An angel walks in a room with a Christian who celebrates Christmas. A Jew who celebrates Hanukkah and a African American who celebrates Kwanza. The angel quickly looks around and says Happy Holidays to everyone. At that moment an individual in the corner sighs loudly. The angel turns to the man and asks is there a problem sir? To which the man responded well since you asked there is. I’m so tired of you liberals and your war on Christmas. What wrong with just saying Merry Christmas like we did in the good old days. The angel looked at the man and laughed and then politely said sir it would seem it is you and not me who is waging war on Christmas. Me? Responded the man shockingly. Yes you said the angel for on the day Jesus was born an angel like myself told all those in the manger I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. He did not identify only a selection of people to wish great joy he wished it to all. We are all God’s children and he wishes that as his children we love each other and respect each other faiths. If you choose to turn a cold shoulder to or belittle those who wish happiness to all then it is you who are soiling the true meaning of Christmas.
Drug dealers, gang bangers, fatherless, welfare dependent, prisoners are some of the images that the media bombard us with. When faced with these images on a daily basis many of us begin to accept them and have lower life expectations of ourselves. In essence we are letting the stereotypes of others define who we are rather than defining ourselves. The positive images of African Americans is often that of athletes and hip hop stars implying that their are limited roads to success within the African-American community. Protest against social injustice by African Americans stars is spun as unpatriotic and done by individuals who are fortunate that society has given them so much. Notice I said given not earned because for many the thought of the African American working hard and earning their position in society is a foreign concept. As Cater G. Woodson said “to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.”
1984 brought us the Cosby Show centered on the lives of the fictional Huxtables obstetrician Cliff his lawyer wife Claire, and their children Sondra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy, and son Theo. The show was unique in that not only did it depict an upper middle class African American family, we had seen that before on shows such as the Jeffersons, but one that was led by not one but two professionals. They were portrayed as simply a family residing in Brooklyn, not a African American family simply a family. They were not the exception to the rule rather they were just another successful family. The Huxtables showed us that African Americans can achieve, can be successful, can be a mother and a father who have children who attend college because isn’t that what all kids do when they graduate high school. They were the embodiment of what all American families white and black strive to be.
2008 brought us Barack Obama who against all odds became America’s first African American President. Something many of believed we would never live to see. He was a highly educated man of color and a dedicated husband and father. While in office some media outlets looked to marginalize his accomplishments, question his citizenship and disintegrate his character but thanks to his magnetic personality and superior oratory skills President Obama was able to overcome media attempts to downplay or mischaracterize him. He represented himself with a class and dignity rarely seen by a politician and won respect and admiration not only from Americans but world wide. His wife Michelle a strong, educated, beautiful woman of color, so much so that the thought of her running for President today does not seem out of the realm of possibility, was also at times a victim of certain media outlets attempt to paint the Obama’s in a poor light. But like her husband she too possessed a magnetic personality and superior oratory skills which easily allowed her to deflect any negativity aimed at her. The Obamas represented what is possible for all African Americans. No longer was it a fantasy to tell your child they could grow up to be President because it has been accomplished and with accomplished with dignity and class.
2018 brought us the hugely success Marvel movie Black Panther. Movie theaters were packed with people of color young and old, men and women, some who hadn’t been to a movies in years. They left the theater not only entertained by the movie itself but with a pride of their culture. Wakanda after all was undeniably African. Its citizens highly educated, its women depicted as strong and beautiful, its men strong and dedicated to family. Wakanda forever became a calling card of many because the imaged world of Wakanda represented a look at what African Americans could be. That we could fly above the clouds and achieve greatness.
One cannot quantify the impact the positive images of these fictional and non fictional African Americans have had on the African American community as a whole but it has no doubt allowed some of us to dream of possibilities to consider what we can accomplish regardless of the color of our skin. This begs the question as to what is the responsibility of successful African Americans in giving back to their community. For many successful African Americans success is often measured by moving out of their community into a predominantly white community. Leaving behind many of those they used to associate with in exchange for new friends who are predominantly white. Rejecting much of the culture they were raised in to better fit their new surroundings. They reject African American businesses citing their supposed inferiority to that of businesses run by others. It as Cater G Woodson said “Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere,
It is ironic that Harlem one of the bastions of African America culture has in recent years seen a renaissance not as the result of successful African Americans returning but to an influx of white people. Unfortunately as this great community strengthens African Americans are pushed out
So is it truly the responsibility of the successful African American to as Lebron James said in his 2017 ESPY awards speech “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.” In this writers opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes. As each successful generation serves as positive role models and mentors, invests in the building of a strong and prosperous infrastructure that employs those in the community and affords the children of those adults the opportunity to attain a quality education the foundation is put in place where success is not seen as the exception but the norm. The perception of the African American image within ourselves changes from one that is not worthy and of limited possibilities to one who is exceptional and has unlimited opportunities before them. As Fredrick Douglas said “The soul that is within me no man can degrade”
The building of this thought process will not come easy as Carole Mosley-Braun so pointedly put it “Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face” and as Malcolm X once said “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Simply put the African American can not wait for others to “save” us, to build up our communities, to employ our men and women, to educate our children and most importantly to pass down the history of our many accomplishments. The African American must act from within to achieve these goals. We must set the groundwork so that. each succeeding generation grows up with the belief as the 1970’s slogan said Black is Beautiful. That they shout from the mountain tops what James Brown once sang I’m black and I’m proud. That they define themselves and not let others define them.
I am pleased to see that we have differences.
May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.
