No Longer United
The American Civil Rights Era was probably the black community’s finest hour. Generally speaking, without much more than basic educations and modest employments the black community was able to affect great changes to the American landscape. Starting with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama sparked by the refusal by Rosa Parks to cooperate with orders to relinquish her seat to a white man back in December of 1955 to the fatal gunshots that took down Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X, black people became a near unstoppable force of change for racial equality. That was forty years ago. That was a lifetime ago with a totally different people with totally different goals.
Today, there are far more professional black people than there was during the peak of the fight for civil rights. There are far more educated black people and more black people have good paying jobs and very rewarding careers. A black man will soon be the President of the United States. And yet, the power and force of the black community of today is a mere shadow of the black community of change made up of our elders and ancestors. While the black people of the past worked together, black people of today are more concerned with personal gain and personal safety. A black person speaking out about the racial disparity that persists in our culture will be abandoned by the more financially successful members of the black community and railroaded into obscurity by a dominant culture intent on keeping the racial status quo.
Black people back in the day would not hesitate to put their personal safety and, to a certain extent, the safety of their entire family at risk for the greater cause. We’ve all seen the pictures of black men and women and children being subjected to full force water hoses, attacked by dogs, spat on, humiliated, arrested, and, ultimately, lynched and murdered as they fought and pulled together for the greater good of the black community’s future. For the most part, the greater part of the black community moved as a single unit with a single purpose of demonstrating that we want to be recognized and respected as equals.
Many white people worked as a unit as well. White people were a well oiled machine of violence and intimidation to the peaceful protest of black people. The same white people that would tell black people to get an education would protest black people going to school. White people who would tell black people to get a job would protest when black people showed up at the work place. And white people had the upper hand. They controlled the law, they controlled the courts, they controlled the police, they controlled the money, they controlled the schools, they controlled every level of government, they controlled the dogs, and they controlled every aspect of life. White people had a huge arsenal of tools at their disposal. And yet, black people with little more than steely determination remained undaunted to the task at hand.
It wasn’t an overwhelming number of educated black people that broke the segregationist policies of the Montgomery Bus Company. It wasn’t some high profile black politician. It was black people, the educated and uneducated, standing unified against oppression that turned things around. If the resolve of black people showed any major cracks the movement would have probably fallen flat. It would have been easy for black people to say that they didn’t want to inconvenience themselves. Just like we do now people back then had to get to work. And unlike we do now a lot of black people didn’t have personal transportation so it was either the bus or walk. A lot of black people did a lot of walking back then. But they did it knowing what was at stake.
Today, the collective determination of the black community is nonexistent. Black people who advocate ideas, policies, methodologies, rhetoric, and propaganda that run contrary to black unity are regularly heralded as prime examples of independent black thinking and role models by the dominant community. People would rather sit back and wait for others to come up with “the plan” for the black community rather than come to the table to with ideas and offers for a plan.
And too often black people who were fortunate enough to become successful are all too willing to do their part to disassemble the very programs that have led to their success. A black Supreme Court justice doesn’t feel very successful because he took advantage of affirmative action programs in establishing his career. Instead of leaving the programs intact and helping other black people by sharing his experience, he would rather simply disembowel the program and remove any opportunity to help other black people. A black member of an academic governing board wants to use his position to make any system that tries to assure racial diversity in an academic setting a footnote in America’s history books because black people don’t need because no one would ever do anything to keep black people from progressing.
These are the type of black people the dominant community wants to see succeed in America. Not the type of black person that might do something radical like work to help other black people. More than likely the type of black person that is going to be the model of success in America is the type of black person that will help protect the status quo. The message to other blacks is that if you want to succeed, quit trying to affiliate with your ethnicity. Instead of black people stepping to the plate to boycott any institution that contributes to our perpetual subjugation, we simply try to get ours.
The generation that preceded us did a great many things with their meager resources. It didn’t matter if they didn’t have a pot to piss in because as long as they had a breath they worked to change the system. The black leadership back in the day wasn’t concerned with personal gain. They lived as simply as the next person. Today, black leaders live in mansions that would do Egypt’s mightiest pharaoh proud. It’s no longer about the welfare of the entire black community. Today it’s all about getting paid and living large. Today, black people are far more concerned about about making history instead of making the upliftment of the black community a priority. Our goals are no longer for the benefit of the entire community. We are no longer a unified people.