Everything Is Not Ok in Black America, But What’s Next?

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“The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun, is African Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world. And of the over 2 million men, women and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is black. We are the most unemployed, the most caught up in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children. Yet, as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, white America discusses constitutional issue of ownership, while no one speaks of the consequences of our racial carnage. The question is, where is the raised voice of Black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?”

These is part of the acceptance speech give by Harry Belafonte at the N.A.A.C.P. Image awards as he was distinguished as being the 97th Spingarn Medal recipient.  Belafonte is renowned as a singer and songwriter but I will always hold him in high regard as being a key social activist during the Civil Rights era. At 85 years of age, he could have got on stage and talked about himself. He could have given the routine; typical acceptance speech and no one would have said a word. Instead he touched on the sensitive topic of race and gun control, he asked tough, hard-hitting questions that I’m sure made a lot of people around America uncomfortable regardless of race. I for one was inspired by his speech. Its not everyday that you see anyone use their fame and audience to speak on a platform and not try to appease the majority but say what is really on their mind and in their heart.

“Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali statements.”- Nasir Jones

I talk and think a lot about race. I see in color. I’m not reluctant to admit that. I can celebrate my culture and heritage as a badge of honor. I love who I am. I’m African (Nigerian specifically) who was born and reared in America. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more proud of his or her race. With that said I’m also very critical of Black people in general across the world. As much I love my people I feel that we have become complacent and content in our current place especially in this country. I recently came across an article on the New York Times’ website that asks the question, Do Black intellectuals need to talk about race?

Before I read the article I asked myself “What is a black intellectual?” I’m weary of people who dub themselves an intellectual. In my experience most people who are intelligent or have a higher planes of thought don’t necessarily go around claiming such. Therefore I was skeptical at best before I read the article. My reservations were promptly quieted as the author raised several interesting points.

“Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America. We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits.”

I agree with the author here in that living the lie that we live in a post-racial America seems to be the “in” thing. Because Barack Obama was elected president it seems as if everything is ok in Black America. It’s not hard to grasp the idea that there are discrepancies and disparities in almost every important statistic concerning Black America.

The current national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent yet its 13.8 percent for African-Americans. Young black males die from gun violence at a rate eight times higher than that of white males. Obesity rates were twice as high among black children, placing those children at increased risk for diabetes and heart problems. Black children are also more likely to be bullied, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than white youths.

“The idea of the intellectual who reads widely and deeply and who critically engages the complexity of our times has been supplanted by the fast-talking “black Ph.D. pundit” who strives to be on CNN, Fox or MSNBC. This same pundit has found new career opportunities within universities and colleges by thinking about black people in ways that conform to the current liberal consensus about racial matters.”

This is the point that quelled my preconceived doubts about the article. I’m tired of certain black faces in media and in government who talk the good talk but in reality are saying and doing nothing to help our communities. It seems as if the blueprint to getting along is not to rock the boat and make the majority feel at ease. I get that the topic of race is sensitive to a lot of people but its one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so sweeping it under the proverbial carpet doesn’t help the races that generally have it bad in this country.

I wish that we as black people, not just legislators, ministers and other leaders would do more. We have so much opportunity. Blacks in America are basically teenagers. Freedom for Black people is a relatively new concept compared to the history of this country. We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time. Let’s not backslide and have future generations look at us as the ones who squandered the hard work and dedication a previous generation left us. During Black History Month let’s remember those that paved the road for us to be where we are today.  It’s not taboo to honor those that who were bridge builders. SBM will be participating in the BHM challenge on Facebook. Join in the challenge but don’t just stop there. If you can do something to help uplift our community; whether it be volunteering your time, your talents or your money. We’ve got to do better.

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  • fourpageletter

    that speech by mr belafonte was powerful!!
    My recent post qotw: fave line from a song

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  • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young

    Good post, Doc!

    That was a dope speech. The thing with solving our problems is that we have the man power and skill to do so.

