Is There Anything Good About Being Black in America…
…besides hip-hop, Barack Obama and professional sports?
Welcome to a Primetime Pity Party
If you were like me, you watched “Black in America” on CNN tonight; which lead me to the question that is the title of this post. While I applaud CNN for shedding light on the numerous ails of the black community, I could tell it was not geared towards African Americans or else the discussion would have been much different.
It was not until my senior year at Michigan that I learned that there was such a thing as a Black Diaspora, that the black experience across the world did not reflect that of African Americans in America. I mention the diaspora because it is germane to tonight’s show and how I come to the conclusion that this show was not geared towards “us.”
Black people know what it is like to be black in America. Heck, we are related or close to someone who has been affected by AIDS, poverty, ignorance, underperforming schools, poor health, etc. etc. Black people know the problems and are now seeking answers. We are tired of living re-runs of “Good Times.” And this is where the program fell short for me and how I figured this is for individuals who are largely insulated from African Americans and the “other America”.
Diaspora is also relevant in that the program kind of lost the middle class blacks and the unique stresses we face. While I am not that far removed from the epidemics listed above, I have an entirely new set of stresses that America or the media can never quite understand, as a young black professional, struggling to consolidate the gains my family has made as well as my own.
For instance, the dimension of having a professional “education” and how that informs the decisions I make as to where I live and raise my kids, but still feeling like a “you know what” at work because I am the only one who looks like me-in addition to an ungodly amount of debt and the sociological ills I still have to face as a black man. So, while I am not that far removed, I don’t think the program told my story or the story of those like me. I do not need a reminder about what it is like to be black in america, because I live it everyday.
I liken CNN’s approach to when the media broadcasted the civil rights marches in Birmingham or the Vietnam War-by exposing the “other America” it will shock people into action. But my question is “shock who?” We need answers and unfortunately, there are none that will come outside of ourselves and our own unique situations.
We, as a people, must not look to the government, the school system, the church, or any other institution or individual for change. We must find solutions to our own problems. And if everyone does what they are supposed to do, good will happen. Like Big Boi from Outkast said “If you want to change the world, start with your corner.” Or as my mother always told me, “don’t ever wait on somebody to do something that needs to be done for you.”
Personally, I do not expect anything from anybody. Life is not fair and in an ideal world, society would guarantee certain inalienable rights to its members. But if history has taught us anything, it is that there has never been and perhaps never will be, a quote-unquote “just” society, as fairness is a matter of perspective.
If nothing else, I take from this program that African Americans are the most resilient people on the face of the earth. After being mistreated, used and abused, in every single form and fashion since we were brought to these shores, we are still here. But now is the time to look inward and draw out the leadership and strength that has been within us from the beginning of time. It is time to expect more of ourselves. We are a tough people and we need that toughness more than ever now.
The litany of causes for the black plight is a Gordian Knot that cannot be solved in our lifetimes, as they existed before we came here. We have issues, simple and plain. Some problems are of our own creation and some are not. Whether this is the case, there is no “white knight” that is going to ride in from the hills to save us. All I know how to do is to help those who are willing to listen and accept my help and the help of those as fortunate as myself, because unlike Harriet Tubman, no one has time to drag you to freedom. However, if we continue to struggle, we will continue to progress.
I guess that is the best thing about being black in America. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is all we got.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
P.S. Feel free to try to convince me otherwise.