today in black history

July 23, 2021

Civil unrest over the city's condition ignites Detroit in 1967, resulting in 43 deaths, 7,000 arrests and $50 million in damage.

Playtime is Over

POSTED: August 09, 2019, 2:30 pm

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Not as if we should have needed a reminder, but the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton should make Blacks in the United States acutely aware of the threat to our existence in this nation. The resentment over the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is now a full-blown conflagration as white anger is on boil under the racist regime of Donald Trump. Perhaps not since the presidency of Woodrow Wilson has the occupant of the Oval Office declared such open warfare on Black people. There should be no confusion that this president wants nothing less than the extermination of Black and brown people and is willing to use his presidency as a platform to achieve that goal.

This point must be understood. Donald Trump is unconcerned with the rise of racist violence and has no intention of combating white supremacy. He is a white supremacist and his driving philosophy is white nationalism. Our choice is clear – fight or die. War has been waged on our adult population and our children and grandchildren are in the crosshairs, not philosophically but literally, of white extremists. There has perhaps been no time since the Black Codes when survival should be the paramount concern within the Black community. Still, it’s not a time to cower or submit, but to truly summon the strength and will of our ancestors and end this reign of terror. To do so, we must be willing to change our behaviors and abandon our trivial pursuits.

For one, voting cannot be an intellectual exercise but a required and expected act of social responsibility. Frustrated as we may be with Democratic Party politics, we must commit to an earth-moving and record-breaking vote for the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2020; no matter who is the nominee. Save the rhetorical debates and Facebook posturing for later. This is now about survival. It’s about our children and youth, and whether there will be anything left to salvage for Blacks in the United States if Donald Trump is re-elected to a second term. In 2020 it’s not about voting for the lesser of two evils. There is one evil and his name is Donald Trump. Resent the Democratic Party but vote for the Democratic candidate. It’s that simple. This election is the full incarnation of Sean Comb’s ‘Vote or Die’ rally cry from several election cycles ago.

Then there is the matter of our day-to-day practices. For one, we have to cease being social media activists and turn our full attention to conditions in our own community. We must return to our sense of mutual concern for the welfare of our people. Those who are members of churches and mosques must compel faith leaders to make the care of Black families a priority. This means we must declare that no child will go hungry or without appropriate attire, and no family will face living in conditions that jeopardize their safety, health and wellness. Our institutions of faith must become true extensions of the community, true sanctuaries, and use its resources to repair the broken and begin rebuilding our neighborhoods brick-by-brick. Those that have the resources (e.g. financial, facilities) can no longer selfishly hoard them behind the shield of ‘separation of church and state.’

We must also use our financial resources in a more constructive way. It’s time to forego the shopping excursions, extravagant vacations, senseless purchases of tobacco and alcohol products, and status yielding automobiles. There is power behind our spending if we redirect our dollars to supporting institutions focused on dismantling systems of oppression. Alumni of historically Black colleges and universities should write a check to their alma mater, and commit to do so annually for the next five years. These institutions serve as our intellectual backbone and the scholarship that emerges allows us to construct a policy framework that is Black driven and Black focused. Then there are the many local, grassroots organizations that are on the front lines but have limited resources to bring their efforts to scale. These groups include those fighting for education equity, criminal justice reform, voting rights, gender equality and environmental justice. They seldom receive adequate philanthropic support, as do large nationally focused organizations, and we fail to appropriately support them at the local level. Then there are the local food pantries that have become a lifeline to confront issues of food insecurity. Malnutrition and food deserts are common situations plaguing the Black community and threatening the healthy growth of Black children. We have too many resources to allow this to persist.

We cannot wage this fight in poor health. We must confront obesity and chronic illnesses that are often the result of poor choices. As Black adults, we have a moral responsibility to live and model healthy lifestyles for our children. This means we must resist the many fast-food restaurants that are often strategically located in neighborhoods in close proximity to Blacks and Latinos. It is also important that we tend to matters of mental health. There is no shame in seeking counseling and other therapeutic measures. Given the accumulated weight of racism and discrimination that increases our stress levels and drives mortality rates, we need to make sure we attend to our psyche. This cannot be emphasized enough. Poor health limits our opportunities in the labor market, diminishes our presence in important civic circles, and removes us from the important protective and mediation roles we can play in the lives of our children and youth.

“In 2020 it’s not about voting for the lesser of two evils. There is one evil and its name is Donald Trump.”

Most importantly, we must make children our primary focus. The education of this generation of public school-age children must become our priority and we must commit to holding local school districts accountable. Our expectation must be that every Black child, no matter their zip code or household income, receive a quality education resulting in a high school diploma that qualifies them for college or workforce entry. This means making sure local school Boards, superintendents, teachers and staff feel our presence. This is where the notion of the ‘village’ must be evident. Those without children in public schools must use their voices as taxpayers to demand the fair treatment of Black children in public schools. Likewise, we must also advocate for the safety of all children and youth in our communities and impress upon elements in our own neighborhoods that endangering our children is unacceptable. This also goes to demanding policing reforms that transforms police from predators into true guardians committed to the safety of our children.

We can only achieve this level of mobilization and political consciousness when we are on one accord as to our bottom-line interests. This is not about creating some false unity based on the faulty premise that we must all agree on all points. Disagreements are fine so long as we agree that our survival is at stake. For the Black middle and upper-middle class this means that you can’t isolate yourself in a suburban community or an ‘exclusive’ neighborhood of a city and think that you will be untouched by the racism that knows no geographical boundary. Likewise, the Black poor need not accept its economic isolation and instead use its votes to drive change and an increase in economic opportunity.

The current climate in the United States is a call-to-action for Black people to take a different approach as we seek full citizenship and that will require the realization that we must focus on ourselves and use our resources as leverage for change. We can no longer idly sit by and think better outcomes will magically materialize. It’s time to take a different approach, with a different attitude and commitment to do the hard work that produces change.

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