During a recent conversation with a dear friend, it came to light that some people have concluded that the black race in America is hopeless. Given the complexities of the plight of the African in America, a journey that goes back some 500 years, I can certainly understand the plethora of reasons one might come to such a conclusion.
A Black History Month 2011 Message
By Doni Morton Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(BALTIMORE – February 6, 2011) – During a recent conversation with a dear friend, it came to light that some people have concluded that the black race in America is hopeless. Given the complexities of the plight of the African in America, a journey that goes back some 500 years, I can certainly understand the plethora of reasons one might come to such a conclusion.
African American men, for instance, comprise some 44% of America’s prison population in what is the most incarcerating nation on earth. When black people comprise but 20% of America’s population, I certainly “get it” why some – black and white – would surmise that all hope is gone for the people of the darker hue. Actually, as a black man – I really don’t understand why such a glaring statistic isn’t deemed a crime against humanity. Here, this country is poking its nose in everybody’s business telling them how to run their country, yet the truth of the matter is that “charity starts at home.”
From the standpoint of the whole prison industrial complex argument, it’s all about recidivism – especially for those who profit from the adjudication of black men. Out of prison, back on the streets, no education, no job, failed urinalysis, and felony conviction equals 15-20% unemployment in the ‘hood. And that’s for the ones who make it home.
And this becomes exacerbated even more if you live in a city like Baltimore that tends to put more emphasis on police and prisons than on public education in the state with the best educational system in the country. Yeah! Maryland is number one. However of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, it’s fascinating how the two worse districts in the state are Baltimore City and Prince George’s County – the two majority black jurisdictions in the state – with Prince George’s County being known as the wealthiest black county in the country. Go figure!
Meanwhile, there is a child. There are children. Over the years, a barrage of police dogs and fire hoses mixed with heroin, bad wars like Viet Nam and Iran-Contra-crack, “dippers”, and Iraq – let alone the institutional limits of corporate America that ever reminds one of his blackness have led black fathers and black mothers to do the absolute best for black children but with miserable progress. As a result, there are many scars. There are many fractured if not broken families. There are many relationships that have failed and fallen by the way side – and even some that will never happen because so many black people are walking around pained up by a plethora of socio-economic situations, histories, and consequences that nothing short of a miracle can even begin the healing process.
And there is much healing to do. After all, street violence in cities like Baltimore, LA, St. Louis, DC, Detroit, and Camden have led to countless funerals for young black men who died unnecessarily because someone chose to act the fool. Some man child from one of these fractured families – stereotypically with no daddy and who has absolutely no clue whatsoever about manhood except what was learned on the corner – has decided to prove his manhood by taking the life of another young black man over a girl, a look, or a drug corner.
And then there is the other black America who lives beyond the beltway. They have roots in the ‘hood, but they have made it to the next tier of the American totem pole of class. They tend to drive the better cars and live in suburban homes with lawns and are a tad bit removed from the plight of Jamal and Kisha around the way.
Their concerns are more materialistic because, after all, a higher lifestyle has to be funded.
Unfortunately, these degreed people are often swayed to think they have made it and that corporate America somehow accepts them. It’s as if being accepted by corporate America is a badge of honor. In my best estimation, this is where I ponder how black people fresh out of slavery seemed to have more common sense than black people today. With all of our swank cars, 6-figure incomes, and gorgeous dwellings – we are closing black colleges.
Mind you, there is plenty of blame to go around. For one, the parents who made it beyond the beltway often forget to teach their children a little something about black history – including the sacrifices of people who died, sweat and bled for us to have the fruits we do enjoy day - hands down - end of story. Consequently, many of these offspring are spoiled and totally out of touch with the real world. Black politicians – in general – have dirty hands, too. Because they get so many campaign dollars from outside of the community they supposedly represent – they dance to the other man’s drum. And so, the black agenda – such as the one we push at BMORENEWS (black business, public education, ex-offender services, affordable housing, and universal access to health care) gets pushed down on the list of priorities. In the end, these legislators find themselves advocating for another man’s agenda.
Recently, I heard a black politician who wants to fight childhood obesity. My thought, legislate “gym class” back on the books. Childhood obesity would go straight out the window!