  • KnottyGirl

    As a 22 year old PhD student, like it matters? Because if your Black you don't need a degree to know that you are treated unfairly due to your race, but anyway, I don't like the article "Do Black Intellectuals Need to Talk About Race", the answer is no. EVERYBODY needs to talk about race because it is foundation and fuel that runs this country. Leaving it to a certain group to "take care of it" or "talk about is BS" and one of the reasons we're in this position now. Leave it to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, really folks? Look what that gets us, nothing. And I don't know about the person who wrote the article, but race is always a conversation. Using property values to fund schools so poor kids get poor education and rich kids get rich education, the difference in pay for doing the same job with the same credentials, being ignored in the history books ( that's right your child only see themselves in the Civil Rights Movement, that brief slavery paragraph if your in Texas, and of course AIDS in Africa). In fact, even Black History Month that does not celebrate Black History but idolize a few Black icons but then again is Black history month supposed to be a celebration or a reminder of who you are in case you mess around thinking that your equal in this post racial society. Everyone should be talking about race because Black history is American history, o reason to separate it at all.

    Race is an issue for the Latinos who are "lazy" but yet work the most labor jobs in the US, need freedom papers in Arizona or get arrested for the suspicion of sneaking in, try to take away voting rights with a totally unnecessary voter I'd law, really? They are the new slaves is what we call corporate sharecroping, we reap the benefits of their labor with our 30 cent oranges, and yet we are so against extending health care to these workers who are involved with the heavy manual labor that we get serious benefits from. I could go on all day!

    The point is that it is up to all people, not just a select few to stop allowing this ridiculous way of thinking further mistreat nonWhite people. Stop the post racial society, the "I don't see color, I just see people because I can't accept other people's differences instead ill just pretend they don't exist", and the " if you talk about race, you are a racist" and all the language that masks racism that was once overt like "colorblind, post racial, low income, disadvantaged, low SES, minority, achievement, SAT scores, standardized tests, honors and AP classes. It's funny after schools were order to desegregate, that was the exact time all these tests about "merit" suddenly became the factor in determining if you could be somebody. While I'm on it, schools are desegregated not integrated, because if you walk in a mixed school today and walk down the halls, you'll see one race in honors classes, one race in remedial classes, a d on race in AP classes, one race in special Ed, etc.

    What I'm saying is that fact that we are even having is convo is ridiculous, people are in DENIAL and living in a false reality, that's how we classify people with mental illnesses. Everyone needs to talk about because it exists and it's not an anomaly, something that happens once in a blue moon where we get upset over Trayvon Martin cases, it is the norm happening every day. I hope someone take the time to read this long post lol.

    Peace and Love y'all!

    • Asjk12

      What's Next according to KnottyGirl is everyone realizing and acknowledging that there is a problem.

    • Tunde

      you hit on a lot of things in your comment. i agree with most of it. the thing is for everyone to make a difference everyone has to acknowledge that there is a problem. a lot of us choose to be blind to the facts and would rather live with the veil pulled over our eyes. i wish more of us would wake up.
      My recent post Not Everything Is Ok In Black America, But What’s Next?

    • gemmieboo

      "I don't like the article "Do Black Intellectuals Need to Talk About Race", the answer is no. EVERYBODY needs to talk about race because it is foundation and fuel that runs this country."

      did you read ALL the articles?? there are varying opinions on just what a Black intellectual's responsibilities are, and if they should be "public" figures or not. from what i gathered, none of the debaters argued that Black intellectuals shouldnt talk about race. the debate seems to be more centered on HOW we do it and whether or not one is qualified to speak to such issues based on their area of expertise.
      My recent post My Guest Post on VSB: Are You A “Namist?”

  • Peter Parker

    Good post!! I will definitely youtube mr. belafonte's speech. My take on this subject is simple. If we all can give back and do something in our communities, that is a start. I wish more high profile individuals would do more ( i know there are some who do), but I am not going to sit back and wait. It disturbs me to see so many blacks ( educated or not) actually not doing anything in their communities. If there is a special cause you have interest in, DO IT! For the minorities who are not locked up, get out and do something. The principlas of those who came before us need to be reincarnated into our generation. Actions Speak Lounder Than Words!

    • Tunde

      i'm over high profile african-americans. i really am. it seems like you can't hold them to a standard anymore. everyone wants to be charles barkley and say they're not a role model. what's wrong with using your platform to say something of substance? take for instance brendon ayanbadejo who plays for the baltimore ravens. he used his fame to make a stand for the lbgt community. while not gay himself he realizes that rights taken away from few equals less freedom for all. he didn't shy away from the possibility of not being liked or tarnishing his reputation. he stood up for what he believed.
      My recent post Not Everything Is Ok In Black America, But What’s Next?

