It is, once again, that time of year for me. That time when I celebrate another year of living here among the billions of men, women, and children, who make up the population on earth. Of course, my communication is with a very minuscule section of that population. When I celebrated my birthday a couple years ago, I had one of my students approach me and ask, “Professor Williams how long you been here, sir?” In other words he was asking me how old I was, but felt it more polite to not ask in that manner. Well, I answered it from the context of his question and would like to share with you my answer, modified somewhat to include the past two years.
I told that young man that I have been here long enough to know, that this country’s persistent racial crisis has a historical precedent. I have been here long enough to know, that the justice system that failed to punish the murderers of Emmett Till in 1955, fails to punish the murderers of young Black boys in the streets of this country in 2016. I have been here long enough to know, that the racist that cowardly shot and killed Medgar Evers in the driveway of his home in 1963, are still among us. I have been here long enough to know, the hatred that could drive men to bomb a church with children inside during Sunday school, in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 still exist. I have been around here long enough to know, that the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and Dr. Martin King, Jr. in 1968, were not just random acts of violence but well-planned plots to eliminate two of the most effective Black leaders who, given time, would have united the Black race in a way never done before.
I have been around here long enough to know, that an economic system that is so unfairly skewed in favor of one race of people at the expense of others, will never be able to achieve economic parity unless a new system is put in place. I have been around here long enough to know, despite the ranting of Bill O’Reilly on FOX television, that white skin privilege is real and has always existed in this country. I have been around here long enough to know, that the conservative movement in this country is essentially an antithetical force to the gains Blacks have made, as a result of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the 1965 Voting Rights Law. I have been around here long enough to know, that the past three Republican Presidents, who have led the fight to overturn the progress that Blacks and other minorities have made as a result of federal legislation, have always found a Black man or woman to attach themselves to, in order to serve as subterfuge to what they planned to eradicate. For Ronald Reagan, it was Colin Powell. For George H.W. Bush, it was Clarence Thomas. For George W. Bush it was Condeleeza Rice. Now as we move into the Donald Trump era of the Republican Party, it appears that Dr. Ben Carson will fill that role.
I have also been around here long enough to recognize the dangers confronting my race and culture, as our young men everyday are drawn more into a life of self-destructive, hedonistic pessimism. I have been
around here long enough to discern the change in our culture from the “Black is Beautiful” era of the late 1960’s and 70’s, to the Crack Cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s. I have been around here long enough to know, that the
ministers in the Black church have moved away from the Social Gospel of Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth to the Prosperity Gospel of Creflo Dollar, T. D. Jakes, Eddie Long and I. V. Hilliard, and none of them have been able to influence our young so that they believe in themselves and in their race (although I must admit that Dr. King came the closest). They all have failed to teach the doctrine of “Love your Neighbor as you love yourself,” because our young do not love themselves. Many of them love the drugs, love the gangs and love the guns. And that is pathological for the survival of our race.
I guess you can surmise that I have been around here a long time. I have to admit that I never thought I would live to see a Black elected president of this country. But I have been around here long enough to recognize, that his election would not solve the myriad of problems that my culture and people confront on a daily basis. I think we all now realize after seven years, that President Obama was not a panacea for what ails us as a people. I have been around here long enough to know, that the dangers we confront are now in-house and not the work of forces outside, as they have been in the past. I have also been around here long enough to know, that if we as a people want to change the direction that an important segment of our culture is taking toward self-destruction, we must all individually commit to do something dynamic to help effectuate that change. And if blessed by the creator I hope to be around here long enough to witness that transition.