But it’s not just the politician. A lot of times, the preachers' hands are dirty as well. They sell the people “Jesus” in a nice suit, but often fail to use their platform to address the social conditions of the people. Quite often, the preacher man is more interested in raising money for a bigger church and a nicer car than in saving souls. Sure, the church costs money to operate, but the chicanery in the black church reaches monumental of not cataclysmic proportions. We no longer come from behind the four walls and onto the streets – like Historic Pennsylvania Avenue – where needed most. As it relates to politicians, these same preachers – because of promises of a bigger church – will lease their pulpit on a Sunday morning to a politician who is seeking re-election.
Black business professionals have a hand in this, too. Many times, when we do penetrate the glass ceiling, it means changing our friends, our circles, and our values. The next thing you know, you’ve made it. The question becomes can you do anything for those you used to know. Sometimes, it becomes … “I’ve got mine. You’ve got yours to get.”
Sadly, I see this a lot. I see black people who have some semblance of American success but who are totally ignorant to the efforts of people like Dr. Carter G. Woodson who tried to bring some fashion of intelligence and dignity to the black race. Dr. Woodson wanted us to know our true power as a people – and use it.
Thus, it is plain to see why people – inside and outside of the community – have deduced that the plight of black America is hopeless. Clearly, black America is in dire need of true leadership. Clearly, sell-outs have sold black people down the river just as Wall Street has sold America down the river. Today, rappers are quickly the moral conscious for black people while our daughters fancy being a “diva” over being a doctor or a lawyer. And, despite common sense, many black people – in the words of Tavis Smiley – buy things "we cannot afford with money we do not have to impress people we don’t even like". Hence, the mortgage lending crisis – although predator in nature – was due, in-part, because many black people were making foolish decisions, like getting a second mortgage to buy a new car versus a private school tuition.
Despite all of the gloom, however, there is always hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. And as long as there decent people around – the truth will get out. In lieu of many a dark cloud, time … and work … can bring healing.
I am reminded of one of the most empowering passages in the Bible: “If my people, who are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways – then would I hear from heaven. Then would I heal the land.”
Truth be told, black people have endured a mountain of pain and a world of obstacles. And every single time a ball of fire is hurled at our community, we fall back and ban together - like during the blizzard of 2010. Some way, some how – I pray that decent people are resurrected who will no longer tolerate the abuse of power by those who are supposed to lead. I pray that decent people – black, white and otherwise – will take a good look at all of the prisons in East Baltimore and realize that maybe we ought to invest in better schools in Baltimore and Prince George’s County instead of trying to arrest our way out of the situation. I pray that black leaders will find it more pleasing to have favor with the black community who put them in power – like Maynard Jackson, like Marion Barry, like Parren J. Mitchell – than to find favor with the governor. I pray that little black boys and little black girls can grow up and not fear getting assaulted going to school or bullied into joining a gang and get through life without having to need a gun.
I do believe that irrespective of the litany of challenges and issues that we face in the community, the real leaders in the community will put their egos to the side and “come and reason together.” We, as a people, are more than “beggars sitting on bags of gold.” And despite the individualistic nature of America, there is still that something in us to begs us to the circle. And therein … the healing begins and a new day is born. And every new day is another opportunity to get it right!
In closing, the proof is in the pudding. Despite the forces of darkness that seemingly prevail in this world, there are still good and decent people who toil arduously daily to speak truth to power and to walk in the light. I am forever encouraged. When I can go to the White House as a journalist and see with my own eyes a black man speaking to the free world, I am forever encouraged. When I can go to Philadelphia and see my good friend Norm Bond working with the African American Chamber of Commerce there and promoting a "REVERSE 90" program intended to better support black businesses with black dollars, I am encouraged. When I go to Wilmington and meet a Chandra Pitts and see the wonderful work being done to improve the educational experience and thrust forth the notion of academic excellence among black and brown children, I am encouraged. When I see Ron Busby of the US Black Chamber of Commerce meeting with presidents of black chambers from around the country, I am encouraged. And when I see people like Omar Muhammad and Eric Stewart working to help empower businesses, including the many black women entrepreneurs in the DMV, I am encouraged and just tend to believe that like cream, black people will continue to rise to the top.
Whether it's science, math, astronomy, astrophysics, law, medicine or the arts - black people some way and somehow will find a way up ... and out - especially given the many good people left in this world! Happy Black History month, and may you find the time to share the successes and overcome of the black experience in America with a child today!