Race relations have been and will be the Achilles Heel of the United States of America, at least for the foreseeable future. I hope that I am wrong.
We are still limping around misguided and misdirected even in 2013.
I grew up in the segregated South. Any of us who came of age in the ‘50s and the ‘60s know about sitting in the balcony of theaters and participating in demonstrations. I went to an all-Black elementary school and an all-Black high school.
I had all White teachers (they were nuns) at the Catholic elementary school that I attended. The environment created by the nuns was wholesome and caring. We didn’t feel unwanted or disliked by them. Some of my classmates and I have had discussions about what we experienced at the Catholic School in Winston-Salem, N.C. We enjoyed ourselves both academically and socially. I never heard my parents speak negatively about the school and I stayed there until I graduated and went to high school. I can honestly say that my thirst for learning was made during those early years.
However at the same time we were in elementary school there were marches and racial tension. We saw it and we felt it so my early experiences with race made me conscious of the problem. I owe it to my parents for giving me the insight and wisdom not to judge everyone the same.
I have been very fortunate in my life to have met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverends Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson, Attorney Morris Dees and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. All these people and many more have been at the forefront of social justice issues involving racism, sexism and economic disparities.
Despite the heroic efforts of many, America still finds itself in and out of racial confusion. Jim Crow laws were around for many years and some of us thought he had died. However, it seems as though some of Crow’s relatives have come on the scene and won’t go away.
Have we as African Americans played any role in our own misfortunes? Yes, we have.
Recently, a professional football player used the “n” word. Before he could say internet it was everywhere being played over and over again for full effect. Afterwards, he quickly apologized and sought counseling. Now for me at least there are a few questions that are being kicked down the field. First, where did he initially hear the word and second, would he have apologized had he not gotten caught?
As African Americans some of us use the “n” word every day but if you are old school like me it’s not a part of your lexicon because blood was shed and lives were lost because of the use of that word. As I travel around some young people have tried to explain how and when to use the word. If the “n” word ends in the letter “a” then it is a term of endearment. If it ends in the letters “er” then we should be offended. I get so heated over this definition because it tells me many young people of color do not appreciate their history and understand how offensive that word is. Furthermore in this distorted way of thinking if Black people call each other an “n’ then it is OK. Yet if a White person uses the word then there is a public outcry.
Here is a suggestion and a recommendation that I am giving to everyone that I know, Black and White, and that is to stop using the “n” word. Just remove it from your vocabulary. If you hear your family member using the word then tell them to stop. If you hear your favorite rap artist using the word then stop buying their music. If you are present when it is used in a joking way then tell them to stop.
As African Americans, we must stop killing ourselves physically and socially. Black boys are being killed each day because a Black male pulled the trigger. While racism brings on another set of problems, we exacerbate the problem by being mean and hateful to each other.
Black children must learn from us that we must first treat each other with dignity and respect. It begins with our own self-respect. If you are old school pull out the record Respect Yourself by The Staple Singers. Let someone in the new school borrow it so they can get a musical history lesson. If we want a better America then it starts in our homes. Wake up with self-respect and we will come home with it.