What Has Happened To Us?

by Carmen S. Hill

I ask this question, only because, I need to understand. There was a time when we as black people held a united goal. We wanted to achieve equality, fairness, and the right to be recognized as a people; the right to live in neighborhoods without being harassed, the right to attend schools of our choosing without being spit upon or having racial slurs thrown at us; the right to walk into a restaurant and not looked at as if just by our mere presence, the food could become contaminated; the right to live as decent law abiding human beings and not looked at differently just because our skin color is different.

I look at many of our young people today and have talked to them, and it is frightening. It is frightening that in twenty years from now, slaverly, in terms of how it has affected our race of people, could be lost to an entire generation of black youth. I say this because so many of our youth today, know nothing about our history, our heritage and our struggle; hence, a lack of respect for persons like Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Adam Clayton Powell, George Washington Carver, Jesse Jackson, etc. If you ask the average black youth today, who was Shirley Chisholm, Medgar Evers, Mary McLeod Bethune, or about the Freedom Riders, would they know the answer? How many would even know how to go to the public library and find information on these persons. We live in a society where the entertainment industry dictate our values and our respect in terms of goals and commitments. Our young people look at the amount of money an athlete makes, or a singer or rap artist is bringing in and that appears to be the standard they strive for. While some of these artist are doing very well for themselves and their communities in terms of giving back, too many are setting the wrong examples. In today's society you can become a "superstar" overnight, thanks to the media via television, internet, magazines and radio. However, the media does not pass on guidelines, it does not represent a moral code or decree, it merely relays information to the public, and under the guise of "Freedom of Speech", practically anything is allowed.

We, as a people and as parents have the moral obligation to raise our children to be responsible and to have respect. When we do not set the proper example our children make up their own minds based on what they see in their environment. I remember when growing up how we were slighted, not trusted because everyone knows that black people are liars and thieves; how when you went into a store you were followed around and watched, how prices went up on items that black people bought, but the same item was not as high for whites, how you had to wait until white people were served or waited on first before you received service. In some communities this is still going on, but in a more subtle way. I remember reading magazines and journals published for us, so that we were aware of the injustices happening to us and how we could unite as a people and find a solution to the problem. This is where the persons (as well as many others) I mentioned earlier came into play. These were the ones who stood up to the abuse, who took the insults, the injuries and the discriminations, and fought for our rights. Civil Rights did not start in the "1960's", it started long before then. It started during slavery, when our ancestors, whose names we do not know, stood up and faced the whip and died in pools of blood because they took a stand against the tyranny of torture and death at the hands of the white slave master. Civil Rights was being formed each time a mother's tears spilled into the dirt as she fell onto the ground screaming for her child that was torn from her bosom and sold away from her. Civil Rights was being formed when the Africans rebelled on the slave ships and fought for their freedom or threw themselves overboard rather than submit to a fate they did not ask for. Civil Rights was and is being exercised everytime we have and stilll refuse to be subjected to a violation of our God given rights.

This brings me back to my first question, What Has Happened to Us? Is it that we think that we have achieved our goal and now there is no longer a need to be united? Is this why when some of us receive a certain status, whether it is in government, a job position such as supervisor, manager or administrator; or whatever our position is, that we feel we can look down on others. When we see the word subordinates used in a job description or job evaluation, do we believe that persons we supervise are at a sub-level and therefore we are superior to them? In the black churches where during the "Civil Rights Movement" people came together and fought against discrimination, what has happened? Why is there now a class distinction in the black churches? In government, why do black politicians (not all) look down on poor people, people they don't consider on the same level as they are? Why do you only see them in the "hood", when election time come around and even then they have bodyguards with them. Parents what are you teaching your children, are you teaching them respect, were you taught respect for your blackness, and your heritage, do you even know about Civil Rights and Black History? If you do not, then I would have to say, did we as parents (now we are grandparents) somehow fail our children and our generation?

Those of us who grew up in the 60's and were witnesses to the marches, the birth of the Black Panthers, the signing of the Civil Rights Bill, the assassination of Medgar Evers, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., the lynchings in the South, the riots in inner cities, and the birth of Affirmative Action, did we do enough to educate, to set the right example, or did we get too comfortable with our own achievements. If our young people are showing disrespect for the ones who paved the way for them to even have a voice, we have to ask ourselves how did we fail them. If our young people are continually killing their own and show no regard for human lives black or white, we have to ask ourselves did we teach their parents right from wrong. And if we in the year 2002, as a culture and as a race of people are continually being discriminated against and are still considered low class and underachievers, where laws that were written and passed because we fought for equality are being reversed and used against us, then apparently we have not done enough. We (not all) have failed our children and they (not all) did not teach their own. Until we acknowledge and accept what has happened to us, and unite and fix the problem, no solution will be permanent.

The tombstones of fallen slaves will shed tears if their struggles and their deaths were in vain, because they were strong in their determination and did not fear the consequences, they were true to the words of the song that say, "and before I be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord to be free."

What Has Happened To Us? by Carmen S. Hill

© Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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