Dr. Carter G. Woodson argues:
“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro, thus educated, is a hopeless liability of the race.”
“The difficulty is that the “educated Negro” is compelled to live and move among his people, whom he has been taught to despise. As a rule, therefore, the “educated Negro” prefers to buy his food from a White grocer because he has been taught that the Negro is not clean. It does not matter how often a Negro washes his hands, then, he cannot clean them, and it does not matter how often a White man uses his hands, he cannot soil them.”
It challenges me a great deal, witnessing the unprecedented, obscene denigration of Black leadership and Black identity, a community depicted by its condition and solidarity amid harsh economic conditions and poverty. Principled and strong Black leadership is essential for effectively dealing with complex issues facing Blacks in the 21st century.
“You have all heard of the African personality, of African democracy, of the African way to socialism, of negritude, and so on. They are all props we have fashioned at different times to help us get on our feet again. Once we are up, we shan't need any of them anymore. But for the moment, it is in the nature of things that we may need to counter racism with what Jean-Paul Sartre has called an anti-racist racism, to announce not just that we are as good as the next man, but that we are much better.”
—Chinua Achebe (1965)
How can Blacks find unity amid the systematic circumstances that have perpetuated generations of societal influences that adversely stifle African-American progress? As a society, Blacks have failed to produce group-oriented strategies, agendas, and plans necessary for community evolution. Because we are not unified, organized, and structurally conditioned to produce systematic results as a community, we find ourselves victims to the vigorous onslaught, oppression, and denigration of Black leadership at all levels. In some or most cases, African-Americans are to blame and perpetual failure to produce progressive results driven by principled leadership. Although there are great strides in our sometimes selfless attempts to unify a divided community, we find ourselves pressing the reset button, starting from the same place from which we left off. This causes a ripple effect of the same old tired, recycled, and yet visionless cronyism seen throughout the Black community. But there is hope.
This past weekend, more than 100,000 people gathered in Detroit, Michigan, to honor the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his “Walk for Freedom” more than 50 years ago. The NAACP’s Detroit branch, the UAW, coordinated the event, along with many Black organizations speaking as one voice, with one agenda and one objective: to fight against injustice, inequality, and the denigration of Black leadership. This is positive, yet progressive action toward unifying the Black power base. I applaud the leadership that has been tirelessly coordinating such a profound historical occasion and victory in the Black community, at every level, even in the midst of great confusion and turmoil.
“In the West and elsewhere, the European, in the midst of other peoples, has often propounded an exclusive view of reality; the exclusivity of this view creates a fundamental human crisis. In some cases, it has created cultures arrayed against each other or even against themselves. Afrocentricity’s response certainly is not to impose its own particularity as universal, as Eurocentricity has often done. But hearing the voice of African-American culture, with all of its attendant parts, is one way of creating a more sane society and one model for a more humane world.” —M. K. Asante (1988)
In Detroit, with a plethora of unyielding issues preventing the Black community’s unification—oscillating from schools failing to educate Black children to racial profiling, the new Jim Crow (mass incarceration of Black boys), teen pregnancy, disproportionate crime and violence rates, and ubiquitous poverty—we find ourselves spiraling through a maze of confusion, disunity, and special-interest leadership.
“This process is described as systematically depriving African-Americans of their knowledge of self. The mis-education of the Negro is the root of the problems of the masses of the African-American community and that if the masses of the African-American community were given the correct knowledge and education from the beginning, they would not be in the situation that they find themselves in today. African-Americans often valorize European culture to the detriment of their own culture.”
—Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933)
We cannot properly address these serious issues pertaining to the Black community until we are re-educated and our virtuous existence is aligned with a Negro “Black” identity willing to set aside self-serving agendas and priorities that are detrimental to Black progress. Until we are prepared to challenge the status quo within the Black community, we shall not have righteous access to the social, political, or economic benefits fixed by America’s capitalistic global program. We must unify, putting egos aside, strategizing for alternative progress in the Black community. There are many spokes in a wheel; together, let us assemble the engine so we can get rolling. The future of Black America is in front of us, but we will see it only once we realize the potential in ourselves.