TIME FOR CHANGE
Today is January 31, 2021, the eve of Black History Month. As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I began to reflect on my seventy years in 2020. As usual on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, at quite a few (if not all) celebrations they concluded with the singing of “We shall Overcome.” But looking back over my life experience in the United States, particularly in 2020, we have not overcome anything but regressed.
Granted we have seen the election of the first Black president, and now the election of the first female black vice president. But neither event has improved the overall standing of Black people in America. Black people continue to make up the majority of underpaid, unemployed, and underemployed in America. We own the least amount of anything in America of value specifically land, businesses, and other economic resources.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a curse to all of America, Black people appear its greatest victims. Because of lack of access to good healthcare (systemic or otherwise), we suffer most deaths, loss of jobs, and lack of other economic opportunities. While it has been disastrous to other minorities as well, we are impacted the most. Although our Black youth still strive toward higher education, and entrepreneurial opportunities we still trail our white counterparts in this category as well. Black businesses (as well as other small and medium businesses) continue to fail due to the wild pendulum swings of our economy in recent years.
Yet here we are after an election drawn out by misleading conspiracies about voter fraud and cheating by the Democratic party and its presidential candidate, and a televised attempt to overthrow the electoral college and the government. Now various state legislatures, which are Republican controlled, are moving to enact voter id laws, which would cripple the democratic process and guarantee a Republican return to power. It is interesting to note that during the claims of Democratic cheating that the opposition party’s solution would have amounted to large-scale voter suppression that even their appointed judges including the United States Supreme Court (with three Republican appointees) refused to allow. These attempts were attempted by the experts in gerrymandering and voter suppression. My grandmother used to say cheaters never prosper.
However, we can focus on politics at another time, as I started out this is the eve of Black History Until we return to taking it seriously, how can we expect others to do so. I get it that most things that were celebrated as Black have become multicultural or diverse diluting those efforts to promote us. However, I would like to suggest three things that we can start to do and make ongoing that may help.
First, come together as a people to change our neighborhoods into self-sustaining communities. While I would like to take credit for this thought, I am not that smart. It comes from Dr. Claud Anderson. If we create and support businesses within our neighborhoods, we could create communities where the dollar would circulate more than once thus creating black wealth and economic resources. Therefore, more of those sixteen trillion dollars that we input into the American economy would help us to become in time financially stable and independent.
Second, although I am a Black Christian, why is it that we allow whatever organizations, spirituality (religions), or party affiliation to divide us. Even more, we compete when cooperation would benefit us more in the short and long run. We are the most divided people in this country and need to work on common ground to move from the last place in America to back to where were prior to integration. Let us also learn to acknowledge each other, speak to one another, and treat ourselves with the respect we so richly deserve. Black Lives should matter to us more than anyone else. Whether the statistics are overblown, we are still our own worse enemy and we must protect the lives of our own women and youth. The former perpetuates our race, and the latter is our foundation.
Finally, let us deal with the reality of the current United States of America. Do not believe that what is taking place in America since the election, and particularly on January 6th was an anomaly. The real America has leaped out of the closet and feels empowered to do and say what they, please. It is almost ironic that a country that began through protests is against the non-violent protest. But that is part of the hypocrisy and privilege of our counterparts. Protest is good if they are the ones to do so. Funny, the first man to die in America during a protest was a Black free man named Crispus Attucks.
Dr. King, prior to his assassination said in one of his most famous speeches. “He had been to the mountaintop.” Since that time, we are still in the valley looking up the rough side of that mountain. I live for the moment, prayerfully in my lifetime, when we stop singing “We shall Overcome,” and can sing “How I got over.”