Are a Problem People
By Tommy Ates
year's Black History Month has taken second fiddle (and understandably
so) to the nation's war on terrorism. That being said, there
are many issues that deserve discussion: the state of our
urban communities, the demise of our rural roots, a needed
overhaul of our public education system, and fostering new
leadership that will carry black America into the future.
First, we must deal with one issue of truth.
We are a problem people. Yes, we are the problem people.
You knew it even before I said it. There is no joy in assessing
where we're coming from, when you must do it to know where
you are going. As in the Robert Frost poem, we must review
"The Road Not Taken."
For us, history has been not kind, nor nice, nor very forgiving.
We are still paying for the sins of others, the greed of the
Southern industrial complex that needed cheap labor, and the
avarice of wealthy landowners who slandered African-Americans
to justify their inhumanity.
Much worse have been the ravages of time. Young people today
do not remember Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. We don't
know (that like ourselves) they were works in progress, cut
down before they even reached the zenith of their potential.
And now the modern media treats Martin like a saint and Malcolm,
a muted extremist. Our parents do not tell us that (while
they were alive) they were not exactly beloved by the public;
in fact the government had dossiers to assess their 'threat
to the government.' Likewise with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton,
only in death will our black heroes get respect, save Colin
Powell (and he has Republican approval).
But in the media and the classroom, do we really look at
our black heroes? Increasingly news media and scholastic academics
(except for black history courses) are giving notable African-Americans
short shrift in favor of the all-inclusive multicultural history,
which tries to highlight the contributions of all cultures,
but delve into none (except CNN and Time magazine). Federal
cuts in education and continued suburban white flight undermine
this effort. The tools of multiculturalism are also hard to
come by, as textbook retailers struggle to come up with materials
that are reflective of growing influence of minorities.
Yes, it is a start at a new beginning, a 're-education.'
But let's not kid ourselves; African-American culture is still
defined by our glamorized failures, especially in corporate
youth culture. We are the only people where failure is a virtue.
White America rewards us when we denigrate ourselves with
the 'n' word, create a new genre of movies with "Boyz 'N The
Hood," or get into people's faces with an attitude. In contrast,
our good tendencies are tied climbing the business ladder
or being a sports star; but neither one of these views show
who we really are. So, what do we mean when say "learn your
Do we tell America only about the civil rights movement,
or do we tell them about the ghosts? The dead and their remains,
whose spirits have buried themselves in the psyche of our
minds, telling us never to forget. Remember, it is not a burden
to feel pain, rather a 'connected blessing.' We can still
honor our forgotten ancestors as if we knew their names, though
we really didn't know them at all. Their tears give us strength
to take the abuse of diminished expectations and still make
the day 'a good day.'
So there you have it, the secret to our special energy, our
jiggaboo slang, our dance moves, our heart and soul, our strength.
We need to truly celebrate black history because (in a world
filled with lies and half-truths) too much truth can be a
dangerous thing. Just ask Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey,
Malcolm X, ask the 435 black men lynched between 1882 and
1930. Standing up means paying a price, but as AIDS activists
have illustrated "silence = death." And you wonder why so
many of us are down and out.
We are a problem people.
We were; we are; we're going to be and it's not going to
change. And yes, we have learned to "deal with it"
and we are proud. We are at the crossroads between oblivion
and the afterlife. We are the living reminder of what was
lost; and our children the joy of sorrow's end. We deal with
our situation, as we have with each and every challenge, with
our heads up high and our motto:
"You live." (Notice no handouts.)
Celebrate your black history, all the time.
Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right!
He wants to help the underdog become the Top Dog.