We have a long way to go. There’s just no other way to say it. Our men are being incarcerated. Our girls are reproducing before they’re even sufficiently educated to support themselves. Our women are broken and tired; trying to live in a world that tells them they are worthless and unattractive. Our boys are on the streets, cocky about their Jordans, but ignorant of their ancestral Kinghood.
Our people just don’t know. They gave us fancy shoes so we would forget the elegant crowns that once graced our heads. We walk around; satisfied by our swagger, unaware of the dignity of the peoples from whom we descended. A racially complicated, and in my opinion, unfortunate, Brad Paisley song has this lyric by LL Cool J, “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains.” Forgive my language, but what in the actual fuck?
How did we get here?
America worships Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and rightfully so. King was a phenomenal leader. He moved the Civil Rights Movement forward by huge strides. However, his contemporary, Malcolm X has been relegated to the corner as one of many extremists in the annals of history. This is a profound and lamentable mistake. Malcolm X had a message that in many ways was more valuable than King’s. He advocated for the unity of the Black community, rather than integration.
Of course, integration is necessary; I’m not arguing for resegregation. Be that as it may, instead of focusing on water fountains and public transportation, we should have worked on high school drop-out rates and the cycle of poverty. Lifting Black America from the dregs of mental and physical poverty was Malcolm X’s core message. He taught that we should buy from Black-owned shops to build our small businesses. He was a proponent of sobriety and self-control. Malcolm preached that righteous indignation against the white man is not only acceptable but warranted. He was a living example of the potential and power of reinvention.
Unfortunately, the integrationists dominated the Civil Rights Movement, thus we have a Voting Rights Bill, and a populace that doesn’t know why it’s important to vote. Here we are, supposedly at equal standing with every other race in America, and possessing a multitude of issues.
Since our children are taught that we live in a post-racial society, they see no need to focus on the history of our people. In fact, some of them even refuse to identify with us (Y’all know who I’m talking about.). Ignorance is running rampant.
We have rap stars with immeasurable influence wasting their platforms to wax eloquent on the wonders of “big booty hoes” and “tryna see titties, tryna show dick”. Hip-hop was one of the great triumphs of our race, and now it’s been commercialized and mainstreamed. We have girls who could be spending their time pursuing successful careers, instead using their energy to twerk their way to a ride-or-die nigga. That’s not the way to do it ladies. We have an upper crust of African-Americans preaching respectability politics to a lower-class that resents them for it.
Furthermore, this fracturing of our community isn’t just along economic lines, it’s ubiquitous. It’s the light-skinned versus the dark-skinned. It’s the “white talking” versus the “street talking”. It’s the niggas who keep it “100” versus the niggas who sell out. It’s the families who live off of welfare versus those who climb the corporate ranks. It’s the Crips versus the Bloods. It’s the woke black people versus the post-racial black people. The list goes on ad nauseum.
Nonetheless, this lack of solidarity is not irreversible. As someone who has made a lot of progress myself on the path to becoming conscious, I can personally attest to the attainability of redemption.
To start, we need to educate ourselves. Before we can bring lasting change, unite our race, and change the way society sees us, we need to learn who we are and where we came from. We need to learn about the numerous contributions that African-Americans have made to our nation. An understanding of the unconscionable and unfathomable pain and horror that the slaves were put through is an indisputable prerequisite to revolutionizing our young people.
We must know our roots before we can transform the seedlings on the streets today. In other words, we must follow in the footsteps of Malcolm X.