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Expecting and Accepting the Next Black History

For Black History Month: My personal story of our next Black History! Since 1998 I've been fortunate enough to work within our communities. I speak with a lot of folk from both sides of our American fence and have a pretty interesting perspective on "Us". In light of recent events, I thought I would just "put it out there".

About twenty years ago I was working my cushy corporate job when I got a phone call from my older brother’s job.  He hadn’t been to work for a few days and I was his point of contact.  He and I shared an apartment.  After work, I went home to find my apartment door wide open and some of my things missing.  I ended up talking to a couple of his friends that told me he was probably at an abandoned house a few blocks away.   Of course that made no sense but later that evening I found and entered that house only to find my “big” brother out of his mind and smoking crack with a bunch of other people.  It took a great deal of effort, but I got him out and back home.

The next day I planned to take my brother to a rehab facility. My head was still spinning from this new revelation, but I called my office, took a deep breath and with hesitation, explained the situation to my manager.  He was surprisingly very understanding and told me to take as much time as I needed.  Then he said something that stuck with me forever – “You have to realize these things are going to happen”.  It was as if he was only shocked that I didn’t expect my family to be smoking crack.

 Someone much smarter than me once said, “Our society replaces people and situations with words and then discusses the words”.  Once such word is “Racist” and its derivatives.  It has been tossed about so much that no one really knows what it means.  Is it racist to want to “help” a Chinese person who does not get off the Red Line train at China Town?  Or is it racist to offer a Black person a piece of delicately fried chicken? Probably not. 

Racist is a label typically used to describe a person that doesn’t like someone who is different. But I think that’s OK!  There are a lot of different people I don’t like and those that don’t like me, but I believe that is a basic right as humans.  What’s not ok are the expectation and acceptance that a person or people should be mistreated because of cultural differences.  These things don’t have to happen.

There’s a story (true, mind you) about a local politician in a small southern town that said he did not want to live in a neighborhood with Black people.  Some would call that racism. I call it social preference. That same politician made a Black family change their last name because it was the same as his. Let’s say his name was Johnson and he made them change to Jonas – and they did!  In my view they were both racists by their lowered expectations and acceptance in this situation.

A comment I hear a lot is “you’re not black” or “you’re as White as me” used to describe people that don’t fit the mold of the commercial down-trodden, inarticulate and ignorant African American.  Is an acceptable Black cultural only one that mirror White characteristics?  It shouldn’t be.  A better quote is “Black people are not dark-skinned white people,” by advertising visionary Tom Burrell.  When you get down to it, Black people are the descendants of slaves – not colored and uncolored.  We are those people that have moved beyond a very Black period in American History.  When we understand the depth of what that means, we may find Blacks are a special kind of people who have only yet to introduce the world to the power of their nascent culture.  But there are growing glimpses of the possibility.

Powerful Beyond Measure…..

I’ve always said that Michael Jordan, Oprah, Vivien Thomas, Garret Morgan and the like are not cultural anomalies but rather examples of what Blacks with opportunity can become. These people represent the tip of the spear that is the reality of our culture. That is, average Black people are great and quite normally great to a power beyond measure.  The reputation of the Black culture has been denigrated and diluted by generations of truncated opportunity. Collectively, we Americans have come to expect and accept the results of that socioeconomic chasm as the emerging Black brand - A brand that travels as well as Chevrolet or Dunkin Donuts.  Today Blacks are to violence and despair what Chevy is to cars – a recognized leader in respective categories. Unfortunately, people growing up after the creation of these brands believe this to be the only truths – they only know Chevy for cars, all donuts come from Dunkin and Blacks well, you know. But, since there are Oprahs and Jordans and entire industries that have been changed forever because of them, there must be other Blacks available to refresh and elevate our brand. The inner cultural belief that this can’t be possible, especially if not White, it at its core Racist.

The reality is that any culture, when placed in the same pressure cooker for an extended period of time would and will become the poster children for the brand of distress, violence and imprisonment.  If you haven’t been under the weight of these circumstances I suggest you give it a shot.  It’s refreshing for the first day then it’s depressing for the next 400 years.  We few, however know the product and understand that brands can and often must be changed.

Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer

I’m no unicorn, but I grew up when things WERE different and believe things can change again for the better.   I stuck it out with my brother and continue to support his struggle to be his better self.  Paramount to the continuation of our culture, we must (especially in light of recent events) stay involved with our communities but step up the game of economic development.  While we have made significant progress from the slave era, and it’s still very cool to no longer be slaves, the progress of our culture has slowed considerably.   Some of the backslide can be attributed to negative outside influences or even the adoption of mainstream methods that are actually detrimental to our own interests.  Whatever the case, we should all expect our positive intentions to become realities that are impactful for future generations and driven by mainstream acceptance. Then we have to set a target date.

Enjoy making this year’s Black History!



Keywords: Next Black History

Posted in Common Sense Media

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