Now that Black History Month is over, and the nation goes about the business of diminishing the historical contributions of African-Americans and denying opportunity to future generations, the Black community must deepen its resolve to claim its rightful place in our democracy. We must fight on and take on whatever challenges are before us to make certain that as we approach the 250th anniversary of this Republic, the ancestors of Africans enslaved will achieve full emancipation.
While Black History Month allows us to honor our past, and rightly so, we must begin to develop a forward-looking vision, a future, for Black Americans in the United States. The past is the foundation but it will crumble under the weight of indifference, complacency and apathy if we are not careful. Too many of us have settled into a dangerous malaise, choosing to believe the myth of parity based upon our zip code, education or income. And yet, on almost every social and economic indicator Black Americans are struggling to keep their heads above the water line. What we deem success today cannot be what those that came before us envisioned, nor should it be the height of our aspirations. The fullness of the American vision must be the minimum target of our struggle and a new vision of global relevancy our ultimate goal. For a people whose ancestors were part of global “commerce,” we need not confine our interests to the shores of this nation.
February is always a fascinating month. It brings out the “black” in many African-Americans who are culturally absent for 11 months out of the year. And it compels many whites, some out of real empathy and some out of guilt, to reexamine their status in relation to the history and struggle of African people in America. Private companies now regularly acknowledge Black History Month though mostly because the green of Black consumer dollars helps to suppress any institutional bias that might infest the business throughout the other months of the year. Sadly, too many African-Americans spend but demand little in return for the billions we spend on goods and services that yield little beneficial return to our community.
Still, we must fight on. We must fight on if for no other reason than protecting future generations that have been distanced from their history by purposeful omission or ignorance on our part. Today, there is too much space between the civil rights movement, let alone slavery, and young people for our children to fully grasp the importance of the fight for justice and equity. Sadly, the illusion of equality and acceptance has lulled many adults to sleep and confused young people who can’t fully grasp the full dimension and depths of our degradation.
Why must we fight on? Look at the disarray in public education and how Black students are being marginalized in school settings. Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century and how we respond will dictate how great a portion of opportunity our children receive. While the Brown decision cracked open the door, and the Rodriguez case could have knocked the door down permanently, we are now faced with public schools that are placeholders for prison, the unemployment line or an early grave. If we do not engage in hand-to-hand combat in the education fight in local communities, all hope will be lost…forever.
The fight is necessary because the killing of Black youth has taken on a regularity that suggests we now deem our children disposable. If they are not the victims of police violence or the object of state sanctioned violence such as Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, they fall victim to the anger of their peers who see little reason to care much about life in the first place. The bloodshed in our community is epidemic and we need some sort of triage to save those that we can or want to be saved, and pronounce as enemies those who perpetuate violence upon us. There is a thin line between love and hate, and in the Black community that line is being obliterated daily.
We must fight on because there is such a wealth and diversity of intellectual capital and talent in our community that if we harness these assets there will be little need to seek outside help. Through the years I have encountered scores of talented Black people, with great ideas and honorable intent, and who want to serve their community but do not have the capital, right connections or have met resistance every step of the way. We could do ourselves a huge favor by being more supportive of each other, providing monetary support if able or moral support that costs the giver nothing. We must fight back against the mistrust and suspicion that has taken root among too many of us, and has prevented us from establishing the institutions necessary for our emancipation.
Continuing this fight means we will have to sacrifice and some of us might have to forego some personal ambitions for the greater good. It’s not an easy pill to swallow but the truth is that progress is realized through struggle, and struggle has always been paid with by sacrifice. We would not have reached this point had not some forward-thinking and courageous elders placed the survival of Black people over their personal desires and material needs. This is where the proverbial ‘rubber meets the road.’ We can immerse and lose ourselves in our history or realize that our existence is a continuum and the past should arm us for the present battle.
I choose to fight on because doing anything less is dishonorable.
Walter Fields is Executve Editor of NorthStarNews.com.