Generation after generation, we continue making the empty suggestion that black people aren’t doing enough to bring about their own equality. That is to say that they need to be able to compete economically, educationally, and politically; socially and culturally with their american counterparts across the country. The argument that “we are being left behind” in homeownership, technology, advanced degrees, healthcare, and household income is a reality that has been proven statically. Numbers generated for studies from data collection spanning decades; however, what the numbers fail to communicate is that you cannot achieve any of these things when you have an overwhelming feeling of being under threat from your environment. We are under threat from the american environment and have been from the time of our arrival to this country. Has there been change? Yes, of course there has. But that change has come only as a result of white america seeing a televised reflection of their own perpetrated injustice through a global lens. Change came as result of no longer being able to hide the blatant manifestations of injustice. This is vastly different ideology, from that of believing you should perhaps do away with jim crow laws because black people are your equal. Jim crow and lynching didn’t end because the people responsible suddenly saw black people as their fellow americans. No, they stopped because too many people were watching. Sure, lynchings don’t occur anymore, but the people who would carry them out still do. Need I remind you that James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in 1998 in a manner that harkens back to the jim crow era. I recently wrote a post stating that the good deeds of black people are never highlighted, or done less so than the bad deeds. I stand corrected. Hear is the additional reason for the phenomena, of highlighting the accomplishments of successful blacks, to become a media trend. The debate on black achievement comes to the forefront when the conversation pertains to “racial equality” and “the progress made”; we tend to trot-out the feats of a handful of successful black academics or President Obama only to say, “See, they made it through an adverse situation, why can’t you?” For reasons that shouldn’t have to be explained, this is an unfair comparison.
“Yes of course it ties to our history and part of it is race, but it’s not mainly race. These are not mainly racial, these are consequences of the social marginalization of people. More whites than blacks are killed by police officers in these fatal discharging of weapons.” – Glenn Loury: Radio Open Source
The black diaspora has been fighting with one hand behind our backs against the trauma of being told, taught, and treated as unequal. Let’s look at this situation through a slightly different lens. Would we feel comfortable comparing recovery periods and reintegration rates of combat veterans from the Vietnam war to those that have served in more recent conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan? Of course not. We would never blame individual soldiers for their own suffering and their inability to recover sooner, and rightfully so. It has taken us time, perhaps too long, but we now know all injuries are not visible. Yet, when it comes to the lives of black people for some reason the focus is always on our failure to let go [of our american experience] and to move on. Glenn Loury recently reminded us on Radio Open Source, after scoffing at a comment about reparations made by a Ta-Nehisi Coates’ – Atlantic article, that the civil rights movement took place 50 years ago and essentially, black people shouldn’t focus on such things.
“We are 50 years past 1964. 50 years, a half century. Reparations?! I mean you’ve got to be kidding me okay. [I’m not kidding you, but I don’t think Ta-Nehisi Coates is kidding you either] I mean with respect, I mean of course this is a narrative and this an argument that will resinate. And of course our history lends itself readily to such a drama. We’re in the 21st century in a globalizing world. There are more latinos, hispanics than there are african-americans. The entire political dynamic is shifting. Silicon Valley is overrun with people who are foreign born or of foreign born parents and not many of them are black. Places like MIT and CalTech, the world is moving and african-americans are being left behind. Now we can continue with this lament. We can continue drawing up on the well of discontent and american dilemma-drama and so forth if you want to, but the world is moving on. Believe me, nobody is moved by this. Political correctness in the air, everybody pays homage to it and they are moving on. And the one-third or one-quarter of the african-american community, which is not connected to the engine of opportunity which is moving forward are going to be left further and further behind. It’s going to be a cast, not a racial issue before too long.” – Glenn Loury: Radio Open Source
I would ask would we ever dare to utter such things to the jewish diaspora about the crimes committed against them in a war that ended nearly 70 years ago. Emphatically no. Prof. Loury condemns the black community for their misfortunes. The only comparison that I can make to this statement is when I tried talking to my father 25 years after he broke-up our family. He had an unrelenting desire to believe that my experience of tragic family events were learned as opposed to being my own experience of the events. I am not, nor have I ever attempted to exonerate black people from sharing partial responsibility for our challenges, but if you straddle both sides of a fulcrum with equal weight the scales will not tip in either direction. Herein lies the problem. We are at a stand still and have been for centuries. And the truth of matter is that black people don’t feel any obligation to backdown when they weren’t the ones that started the aggression.
“I don’t think it’s reaching to the root of the problem which I have to say, I don’t take any pleasure in saying it, is not the contempt and disregard for the humanity of african-americans by the police officers who are trying to secure public safety in the cities around the country” – Glenn Loury: Radio Open Source
Throughout american history the black community has been resilient in the face of racial discrimination. How many times must we press reset in our communities? My hometown of Miami never recovered from the politically charged and racial motivations that constructed I-95 through the heart of a thriving black community in Overtown in 1965. The history of this community and many others around this country, are proof of our resilience in trying to turn inward when denied equality in general society. The eraser of our history is what we have to contend with. Glenn Loury appears to say that if black people spent less time concerned about their racial slights in american society, and participated more in the globally connected economic engine, that we will be better off. If we acclimate ourselves more closely to our white and asian counterparts, we will find greater progress and social integration. Well, I say if progress only comes in the form of simulacrum of white american culture, at the expense of retaining my black identity and its history, then I will dismiss progress outright. Leave me behind in the 20th century with my 20th century ideals of having both success and my culture intact.
“We are not living in the era in which James Baldwin was speaking of. The narrative characterization of the conditions of the african-americans that has been put forward here I don’t think in any way accurately describes what’s actually going on. [describe it] Michael Brown attack that police officer. He was not hunted down by the ku klux klan.” – Glenn Loury: Radio Open Source
Sure the perceived fear of black people by police when patrolling black communities is one thing, but how do you reconcile the same fear, mistrust, and bias towards blacks when we’re out participating in general society. Are we honestly saying that the behavior exhibited by Barney’s department store shouldn’t be internalized? Or are we suggesting that programs like Stop and Frisk do not demonize entire communities, and ruin the lives of law-abiding citizens through the legal aftermath? Sure Michael Brown wasn’t hunted down by the klan, and yes he broke the law, but was the crime sufficient enough to justify his execution? We are living in a modified version of James Baldwin’s era and I feel he would agree. Regardless of his own accomplishments, he was acutely aware of the plight of his community. We are still being told that the features of black people are a “hideous affliction“ in addition to dangerous. Our young people are the only ones that are paraded across television for critique by the national media. They’re berated and feared for their hairstyles, choice in clothing, and the music they listen to. Do we ever give this level of scrutiny to white youth? Do we fear their unwashed and soiled long hair, or appropriated body piercings and tattoos? How is a black teenager that wants to wear his pants hanging-off his butt anymore of a threat to american society, or the pristine social mores, than his white [male] counterpart wearing skinny jeans and make-up? I will tell you, he doesn’t. We will believe what we are told to believe. So when media outlets tell you that black people, who present themselves with non-white hairstyles [dreads], or non-white jewelry [gold teeth], or non-white attire [sagging pants], should be feared or regarded as less than your equal, you do it.
“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before… To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress…”
“There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.” – Chris Rock: New York Magazine