America’s Birthday Is A Yawner
Excuse me while I yawn through another celebration of America’s birthday of a country born of freedom and justice, two concepts that are not shared by many people in the African American community. It’s kind of hard to celebrate freedom and justice when people who are sensitive to the plight of people in the black community have to see the injustice of America. In the past year Sean Bell’s murderers have been acquitted of any wrong doing when they shot up a man on his wedding day. The murderers of Martin Anderson were also acquitted for activating his latent sickle cell trait with a baton across his neck and an ammonia tablet stuffed up his nose. The same government that tells the poor to pull themselves up by their boot strap will move with lightning speed to save Bear Sterns from collapsing. The Supreme Court decides that people do not have the right to sue drug companies if the FDA approves the drugs. It’s been a banner year for justice and freedom.
It should be no surprise to anyone that I celebrate America’s birthday with a grain of salt. The way things are going it’s all I can afford to waste these days. The price of gas is up. The price of food is up. The price of everything is up with the exception of sport utility vehicles and houses. But with the squeeze on credit and with well over four hundred thousand jobs lost so far this year, jobs that won’t be coming back no matter how well the economy recovers, fewer people can afford to buy a house anyway. The economy looks bad and the economy for people in the black community, the economy looks even worse. So I really don’t have a lot to celebrate today. I have to say that I am hopeful for a brighter future. But things look pretty bleak at the moment.
Barack Obama and John McCain promise to change things and buck the system. But the more they talk the more people should realize the more they sound the same. There’s the promise of lower taxes, an end to war, more education, and more prosperity. The politicians say they understand what I’m going through. I found this funny because John McCain admitted he hasn’t pumped or paid for gas since premium was called ethyl and Barack Obama tells black people that black men should show some responsibilities and step up to the plate on Father’s Day following the age old hypocrisy of judging the entire black community based on the negative behavior of a relatively small minority. Neither one gives me any confidence that they understand my situation at all.
I don’t expect many people from the racially generic dominant community that is predominantly white to understand my situation. Most white people who have taken the time to read my articles and write a response will reply with hatred and some of the most insensitive comments. It’s all one America. But the America that people like Cindy McCain, with her nine figures of inherited wealth, has always been most proud of takes on a totally different perspective when the wealth isn’t quite as vast and the challenges are a lot more challenging.
We have a history of celebrating young blacks who are able to overcome the challenges of life in the black community. Why? Because we know that this country does extraordinarily little to help people in the black community overcome the conditions of racial disparity that the dominant community imposed on the black community ever since white people stole our ancestors from their homes back on the continent. We see the rare example of the truly successful black person who uses his or her natural talent and intellect and a little bit of luck to overcome circumstances that discourages many black people.
Some folks like to wash their hands of the conditions of the black community. Nobody alive owned slaves and nobody alive was a slave at the peak of America’s institutionalized slavery. Nobody is blatantly telling black people that they can’t go to school or that they can’t work anywhere they want. We can’t do anything to discourage people from being racist when they exercise covert racism. We don’t owe the black community anything.
But on the flip side, we didn’t have to invade Iraq to keep the Iraqi people free. We didn’t have to help the Taliban refine their fighting skills when Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. We don’t have to support Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab community and the Middle East. We didn’t have to invade Vietnam. We didn’t have to invade Korea. We didn’t have to help institute a Marshal Plan to help rebuild Europe after the devastation of World War II. We didn’t have to airlift food to the people in Berlin when the communist iron curtain fell. We didn’t have to help the Allied forces invade France on D-Day. We didn’t have to impose sanctions on Cuba for retaking control of their country. We didn’t have to bomb Kosovo or stop Slobodan Milosevic from slaughtering Albanians. We didn’t have to do a lot of things that we choose to do as a compassionate country concerned with whatever is going on with humanity throughout the world.
It is only when we talk about doing something for black people that we start to throw our hands up in the air in frustration and bemoan the fact that we don’t have a responsibility to correct anything that might be wrong. We can step up to the plate and go far beyond our responsibility for nearly anything that impacts people. We just don’t have to do anything to help black people. We don’t even step up to the plate to help black people get on their feet after a hurricane in our own backyard. And this is the country I want to celebrate?
Just because some of us black people may be doing well individually doesn’t mean that America couldn’t do more to help the entire black community. It might be true that we are doing better than a lot of black people in the rest of the world. But we are not living in the rest of the world. We are living here in America with other Americans. Other countries aren’t responsible or able to do anything to alleviate the disparity black people live with. America is responsible and is quite capable.
Maybe things will be better in the future. Maybe by the time America’s three hundredth anniversary comes around we will finally have a social system that truly respects and appreciates racial and cultural diversity and doesn’t penalize people for being outside a finite definition of what is culturally acceptable. Maybe by then we will learn that as a nationwide community we all need to be more compassionate for each other. Maybe by America’s three hundredth birthday we will all be considerably proud of America. And if we do find someone who isn’t as prideful as the rest of us to be here we will ask what we can do to improve our community instead of showing the animosity and the disdain for others that has become the norm for the way America treats the black community.