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    “The question is, where is the raised voice of Black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?”

    You gotta love Harry Belafonte.

    To answer the question, I think we all know Black America is not “ok”. There are a lot of talkers about the issues facing Black America and not enough doers. We’ve been talking literally for centuries. We've been asking for centuries. Power may not concede anything without a demand, but we have to put ourselves in a position to make a demand. As Tunde said, we've got to do better.

    I strongly believe Black America is certainly in a position to help itself, as long as we are willing to help each other, and are willing to not accept our current conditions. We have the role models. On this website alone, among the regular commenters, we have black doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. We have writers that surpass the so-called black intelligentsia. If we are willing to reach out, mentor and tutor the next generation, willing to stop excusing pathological behavior, we can be more than ok. We can prosper.

    • Tunde

      " If we are willing to reach out, mentor and tutor the next generation, willing to stop excusing pathological behavior, we can be more than ok. We can prosper."

      i think that most people think that pulling aside one youth or doing something in your immediate community is not helping the cause of black people enough but it is. if everyone did their part i know that a difference will be made.
      My recent post Not Everything Is Ok In Black America, But What’s Next?

  • bellatrice1

    Excellent and well written article Tunde. I think Blacks, unlike other races, are concerned with their own well being, not realizing that their well being does depend on the success/failure of others in our community. When one Black person succeeds, we ALL succeed. Too many times, Blacks are afraid to mentor or give special opportunities to younger Blacks for fear that others will declare favoritism, even though other races do it ALL THE TIME and don't give two shi** about what other people think/say.

    Also, many are not proud to be African/Black like you Tunde, so they try to disassociate themselves as much as possible. Black America is STRUGGLING despite the fact that we have a Black president, and it's only going to get worse. As said above, the first step is admitting there's a problem, the second step is caring enough to fix it.
    My recent post Must Love Sauce [PODCAST]: J Anthony Brown talks Django, Only Working with Women and Hot Sauce

    • Tunde

      "even though other races do it ALL THE TIME and don't give two shi** about what other people think/say. "

      i wish more ppl realized this. in my department there is an all asian lab. this guy gave a talk today and showed the pics of ppl in his lab at the end of his presentation. all indian except for one white guy. my whole lab is chinese except for me. other races have no problem with putting their own on except for us.
      My recent post Not Everything Is Ok In Black America, But What’s Next?

      • Smilez_920

        +1. There was an article on clutch similar to this one. One commenter said something to the extent of ‘we are not one monolithic group with the same problems, so we cant all work together, we are not a community just because were black.” I feel like some black people think like this. Working together doesn’t mean we are monolithic, we can be on totally different sides of the spectrum, a community is there to help, just because were not one monolithic group doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. And to me even if being black is our commonality we should used that to help, motivate and inspire one another.

      • bellatrice1

        I had this same experience at an entertainment company. I worked there and the head of my department was a Blk woman. She never met with me individually and made me work for pennies despite my requests for a raise. Not only that, I referred 2 Blk friends of mine, both Ivy league grads who subsequently worked at major entertainment companies (one is now an exec), and she didn't meet with them either. She was the HEAD OF DIVERSITY!

        Sorry, it's really appalling and a sensitive issue for me lol.

        My recent post Must Love Sauce [PODCAST]: J Anthony Brown talks Django, Only Working with Women and Hot Sauce

  • EvolvingElle

    I was actually planning on addressing Mr. Belafonte's speech and gun control; I just haven't had the time to sit down and plan what I want to say, because this situation cannot be squandered or taken lightly. I agree with everything in this post. I (literally) just had a discussion with my cousin about how you have "teenagers" as parents now that aren't teaching their children anything, especially anything that's going to benefit them. And she discussed how she has to "un-teach" some of the things that her 6 year old daughter learns in school.

    People can talk a good game, but talk is cheap. What ACTIONS are you taking to benefit your community and to make situations better?

  • Tunde

    "you have "teenagers" as parents now that aren't teaching their children anything, especially anything that's going to benefit them."

    i see this everyday and i weep.