-Surak of Vulcan
I am the child of Charles and Frances Cooke two African-Americans born in the early 1900s in the southern part of the United States. As such I have always identified myself as African-American and from time to time was reminded of this by society. From being chased out of a park while being called a nigger when I was 10, having a police officer point a gun at my head when I was 15 simply because I made the mistake of tossing a football around the yard of a white friend who lived in the suburbs, to being pulled over numerous times in my early 20s despite not fitting the “profile” because as kind of a nerd I normally had on penny loafers with argyle socks and matching sweater but my skin color was still the wrong shade.
While my self identification is the result of being raised, loved, and natured by two exceptional individuals who themselves were also African-American I am also adopted, a fact that was kept hidden from me until my late 30s. I know nothing of my biological father other than the fact that he wasn’t African-American. Recently I completed one of those DNA test and found out I was in fact 54.6% Sub-Saharan African and 43.9% European. Interesting I thought as I looked at my results how many of those Europeans had looked at me and seen just the color of my skin and thought of me as inferior? How many of them don’t look like me but have a similar ancestry? Does it really matter what my ancestry is? Does it define how I should live my life?
Our ancestry defines our culture and to a large extend our culture is a leading factor in defining who we are. But while it is a leading factor it does not change the fact that we are all human. Humans with differences but humans nevertheless. It is our differences that If embraced instead of feared would in fact make us stronger as a species. The sun, Earth’s primary source of energy, emits white light but that white light is actually a composite of all of the visible frequencies of light. Without the differences all the colors bring there would be no light at all. So is the case with the human species? Where would we be without our many differences? How would we advance and grow without the varied contributions of so many cultures?
The question before us now is how do we begin to embrace our differences as a species when our entire existence shows we let those differences divide us. Seemingly there is no answer to that. Man has always fostered a sense of loyalty rooted in group identity. We pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer has always been mankind’s rallying call. I am pessimistic about our ability to overcome the us versus them mentality in the short term. However I am optimistic that the human is a very promising species and as Captain Jean Luc Picard once said “inside you is the potential to make yourself better…and that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are.” Today our difference divide us perhaps tomorrow we will be better and our differences will be our strength.
Are we afraid or are we fearless
Are we afraid to admit that we’re Americans and with that comes not only all the good this country brings but the sins of our past, the blood of a uncounted indigenous people, the subjugation of the African American, the continued social injustice faced by people of color to this day.
Are we afraid to confront those sins so we can begin a dialogue in which different cultures, religions and races listen to and work together to make things better tomorrow then they are today.
Are we afraid to make our voices heard through non violent resistance/protest because it would make people who have a differing belief uncomfortable and lash out with at us moral outrage when their value is transgressed even slightly.
Or are we fearless enough to say enough. Fearless enough to say today we confront our past sins. Today we accept that yes there are social injustices in society. Today we reject those who even tough it’s blatantly obvious that if it is wrong would have us accept the status quo. Today we begin to respect each other regardless of race, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation or other differences. Today we begin the process of working to make our country live up to its unlimited promise. Today we begin to heal.
I choose to be fearless what about you
They come in all guises politicians, businessmen, celebrities, and yes even religious leaders. They say they care about you, that they want to bring healing to the masses. But in reality all they are looking too do is to deceive and separate. They do it to expand their own power and their own wealth. They do it at the expense of the same people they claim to care about and in these difficult times it is becoming increasingly easy for them to achieve their goals. Blessed with a silver tongue they prey on fears. They repeat something as fact over and over again without any collaborating evidence and to those who are struggling, grasping at straws for anything to hold on to it soon becomes fact. They use the fears of those who feel their voice has never been or is no longer being heard. They prey on this not to help bring the masses together, not to help uplift society but rather to increase their own power.
Fortunately history has shown us time and time again that their success will be fleeting. They may garner fame and accumulate wealth in the short-term but as the bible verse says their empire is built not on the rock but on sand and when the rains fall and the winds blow their empire will be swallowed up by that same sand on which it was built.
I saw a statistic that 1 Billion People used Facebook today, meaning that one out of every seven people on the planet today used Facebook. One out of every seven humans! That is indeed an impressive statistic except when you relate it to hunger, then it’s a sobering statistic at best. Sobering because tonight one out of every seven people in the world will go to bed hungry.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the United Nations in 1948 to provide a global understanding of how to treat individuals. We have 30 basic human rights. Article 25 states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the one billion people who used Facebook today, myself included, gave just one dollar to help feed the hungry, to make Article 25 a reality.
Think about it a single dollar, less than your daily paper or morning cup of coffee. A small contribution but a contribution that would help someone go to bed tonight with a little something in their belly.
Wouldn’t that make us a better world?
Yeah that would make us a better world.
“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.” – Carol Moseley-Braun
In the world we live in perception often trumps reality and it is those who control that perception who usually benefit the most.
Sadly in America there are still those today who gain politically and monetarily from pushing forth an agenda of division, hate, and racism. While they can no longer be as overt as they were in the past they have become masters of subliminal messaging. Whether it is through the use of buzz words, advertising, imaging, or manipulation of the news they tilt the message to scare those who are gullible or those who simply know no better. They do this keep their pockets lined and the message of hate alive. It is these individuals who will show you images of young African American men engaged in acts of violence to try to scare you into believing we’re all animals. It is these individuals who will tell you lies about and repeat over and over how President Obama’s presidency is a failure to downplay his many accomplishments.
But for these individuals who preach hate and racism. Who would still see this country divided. Here’s what they’re really afraid of
The image of young educated black men rallying around a strong, educated, successful black man of color who they wish to emulate.
Yes perception can often trump reality but when as a people we understand that some are trying to control the perception so that that they can control us. However no matter how much they try to control the narrative if we educate ourselves, open our minds to the concept of unity and our hearts to the concept of love we will render them meaningless and in doing so take the next step in our evolution and be a better people for it.