For many years I have thought deeply about the tragedy of African Americans. As a member of this group, I have watched the gradual breakdown of the walls of discrimination and injustice. I often think of the following when and how to remove and sweep away the debris.
History – it is imperative that I remember African American history as a tool to understand how people think about me and how I think about myself. Chattel slavery should not be dismissed simply because it no longer exists in our society. Understanding the dynamics and effect upon generations to come is important to not only ponder, but also to write about such that the next generation is able to discern truth and error with respect to how we value each other as human beings.
One-Sidedness – I duly note many in our society today who are against this racial bias experienced by us. I am reminded of a new boss of mine in a small company with me being the only non-white person. Finding that I was not required to travel, my new boss stated that I was not privileged and that I should find a sitter to take care of my pickaninnies while I traveled. I, along with my co-workers, was stunned by her remark. I made no grimace, but pondered how to handle such a person. I approached the CEO about the problem, but something prevented me telling him my concern. During the next two or three weeks, this new boss openly hurled racial epithets around the company. Since I was the only Black person there, they were hurtful to me. I later learned that my fellow employees, in a private meeting with the CEO, took a stand against this person. They told the CEO about the comment made directly to me at the department meeting as well as other racial inflammatory remarks recited by this person to other employees in the company. It was not long before this new person was gone, her tenure lasting less than a month. I was not alone.
I make an effort not to become too one-sided. It is possible to become a slave to slavery, so much so that it dominates all that we do, think or write. I think being black in America today is more about culture than skin color and participation beyond the boundaries of culture is the key to what Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted America to understand. Today we are gifted musicians, scientists, writers, businessmen, bankers, doctors, dentists, administrative assistants, lawyers, judges, etc. I am reminded that Americans of all races have fought on battlefields across the world. Irrespective of the containers that held their bloods, it was red. I need to remind myself to lift the unshackled chains from my heart, remembering what they stood for, and move forward. The good news is that there has been a noticeable change in attitude in my lifetime. Peace.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.