it, so can I.”

While it’s alright to hope and dream, what needs to get through our thick sculls is completing our education. That is most promising.

I get it. School has it’s moments. We may not be motivated, we may not want to put in the work, and teachers and our peers may give us a hard time. Educators, students, and even our own parents may discourage us and say we’re not good enough or intelligent enough because we are black, or that we shouldn’t try and our accomplishments should not be celebrated because affirmative action will just overshadow any recognition of our dedication and hard work.

But we have to. We simply have to. It is primarily education that drives success. In order to have some sort of influence and respect in this society, education is needed—not drugs and getting locked up, not your hormones getting in the way of you reaching in the drawer and grabbing a condom so you can say you “did it,” not assuming you’ll either receive an athletic scholarship or get picked in the NBA draft, or thinking some mix-tape will get in the hands of a YMCMB producer so you don’t have to study for the ACT.

Upward mobility rarely happens within one generation. If we each make an effort to use education and staying involved in the classroom to our advantage now, we can make life better for our descendants in the future.

As for my black girls, we have got to stop letting boys get in our pants. If we are going to, at least practice safe sex. Get tested. Become familiar with the responsibilities of being sexually active and the risks that come with it. Even more, we need to stop getting pregnant at such an early age. Bringing life into the world is a wonderful thing, and I realize I wouldn’t have some of the family in my life right now if they were not born at the time they were. However, in order to ensure your child has the best opportunities he or she can have, you have to make sure not only is the father in the picture, but if you are financially and emotionally ready before you raise any babies. Some of us are still babies ourselves. Tupac rapped about babies having babies. Even Tupac understood.

The not-so-great thing about being black is that we end up being a representation of our entire group. We end up being the front-page rendition of what black America looks like in a given situation. A black man robs a liquor store and people’s senses are heightened when they see another black male.

Most of America perceives black men to be potential criminals, thugs, wannabe gangsters, saggy-pant-wearing, gun holding, up-to-no-good, suspicious, Brute Negro caricatures who are a threat to everyone, especially white women.

Because numbers say we commit the most crimes, non-blacks use this as an excuse to treat us differently, make judgements about us, say it’s okay for store clerks to closely watch us, and for police officers to stop and frisk.

As President Obama said last week, “African American boys are painted with a broad brush.” Even the black boys who are doing the right thing are labeled suspicious.

We can’t change how people racially or criminally (whichever word helps you sleep better at night, conservatives) profile us. We can, however, change our behavior and situation to better ourselves. We can prove to ourselves we are just as capable as other racial groups without commonly having to resort to the entertainment industry or violation of the law.

A white male resorts to gun violence in a suburban school, a white male resorts to gun violence in a Colorado movie theatre, white men bomb a marathon in Boston, and white men aren’t profiled or stopped and frisked. The bombers may have been foreign, but here in America, they are classified as “white.”

White girls get pregnant and people look at them as a teen who made the personal decision to keep her baby. No strings attached to the white race at large.

As for black girls, when we get pregnant at a young age, we are susceptible to people confirming yet another racial bias about us: that all black women are welfare queens, continue to get pregnant and give birth at significant rates, have non-existent baby daddies in jail, live in “a shady ass area” or “the ghetto,” and are hopelessly uneducated.

You know, the usual.

It sure as hell is not fair. We can complain all we want about how unfair America is. But it’s not going to get us anywhere. Now put that anger and discontent aside and use that as motivation to not be another statistic; to not be yet another confirmation of black stereotypes.

And yes, it’s okay to argue the hip-hop industry has something to do with the black condition in America. Coming from a person who loves hip-hop, I can still acknowledge this. We can appreciate our culture, which includes hip-hop, but we also must have the decency to discern the glamorization of the gangster/thug life from our own lives and realize that lifestyle will get us nowhere.

Pretend all you want to be a badass gangster in the company of your friends or the privacy of your room as you blast the latest Jay Z album. I just ask you to still be cognizant of how the hip-hop culture shapes our minds and realities, especially among the black youth.

I ask for us to be socially aware and recognize that defaulting to the lifestyle of crime, violence, teen pregnancy, and having a stark disinterest in education will only perpetuate the vicious cycle within our community, while validating the perceptions and attitudes non-black people often think of us.

I love my people. I just want all of us to love and respect each other too.

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