I’ve had it on my mind for a while now that the race card for me personally is getting old. Racism is very real and I don’t want to in any way, shape or form dismiss it or make light of it. It’s not a joke or something that I don’t think is important. However, I have noticed in myself the tendency to use race as my only argument in a scenario where I feel injustice is happening or has happened to a person of color & I want to change that.
The fact is that in America, race is an issue. It’s a struggle for people of color, especially those who grew/grow up in poverty, to have a fair chance at the same opportunities given to those of a European decent by default.
Now that this has been stated, I’d like to go backwards & then I’d like to go forward.
I’m not a historian or a professional lecturer on history. So if any of this is wrong, please correct me. African slaves were freed in 1865 by Abraham Lincoln. That would mean that we have been technically free for 150 years. I’m going to estimate that this covers three, possibly four, generations of free African people in America. This is not a long time, so in my mind I know we still have work to do. I have an understanding of what happened during slavery, but the mystery is this; what do you actually do when you’re free?
I’ve read Fredrick Douglass’ book. I’ve also heard several stories about how Africans didn’t have anything once they became free. Nowhere to live. No jobs. Nothing but their religion (some of them) and each other.
We have evolved from being slaves into trying to become a civilized group of people in a country that doesn’t really welcome us in all ways. The outlets that were available to us in 1865 were ones that were provided by European Americans or through rallying against them. We’ve fought and fought. We’ve lost our heroes. We’ve managed to open many doors although prejudices are still loud. And now, we are here in 2015.
The rut that we are in is simple. Our enslavement now is mental. We are caught up in the glitz. Not because we are horrible people or because we lack class. But because this was part of the design in the first place. I could write a book on that alone. But for the sake of staying on subject, the job we still have left to do is to break free of that mental slavery which is the most dominant one.
How do we do it??? This question has been posed so many times, I fear that dropping my 2 cents on the subject will just be a needle in a haystack. But I’ve gotta make my contribution so here it goes. The two main things African-Americans need to do is 1. Save way more money (Like 50% of our income). & 2. We have to start valuing our family structure.
Like no one has thought of that Deja! Is this your genius plan? (I’m talking to myself) Ok! Hear me out. The main reason why we are mentally enslaved is because we equate class and value to possessions. A Louis Vuitton bag means “I’m in a different group of society than YOU.” Which is essentially saying “I’m better than you.” a Mercedes-Benz means the same thing. The list goes on & on. We associate our coolness with things we have. This is all a part of marketing. That is not to suggest that certain things are not better quality than others. But to suggest that having something of quality is not a direct reflection that we are the same quality as that thing. True self-value is internal. We waste our money on things we don’t need to appear to be in a different social economic bracket than we can actually afford. I generally don’t write from a we perspective. But I’m making an exception for this post because I’ve seen it my whole life just as much as I’ve been included in it myself. (So I’m not neglecting accountability.)
The other reason why we are mentally enslaved is because we don’t have a family structure. I grew up in Richmond, CA. Almost all my friends were raised in single-family homes with their mother as their primary parent & so was I. This isn’t the time to play the blame game on who’s fault it is the family’s were broken. But the time to make a statement. That statement is, we didn’t have the benefit of two people to set a standard. We didn’t watch our parents deal with relationship, finance, emotional or business problems and resolve them. We didn’t have a male figure in our household to teach us either how to be men or what to expect from a man (or to balance out our mothers). This means we are missing a large set of fundamental skills and personal development.
It’s harder to rob a bank (as an African-American teenager/adult) when you have/had two strong parents and an extended family. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it’s a lot easier to do that when all you have is a mom working hard with no help or no parents at all. It’s harder to come home pregnant at 15 when you have both parents and they set an example for family and mirrored that for you. I know this is a bias opinion, but most of the African-American mischievous people I knew growing up were the result of being spoiled by a single parent trying to over-compensate for a broken family, someone who didn’t have a close family at all, someone who grew up in poverty and felt obligated to support their mother by any means necessary or someone who was simply broken by their lack of family structure all together.
I have to say that to save money & build strong families with both parents is a job that requires twice the work as maybe some privileged European American’s. But no one can do it for us. No one can make us have these values. And we can complain about bigotry and injustice on twitter all day long every time something drastic happens (& that thing becomes public.) But, it’s not going to resolve the work that has to be done. The truth is we don’t feel like we are good enough. We feel broke. We feel left out. We wanna live in nice neighborhoods and drive nice cars too. We want the opportunity to fail and try again too. We want the chance to be something other than entertainers without having to do 4 times the work too. We want equality. And because we haven’t received it, along with the brutal history we have and the years of negative stereotyping and stigma, we believe internally that it’s because we don’t deserve it. It’s an inferiority complex. And now in so many ways, the patina of the grotesque Black Slave fits us in more ways than I’d like to admit. But it’s not really true, it’s just systematically been programmed into our brains as a self-hate campaign to further the dominance of European American superiority. The things we see that perpetuate the negative image are the things we have to fight against.
The race card is an easy way out of a situation that will only get worse with that as an excuse. There’s plenty more work that has to be done once we conquer these two things, but they are the beginning. To blame all things (generally rightfully so) on race is only a band-aid over a hemorrhage. These prejudices go back centuries. So the healing we have to do might take a few generations to happen. We have to figure out how to be fly AND own things. We have to figure out how to be cool without trying to stunt on each other. We have to put our value back into our mother, father and children. To continue our evolution, we have to own the responsibilities that we can control. A great place to start is with our money and within our homes.
Thank you for reading. This is a touchy subject and could definitely be expanded on, so maybe I will revisit it again later. If you have any comments or objections, please share them below!
Listen to my latest #MondayLoveDrop called Stay (Every Time) inspired by Amerie! It’s at the player below: