Post King Generation
The Overlooked PERSPECTIVE
Commentary by Eric Elliott
I was in second grade before I was conscious of who Martin Luther King, Jr. was. Mrs. Carroll showed our class a Martin Luther King, Jr. presentation on a film projector mounted on a three-shelf audio/visual cart. Many of you remember the presentations that used actual film where the images were to be synchronized with an accompanying record, and the teacher’s pet would turn the film to the next image after hearing the high pitched “turn now” signal.
As a second grader nearly thirteen years after his death, my first encounter of whom the man was caused me to question, how could such a man be taken away from so many? I remember laying in bed all night visualizing images of Dr. King as he made his infamous I Have A Dream speech. Those images of him seemed so real to me, it was those images that assured me that Dr. King’s dream is certainly alive.
Now as a man I often wonder if the dream has diminished, or has it evolved into a nightmare. Is Dr. King’s dream no longer important to the black community, or was it clearly misinterpreted? Have we become immune to who the man was because we heard his story too many times, seen enough church fans with his face, or have we grown tired of seeing his photograph mounted in Big Momma’s living room? After all, our generation never knew him or marched beside him for anything we believe to be right.
Much of what Martin Luther King was about had little to do with how much an individual could elevate himself/herself but had everything to do with lifting a whole race of people. This theory has become cliché’, but in order to tell it like it is, black folk must realize that life is not a video interpretation of ourselves. How much cash money can we flaunt, how many scantily clad woman can we parade around, or how many cars and body parts we can decorate is not what life is about. Sadly many believe that is what being black is about, including other races of people who are enamored with black culture’s many facets, but ironically find our cultural nuances most intriguing. All things have their place but when our children focus to strive high for what is shallow, the guiding spirit of Dr. King’s dream has become dismal at best.
Our community’s staring role in the Imitation of Video creates a blanket of shame for the generations prior to our own. What ever happened to young people admiring pastors, teachers, coaches, and grandfathers? I know for some of us it is hard to grasp the message Pastor Scott preached at the church last Sunday, but more understanding to pay for, listen and comprehend what Lil’ Wayne is rapping about. Don’t get me wrong I am not anti hip-hop but identifying what is beneficial for us should not continue to be a misnomer within our community.
Who do we represent? Without hesitation many would scream their section of town, neighborhood, or social affiliation. What happened to representing God, yourself, your family, other people like and unlike yourself, and what is right, as Dr. King did?
While attending college I had an instructor, who happened to be the first black architect in the state of Louisiana. After teaching and testing the class for a semester, Dean Thurman issued two grades of “C” and twelve grades of “D”. After his trademark stare out of the classroom window where he overlooked the largest black university in the country, Dean Thurman declared with frustration, “… you young people don’t apply yourselves…. you are letting down the race…” It was clear to him that there was an obvious lack of pride in whom we represented in our quest to graduate and become professionals. This came from a man who entered Hampton Institute at the age of 16, became an architect and engineer, and founded the schools of engineering and architecture at Southern Unversity by the age of 21, nearly 50 years ago.
The first generation after Dr. King’s death appears to have become more complacent with becoming successful at anything. Each generation should attain more progress than that prior, but there are too many instances where regression has become prevalent. “…I wanted to get my children everything I didn’t have when I was coming up…” that mentality is destroying our upper and middle class communities in particular. It is ridiculous for a high school kid to drive luxury cars to class and wear the equivalent to rent or mortgage in clothes and jewelry to school. The precedent has been set. If our children simply ask for what they desire, they will get the same result as if they worked hard, their perspective has always been why sacrifice and work? I recently heard someone say, “…Before you give your children anything you didn’t have, you must first give them what you did have… Why pay $150 for a pair of sneakers when the same child won’t go to school to receive a free education…”. Integrity, respect, and pride of self should be the type of love every parent should want to give their child before considering anything material.
Regression also applies to the way we get along as black people. Black on Black crime and jealousy divides our race more than any other. We simply don’t care about others enough to collectively make a difference in our communities, our future, and ourselves. Black folks are plagued with “I, Me, My Syndrome”.
Because black people have experienced an increased level of equality since the time of Dr. King, we should not be content with the world believing that we all live in harmony. The simple fact that we cannot get along with each other as black folk should ponder serious contemplation on how well we are implementing the dream. We have focused so much on how we can maintain better relationships with white people, we have neglected how beautiful it is for black folk to support and love other black folk. Dr. King’s dream did not allude to black people making a choice to either get along with each other, or get along with other races. Despite our unwilling belief, this can be done simultaneously. It’s unfortunate that sometimes the world cannot revolve from the minds of second graders.