  • http://thatswhatgemsaid.wordpress.com Gemmie

    good post, T!

    and i think this is a really important discussion to have, re: black intellectuals. but i think some of the other articles that were part of the NYTimes piece brought up some good points – just because one IS Black doesnt mean you are qualified to discuss racial issues on a large scale (i.e. in the media or politically) and just because one ISNT Black doesnt discount them from bringing insightful and thoughtful elements to the racial issues table.

    i do agree with you that we as Black Americans – esp those of us who are intellectuals and have achieved a certain level of education and/or success – have to invest in our communities and THINK about race in a way that is progressive. its not about TALK but about action and consideration.

    though im a scientist, matters of access to opportunities for children of color are very important to me. there is so much that Black and brown children arent exposed to. how do they aspire to something they know nothing about?? my work may not change policies or socioeconomic statuses of POC, but it will change how kids think about themselves and the possibilities for their. and God willing, changes in mindsets will help shape our communities for the better.

    thanks for the convo starter.
    My recent post My Guest Post on VSB: Are You A “Namist?”

    • Tunde

      "though im a scientist, matters of access to opportunities for children of color are very important to me. there is so much that Black and brown children arent exposed to. how do they aspire to something they know nothing about?? "

      same here. i think that's why i want to get more into education and outreach. i see children who have no idea of the things that await them if they apply effort and they are provided the opportunity. last night i was tweeting about a man named dr. jack thomas. he was the vice-president of my alma mater. he saw something in me in high school that made him offer me a full ride (included book money). he opened up a whole new world to me and from there i took advantage of every opportunity i was offered. now i'm just looking for a chance to give those same opportunities to the youth behind me.
      My recent post Not Everything Is Ok In Black America, But What’s Next?

      • gemmieboo

        yep – opportunities mean the world!! my parents are both professionals (well, my mom is kinda) but even they had no idea about the kinds of opportunities i took advantage of as a high school student,thanks to one teacher who invested in me and introduced me to science/research. and that ONE opportunity propelled me further than i would have gone otherwise. and i just think of all the kids who dont have parents who know about certain opps, or have teachers or mentors who can expose them to new things, and it makes me said that their potential might be squandered because they just dont know.

        but im changing that. one day at a time, one kid at a time.
        My recent post My Guest Post on VSB: Are You A “Namist?”

    • gemmieboo

      *possibilities for their FUTURE.
      My recent post My Guest Post on VSB: Are You A “Namist?”

    • Uncle Hugh, BP

      Gemmie: "though im a scientist, matters of access to opportunities for children of color are very important to me. there is so much that Black and brown children arent exposed to. how do they aspire to something they know nothing about??"

      That is huge. So many children have no idea of the breadth of careers out there, because they aren't exposed to them. I was interning with a construction company, and thought what kid thinks, "I want to be a steamfitter when I grow up?" But it's out there, it pays $38/hr, but when you don't see working men around you, you don't realize it's an opportunity.

      Sadly, I remember talking to the superintendent, and organizing a "field trip" for the kids at my church to tour the construction site, hoping it would spark something. This wasn't some small office building under construction either, it was for a convention center. None of the kids were interested. SMH

  • MaggK

    When i was in high school my sciences teacher (a white woman) was super hard with black students. At some point i had to ask her why, and she said "Because your people come from TOO far, you have to go further, if i don't push you, believe me, NOBODY will!"
    After that statement i read a lot about everything about black people, black everywhere in the world… Reading all that made me realize that damn we should be REALLY proud of being black, not just pride for the hell of it. Our pride has foundations; we actually did things that matter!!! I somehow believe that our absence in history books is done on purpose. We wouldn't let ourselves look SO bad, if we knew we were capable of better!!!
    I teach now sciences in, i would say, a tough school, with a majority of black students. And one of my goal is keeping my babies in my classroom (they are 16-17 but they are my babies :D), i actually explain to them, at the beginning of the year, how I’ll be harassing them if they stop showing up, so far this year it's working!!! Since they all want to be rappers and basketball players i try to tell them that they probably won't be but that they still can be great doing something else (and i actually listen to their music, and i love basketball so they know they can always talk about it with me!) I talk to parents and explain to them that their children are still kids and it's their responsibility to be there for them.

    I had the chance to be at one of Belafonte's conference, he is simply amazing!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/jtSolBroSupreme @jtSolBroSupreme

    Great points all around so I won't bother duplicating whats already been said as I agree with the majority of your comments.

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  • http://yeyeolade.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/a-black-man-is-winning-white-votes/ yeyeolade.wordpress.com

    To jest w rzeczywistości doskonały kawałek:) wielkie dzięki dla pracujących na rzecz blogów.