More In The Middle in conjunction with BMORENEWS present The Untold Story of Structural Racism, Vol. 1, No. 2
SANKOFA: Saving the Black Middle Class will take Time, Return to Values to Reverse Over-Incarceration, Multi-Generational Under-development of Black America
By Doni Glover, www.bmorenews.com
"The richer we become materially, the poorer we become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the seas like fish - but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters." - MLK
(BALTIMORE - June 17, 2012 ) - I think Manny Price put it best. He said that we have accumulated more in the sense of material possessions, but we are moving backwards in terms of overall progress. To understand the full magnitude of the impact of race and class on black America, it may be best to break down this 500 year journey – beginning around 1492.
From there to the end of slavery, many developments occurred, including the industrialization of America. By 1865 and the official end of slavery, there was the Post-Construction era where “Jim Crow” segregation was the order of the day.
Clearly, most blacks desired – consciously or unconsciously – freedom. Once freedom came, there was the process of adapting to life as a free people – in the midst of a racially oppressive society that wouldn’t think twice to lynch a black man.
Blacks, despite the ills of a post-slavery society, persevered – so much so that the black community in Greenwood, Tulsa in the state of Oklahoma would set a national precedent with its Black Wall Street.
According to Wikipedia, “During the oil boom of the 1910s, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood, which came to be known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street") The area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them multimillionaires. Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Riot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwood,_Tulsa,_Oklahoma#.22The_Black_Wall_Street.22).”
By 1921, approximately 3,200 klan members descended on Tulsa and literally burned it to the ground. Nonetheless, despite the bitter environment – blacks seemingly had a better sense of self.
Fastfoward past the Harlem Renaissance, past the Civil Rights Movement, past the 70s and 80s where heroin and cocaine and crack cocaine was pumped into black communities across America and where the over-incarceration of African American men is at world-record proportions – fastforward to 2012 in the – get this – era of the first black president …. and what you will find is a discombobulated black community where the church is less a part of the community than ever before - where black politicians are as misguided as ever before in the history of blacks in America – where entertainers are the mouthpiece for social consciousness – and where black people are economically, politically, and socially at the bottom of the food chain.
Yep! It’s 2012 and, just as W.E. B. DuBois noted in the early 1900s that race would be the key issue of the 20th century – it still holds true today; well, race and class.
According to wikipedia, structural racism involved "the differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society. When the differential access becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, and public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers. Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator. When racism is built into the institution, it appears as the collective action of the population.”
Bottomline, there is no wonder why something as simple as "the box" on an employment application regarding any felony convictions can be as lethal as a lynching. Unfortunately, a lot of white people will never understand why this is so ugly, so dehumanizing - for both the black drop-out ex-offender as well as the person who denies employment based on otherwise ludicrous assertions such as ex-offenders don't deserve jobs, second chances, or the like. I heavily allude to ex-offenders because a key black American issue is the over-incarceration of black men. Black men comprise the largest population of prisoners in the world's most incarcerating nation.
A classic example of institutional or structural racism – depending on how deep you want to go – is the handling of the Trayvon Martin case. Thanks to the internet age of instant media, the entire state of Florida was under the microscope for the entire world to see and be reminded of the state of race relations in Florida, an original nest of the Ku Klux Klan, an entity built to instill fear, to lower the self-esteem of a people who had become multimillionaires in not just Tulsa, but also Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia and Parrish Street in Durham, North Carolina.
And that’s exactly what we’ve found. As we were charged to pull back the covers on structural racism in America, we have found a broken people, a hopeless people, a stressed people try to find their God-given place in society.
As W.E.B. DuBois wrote in “Souls of Black Folk”, “One ever feels his twoness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
On one hand, a black person has to be able to adapt and assimilate to a certain extent in order to navigate corporate America; on the other hand, that same married, college-educated African American homeowner with an active Voter’s Card has cousins who are not working in a craft or profession, are renting, are having multiple babies out of wedlock, do not vote, and are more likely to have a criminal record.
So, as much as an African American may be striving for upward mobility, the overall status of the majority population is so riddled with a cornucopia of socio-economic ills that there is no wonder why African Americans do not have a better quality of life in America. Couple the inner-racial challenges with the slippery slope of structural racism in America which seemingly makes even the simplest of tasks difficult – and you have the state of black America: ‘mad, sad, ain’t glad, been had, broke, busted, disgusted and can’t be trusted.’ ‘Hustlin’ to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.’ ‘Times so hard people can’t even pay attention.’
Again, Manny Price provides great insight on the state of mind of black America right now: “For one, we, as a people, spend too much time apologizing for helping our own people. Number two, we get selfish – not saying this is necessarily bad – in and of itself. Black people are under so much pressure by their own families. After centuries of oppression, there is still this expectation that we have to show white people we’re better human beings.”
He calls this “social atrophy” – a complete waste of energy. He said that sadly, just like broader American society, blacks may have to hit rock bottom in order to fix our dilemma.
“As a group of people” – he stated – “in terms of self-reliance? Yes, we are worse off! Black people used to lead, and have the desire to succeed.”
Unfortunately, he said, we misunderstood integration for acceptance. We thought that because we moved from West Baltimore to Randallstown, we no longer have to fight like we did in the 60s and 70s. We think we have arrived, in many instances.
Price said, “Under the guise of integration, we’re trying to be a part of the material world so much that we forgot the core values that got us this far – like integrity, honesty, and social justice.”
He said that one thing necessary immediately is for blacks who are in position to stop apologizing for helping their own people. He said, “No other race does that. We really need to stop it because it is demoralizing.”
To that I say, … and we wonder why the kids are so confused. They are out of order because the adults are out of order. Everyone is out for ‘self’ such that we no longer have NAACP Meetings or community meetings at the church like during the days of the Goon Squad when Baltimore was a national leader in the movement for black progress.
‘Brain drain’ of our best and brightest to suburbia has left historic parts of East and West Baltimore high and dry – quite possibly never to be the same again.
And with an estimated trillion dollars in annual disposable income in black America, one would think that black progress would be stronger than ever – again, especially in the era of the first black president. One would think …
Price said, “We are out of social order. We may have to hit rock bottom. We can’t grow forever, and we can’t fail forever. God has a way of equalizing things out. There are periods of drought, periods of abundance – it’s just nature’s way. I tell you what, though: if we don’t get back to our core values – values that we carried with us even during slavery, we’re going to be in a world of trouble. We have to get back to cherishing family. Only thing is … I don’t know how long it will take.”
What do you think?
1 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
This is so very true and once we can realize that it takes unity to get positive results, the better off we may be with making progress and coming together to rebuild, re-install, and re-educate our communities back to health.