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. 😉

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5 responses to “Is There Anything Good About Being Black in America…”

  1. Queen Esther says :

    Thank you! Very well expressed.

    Do you think we’ll get a show that tells the story of the middle to upper class…
    I really agree with you that we are survivors, and we are “overcomers”. Whatever challenges we face, we can make it through. For me the thread that sustains me is my faith; that there has to be a greater purpose for the struggles (a light at the end of the tunnel…)

    Take care! Check out my blogs linked from my website

  2. Brentt says :

    Well, On the 20th of January 2009, there will be a Black person incharge of America :]

  3. kd says :

    I agree with many of your points…however, the whole “class/race” issue is a bogus one. Social stratification of race and class are primary tools that have been used to perpetuate, control and sustain power, wealth AND white supremacy. Class was a social construct develop many thousands of years ago when benevolent kings and some not so benevolent ruled nations. Race, was a post-monarchial social construct created to marginalize and decimate Africans, Native Americans and a host of other human beings who did not fit into the political, social, religioous or cultural constructs of wealthy, European Caucasians….you know this…right?

    The so-called “middle-class” in this country is nothing more than a political-economic construct to perpetuate wealth (through taxation and debt) and power of the same wealthy, white ruling “class” of folks. I’m not trying to sound like a communist or black nationalist but a review of this dynamic from a historical as well as scientific perspective will hold this to be fact. All one need to do is look at some of the early writings of the so-called founding fathers of America. And actually, Marx wasn’t all that off point regarding the function of capitalism, democracy and class. A good book to read on this subject is The Power Elite by sociologist, C. Wright Mills.

    Africans brought here were never intended to be a part of that great American dream or the so-called “middle-class”…who for the most part were the “working-class” during that period.

    If you recall history, we weren’t even considered “human”…our eternal fate was slavery until death…from the cradle to the grave. And even after Lincoln’s so-called emancipation, 450 years later…we have been co-opted into the “class” wars with our brothers and sisters. And don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying that we got to work on our own shit…but how will that ever happen in a society that thrives on the perpetuation of race and class as a
    means of control over certain groups and sub-groups of people.

    My perspective on this whole thing is probably closer to that of Dr. King…class and racial constructs degrade us in parts and pieces…they reduce our humanity by compartmentalizing us into categories.

    It’s simplistic for us to say: “[I don’t think the program told my story or the story of those like me.]” And certainly, it is not unrealistic to say that we are not a monolithic group of folks who all think, act and believe the same things…but the truth is in our daily reality of being BIA…Black in America…is what binds us as a strong and resilient people.

    For the record, I didn’t think it was all that great either…to me it was just another perfunctory effort by MSNBC to capitalized on ratings during all the Obamania.

  4. THINK says :

    First, what are the characteristics of a black middle-class within the context of power relationships in this country? Here is an assignment: write down the names of five black people who can help you get a job, a business loan, or get a zoning ordainance changed.

    I agree with Super Spade. Black folks are resilient. Yes, indeed. However, we need to draw real and unfabricated lessons from our treatment in this country and watch what other groups do: they build neighborhoods, institutions, and what they need in order to perpetuate what it important to their group within the context of the larger society. Blacks still have not grasped this lesson to any sufficient degree.

    The people who create these Black In America programs are not interested in blacks who are educated and doing well–as far as American consumerism is concerned as opposed to the pragmatic creation and deployment of wealth. And make no mistake about it: it is about the dough and controlling institutions.

    I am not talking about rappers and entertainers and that sort of thing. I am talking about entities that form the bedrock of communities and give black folks meaning and purpose going forward.

    For example, what if Tyler Perry had a scene in one of his movies where there is a black family reunion, right? And one of the characters introduces the idea of using these reunions to report on Net Worth each year? That is, black kids should be taught that they need to have several millon dollars in net worth and how to achieve this legally through prudent investing and the pragmatic use of money?

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