One thing can be said about the United States, there’s never a dull moment on the home front. For the last several weeks the country has been drenched in a tropical monsoon of racial issues. In late April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law that bans affirmative action in public programs such as university admission. Shortly thereafter, Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher who made headlines for being in a twenty (20) year legal dispute between he and the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over unpaid grazing fees, wondered aloud about “the Negro” and whether people of color would be “better off as slaves, picking cotton.” And now the coup de grace, Donald Sterling, current owner of the Los Clippers, recorded comments about his distaste for African Americans, which lead to his band from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the eventual forfeiture of his franchise. And with all of this, the court of public opinion has been holding trial on various media outlets, spinning stories to receive a reaction. A mob has formed, pitchforks and torches, ready to pounce on anyone who permeates a view dissimilar to theirs. Amongst the rubble and ashes of this destruction, the oppressed have submitted articles and blogs for public consumption questioning the wants and desires of a race that has been tormented for almost 500 years. An article posted on kaperville.com, “Are Black Americans Stupid?” Another written on gawker.com titled, “Black People Are Cowards”. And the rebuttal to that article posted on forharriet.com, “Who’s the Coward?: The Flawed Logic of Faux Revolutionaries. Your Lectures Will Not Save Us.” All present compelling arguments as to the state of Black cultures and the direction for which we should be traveling for the future. After reading, listening, absorbing and examining the landscape, my questions are, are we to blame for our current state of being? Are we desensitized to racism because we practice it so much amongst ourselves? I ask these questions in all seriousness because there appears to be no solutions on the horizon.
So I’m sure you’re wondering, with an article so serious, why is the article named after the Flintstones’ television character Schleprock. Like most things, people like to blame their misfortune, ill-will and bad luck on a series of incidents beyond their control. If you remember the character’s catchphrase, “Wowzy, wowzy, woo, woo!” A sort of woe is me; look at my plight and situation and feel sorry for me. The confusing thing about the aforementioned articles is there’s no middle ground; you’re either righteous or revolutionary. There’s no in between. So for every slave that fought the overseer for their freedom; flesh torn from bone by the lashes of the whip for being disobedient, there’s another unwilling to challenge his master as he approaches their cabin nightly to enjoy the spoils of his spouse. That’s called survival. For every person that marched, were sprayed with water hoses, jailed and beaten; there’s more that for the safety of their families and to earn an income chose to endure the ridicule and shame for the sake maintaining the family structure. For every pro there’s its con. Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and countless others; how do we preserve their legacies when we have such distain for ourselves.
So the Willie Lynch Letter, whether truth or a fabrication, remains in effect. Amongst people of color, when people hold you back and don’t want to see you progress beyond them, it’s called the “Crab in the bucket” syndrome. I prefer to reference the Five Monkey Experiment when dealing in these instances. So if you’re unfamiliar with it, and I know it’ll take far too much of your time to research it, here it is:
A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on the top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others beat up the one on the ladder. After some time, no monkey dared to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation. Scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The 1st thing this new monkey did was to go up the ladder. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up. After several beatings, the new member learned not to climb the ladder even though he never knew why. A 2nd monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The 1st monkey participated on the beating for the 2nd monkey. A 3rd monkey was changed and the same was repeated (beating). The 4th was substituted and the beating was repeated and finally the 5th monkey was replaced. What was left was a group of 5 monkeys that even though never received a cold shower, continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder. If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder … I bet you the answer would be … “I don’t know — that’s how things are done around here” Does it sound familiar?
Now taking that illustration into account, isn’t it relatable to our situation in 2014? Don’t run to your keyboard, sprint to your telecommunication device and start pulling out the thesaurus just yet! Hear me out! I won’t go into the television, music, imagery, etc., because that’s an exercise futility. In recent weeks we celebrated Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). If you saw the movie, read the books or seen the documentaries, think of all he had to endure to accomplish that feat to open the door for others to follow. However, as of this date, there are only 67 players of color (African-Americans) on big league rosters. Who’re we going to blame for lack of participation when the opportunities are there for us to play the game now without hindrance? As mentioned in one of the articles, lectures can’t save us. There’s no need to go over a checklist of our situation, because we’ve each been living it daily for generations. Blacks have been surpassed as the lead minority and are falling further behind in all categories regarding education, wealth and sustainable income. So when do we start saving ourselves? When do we start using the resources available us to better our lives? When do we stop looking at ourselves as the enemy and come together on one accord for a common goal? Why don’t rich Black churches build charter schools in the Black community; or hire men or women? The Black Church is a billion dollar industry, so how can there be so many churches yet so little employment and an abysmal education system in the Black community? When do we stop being dependent on a system that isn’t designed for us to succeed? Why aren’t we encouraging more individuals to attend empowerment seminars and workshops lead by their peers? Why aren’t we supporting Black owned businesses? “Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and White communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the Black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to Black owned businesses.” Regardless of your stance; passive righteousness or radical revolutionary, we must start holding each other accountable and stop blaming our ills on others. We’re outraged that a known bigot in Sterling comes out expressing his contempt for people of color, yet we don’t bat an eye when two (2) young girls in Chicago get into a violent altercation over a young man on social media.
In an act of protest, Tommie Smith & John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, upon hearing The Star-Spangled Banner, each raised a black-gloved fist and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. The event is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern games. The iconic picture still stirs memories of America’s troubled past. Initially, all Black American athletes were asked to join together and boycott the games. The suggestion came from a young sociologist friend by the name of Harry Edwards who hoped it would bring attention to the fact that America’s civil rights movement had not gone far enough to eliminate the injustices Black Americans were facing. “Edwards’ group, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), gained support from several world-class athletes and civil rights leaders but the all-out boycott never materialized. Smith later told the media that he raised his right, black-glove-covered fist in the air to represent black power in America while Carlos’ left, black-covered fist represented unity in black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. The black scarf around Smith’s neck stood for Black pride and their black socks (and no shoes) represented Black poverty in racist America. While the protest seems relatively tame by today’s standards, the actions of Smith and Carlos were met with such outrage that they were suspended from their national team and banned from the Olympic Village, the athletes’ home during the games.” Could a protest by the Los Angeles Clippers players, boycotting Game 4 of the NBA playoffs on Sunday, April 27, 2014 would’ve been equivalent and held in iconic status if it had taken place? Perhaps! Were people satisfied with the display of solidarity by those same players wearing their jerseys inside out not to display the name of the franchise (also done by the Miami Heat)? Not entirely! Will there ever be total agreement as to what the Black agenda is and what’s the best direction for the future? No! However, no matter your stance (righteousness or revolutionary), it’s always, always about the principle! Even if you’re an army of one, stand up for what’s right. “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)
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