Blacks Are in a State of EmergencyIt is becoming ever more unpopular for me to assert that I am an African American. It appears that I would have more fans if I would just accept myself as a “diversity.” But, I am not a “diversity,” I am not a “multiculturalism,” and I am not a “Blacks-and-Latinos.” Regardless of popular calls for the erasure of African identity, I steadfastly remain of African descent. The recent death of my cousin Reggie has sharpened my ability to see that Blacks can actually be annihilated. Reggie’s death prompted me to investigate some of the cancers that affect our community. As I investigated, my heart pulsated quickly, I became short of breath, and I called for help. Here is what I found:
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (1999), Black children comprise 17 percent of the total U.S. public school population. Yet, they are 41 percent of those placed in special education, 35 percent of those labeled mentally retarded, and they score lower on standardized tests and other school-based measures than their non-Black counterparts. I shriek at the fact that (for non-Whites) high marks and scores could indicate the inculcation of White supremacy, rather than the mark of true academic excellence. (See the works of eugenicist Dr. Carl Brigham, originator of the SAT (1923), and eugenicist Dr. Lewis Terman, originator of the IQ test, (1924).
In the arena of health education, the most devastating problem in the worldwide Black community is AIDS. The United Nations Aids Program (2002) reports that people of African descent constitute over 83 percent of the world’s AIDS cases. Of the new AIDS cases in America, the Centers for Disease Control finds that 63 percent are Black women, who only make up about 6 percent of the population. We need true AIDS education — it seems that the disease now discriminates.
Since the AIDS news was so startling, for pain relief I checked the homicide rates hoping that they had fallen, but there was no relief for my aching chest. While Black men are 6 percent of the total U.S. population, the Bureau of Criminal Justice Statistics reports in 2002 that 46 percent of all homicide victims and 43 percent of those behind bars are Black men.
I didn’t want to have a heart attack so I moved away from my computer. I sighed relief since I realized that I could return home that evening and watch television and forget about all these problems. I turned on the television and saw Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas saying that African Americans need to see themselves only as Americans. When he finished, I called dial-a-nurse and the woman on the phone said that I was not having a myocardial infarction, but that I could be in a “state of emergency.” About 20 minutes after the Thomas speech I turned on the radio and there he was … P. Diddy (aka Puff Daddy). I listened, wondered if he would cover any of the issues I had researched on my computer, but I was sorely disappointed. My heart longed to use those powerful radio waves to announce the state of emergency. I felt silenced. The pain continues.
If the African American community does not soon realize that we are on the verge of a community infarction, we will perish. If our African American leadership won’t declare a state of emergency — I now declare that WE ARE IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY. We must act accordingly by supporting Black businesses, educating our children and reconnecting with our culture. — Kmt Gerald Shockley is a doctoral candidate in education policy and administration at the University of Maryland, College Park. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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