Op/Ed: Black History Is Human History
(BALTIMORE - February 29, 2008) - I am a features writer for a The Baltimore Times Small and Minority Business Magazine, and I have been attending a lot of functions and conducting several interviews this month. It's been an exhausting but interesting process, observing the small and minority business community here in Baltimore. They talk about building relationships, finding your niche market, having a good team, location, location, location, knowing your target market, etc. They talk about the state of small and minority business, its ups and downs, also within the context of the majority business community and the American economy.
One overriding theme that struck me, however, is the continuing disparity between economic classes amongst minorities, and more importantly, the lack of outreach and mentoring the business community engages with those who are less fortunate and disenfranchised. I spoke at a couple of functions, and stressed on them the need for such activities in the schools and in the communities, to which I received some blank stares, from which I became baffled.
How do we as a collective people, a community expect to prosper if we are not helping each other? What sense does that make to become highly successful in your field by yourself? Wouldn't it be more satisfying and beneficial to all of us if you brought people along with you? It is repugnant to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but many of us do. Shame on us. We didn't become successful by ourselves. We had help in many aspects of our lives, from those who cooked, cleaned, washed and nursed us, to those who guided us through our scholastic endeavors, to those who have mentored us in our careers.
I think it is disingenuous for folks who have 'arrived', who are well-to-do, to disparage young men who have their pants hanging below their behinds, young women who have tight fitting outfits, and with all the resources they have to improve their lives, do nothing. It is easy to walk by and cast dispersions, but how about mentoring these young people so they can feel confident within themselves and work toward the same success? We have to stop using pronouns "they" and "them" and start using "we" and "us". Using pronouns of separation will never bring us together. It will only serve to continue the reactions of resentment between communities.
This is the last day of Black History Month. There has been an abundance of celebrations, functions, awards, infomercials, and television programs dedicated to Black History and its figures. It is important to remember our ancestors, our history and where we are in this present day. We also need to remember that we are an integral part of human history, and if we are going to become all that we are to be, then we look at our own people as a collective people, not as individuals.
Otherwise every February we will be, like James Brown said, 'talkin' loud and saying nothing'.
Ultimately, in this month of Black History, we need to remember that our history is human history. We are interwoven in the history of how we as human beings have treated each other. I believe if we looked at ourselves through a sobering lens, we would see that we have not done well at all. There is no reason we who call ourselves a spiritual people, tolerate and accept the kind of suffering that exists amongst us. There is no excuse for the homelessness, lack of health care, lack of affordable housing and exemplary education for our youth as well as recreational facilities, the way in which we treat our elderly and physically and mentally ill. Every month, regardless if it is Black History, Women's History, Hispanic History, Asian History, we need to relentlessly self-critique where we are, and come up with action item lists as to what we are going to do about it, instead of symbolic rhetoric that only fills the pockets of celebrity speakers.