ONE OF THE SCARIEST ISSUES FACING BLACK AMERICA
I have a dream that my four little children
will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged
by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I most certainly do not feel compelled to rehash the circumstances surrounding the historical context enveloping the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the day that he uttered the above quote regarding his hopes that one day his ‘four little children’ will not be judged by the color of their skin, rather by the ‘content of their character’. There is quite simply no reason to do it under these circumstances. Although I am a historian, the matter that I intend to address is in the words of famed balladeer Luther Vandross, “Here and Now”.
Life has taught me that race still matters in the good old United States of America. Experience has taught me that there is absolutely no doubt that there are people who hate everything about African-Americans; ironically, a few of these people are African-American themselves. I also realize that racism is alive and well in America, as are prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. These are things that I have experienced and therefore have no doubt about their presence whatsoever.
However, life, particularly international travel, has also taught me that there is no better place to be on the face of the planet Earth than this nation that we call The United States of America. The fact that we are having repeated contests and conflict over political power, economic resources, and social position is a testament to how great this nation actually is; other places are often woefully lacking in such discourse for a host of reasons that I will not go into during this editorial.
Now make no mistake about it, I have historically been one of this nation’s greatest critics, particularly when it comes to racial matters; the fact that I could publicly criticize this nation and continue living is one of the many testaments to its greatness.
Although political activists such as myself who fashion themselves as advocates for “Black Power” rarely admit it, the reason that we are always agitating and prodding our people forward is due to the inescapable fact that it is possible to move forward politically and economically.
Unfortunately, for those seeking “the liberation and salvation of the Black nation” such progress has been frustratingly slow and daunting as we are always facing one of the most frightening questions known to our kind; who will carry this torch after we make our transition to be with the ancestors?
The reason that such matters make individuals such as myself so uncertain is that far too often we are witnessing an absence of much-needed character from the vast majority of African-American youth. Far too often Black youth behave as if they are not only disinterested in politics, but also are privy to inside information that has informed them that the world will surely end tomorrow, so they should ‘eat, drink, and be happy’ because there is surely no future to prepare for.
Maybe it is this belief that there is no future to prepare for that encourages the foolishness and embarrassing buffoonery that is so commonly associated with our youth; now I am certain that many of you are having what is best-termed a ‘knee-jerk’ mental reaction that is causing you to muse something like ‘well white kids behave in that way as well’, all I can say regarding that thought is that they are none of my concern.
How long will African-American youth continue to exhibit lifestyles and behaviors that not only conflict with the manner that our people have historically lived, but also behave in a manner that would make even heinous heathens blush.
The entire time that this segment of our population is in the throes of behaving like fools, other groups are being bolstered by youth who are taking their educational endeavors with the utmost seriousness and preparing for a future that they will undoubtedly rule politically, economically, educationally, and socially.
If things continue the way that they are going, there is no doubt that African-American youth will continue to lag behind others in this fast-approaching future for the most simplest of reasons, they have failed to prepare for it. It appears that a large segment of today’s African-American youth have neither been taught nor adhered to what was standard advice during my youth; that advice being, “You are going to have to work twice as hard, to get half as far as others.”
I am certain that Dr. King would be greatly disturbed by the reality that it is truly a frightening proposition for today’s African-American youth to be evaluated ‘by the content of their character.’ If such an evaluation process is applied, it is quite possible that we will eventually descend to depths that not even the pernicious evils of Jim Crow could take us.