Soon after the Martin Luther King Day parade came to an end and folks were celebrating the birthday of the great Black leader of the 20th Century with cookouts at the park, shots rang out in the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Eight people ranging in the ages 8 to 30 were wounded and many rushed to the hospital. In Chicago, Illinois, 39 people were shot, with 10 killed during the King Holiday weekend. That is just the tip of the iceberg as we begin the year 2017 the same way the previous year ended, with our young shooting and killing each other. In 2016 over 700 were murdered in Chicago and that is only one city. Guns have become the poison pill in our community; and poverty along with racial self-hatred the reasons to swallow that pill.
As our young continue to kill and wound each other, one must begin to question should the Black Lives Matter crowd continue to make their target the police or is it time to turn inward and make that plea to our own children? Do our young killers know Black Lives Matter or do they even care? An additional question to be pondered is what has happened over generations so that some in our race have gotten to the point that they can routinely point a gun at another human being and pull the trigger with no remorse for their dastardly deed. Our neighborhoods are becoming the killing fields of the Twenty-first Century.
No doubt we as adults have failed our children to the point that they do not respect their culture, their race and not even the holiday in honor of the man who gave his life so that we all could live better lives. With each new generation, our children become more alienated from society and from their identity as proud Black men and women. In his new novel, The Killing Breeze, to be released early in the Spring 2017, outstanding novelist Tony Lindsay opens up with a quote from Huey Newton. It is appropriate as a summation of the condition of our youth. “The lower socio-economic Black male is a man of confusion. He faces a hostile environment and is not sure that it is not his own sins that have attracted the hostilities of society. All his life he has been taught (explicitly and implicitly) that he is an inferior approximation of humanity. As a man, he finds himself void of those things that bring respect and a feeling of worthiness. He looks around for something to blame for his situation, but because he is not sophisticated regarding the socio-economic milieu and because of negativistic parental and institutional teachings, he ultimately blames himself.” As a result, these young men no longer respect their culture or their race.
The essential institutions for any culture include the family, the church, the schools, the peer group and the governmental body. Over four hundred years of slavery had a devastating effect on the idea of a family structure among Blacks forced over here from Africa. Our ancestors were stolen away from their families when they were captured and sold to a sick bunch of European Americans in this country. There was no such thing as a family structure on the plantations where over 90% of Blacks resided until after the Civil War. Not because Blacks did not want families but because the sick, immoral racists plantation owners wouldn’t allow it to exist. The shift of the Black population from the South to the North, which began in the late Nineteenth Century and continued through World War II did not eradicate the problem, in fact it intensified the break up. Blacks in this country never had the opportunity to rebuild their ancestral relationships with family in Africa, and never had the opportunity to build a new family structure in this country due to a myriad of problems, the key one being the need to survive. Poverty does not lend itself to a stable family structure. Black Americans have struggled with poverty throughout generations and still have to fight for economic survival today. With over 72% of Black babies born into a single family household and the failure of many of the fathers to take on the responsibility as fathers, then the traditional family structure is in danger of disappearing in the Black culture.
One might also surmise that the second key institution, the church, has also failed in its responsibility to the youth and, therefore, to the sustainability of our culture. Immediately following the end of slavery, our ancestors believed the one institution they could count on to deliver security to them was the church. They put all their faith in the ministers who served often as teachers, preachers, psychiatrists, counselors and mentors to our youth. But too often they failed because they were not equipped to provide all these services. So instead, they instructed our ancestors to “Lean on Jesus and He will deliver for you.” They simply quoted from the Bible to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But what they failed to teach was, you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else. No doubt, racial self-hatred is a key component in the shootings that happen every day in our communities. Those young folks who committed murders on the King Holiday don’t love King and don’t love their fellow Blacks, don’t love their race and don’t love their culture, because they don’t love themselves.
Education is the key to the growth and sustainability of a race and culture. School is the institution with the primary responsibility to teach our young how to read and write. But we know our schools are in disarray and are failing the youth, not because of the failure our teachers but the failure to provide them with all the necessary resources needed to teach. There are no more powerful tools than the power to read and write. Those skills are escaping our young to the point that a huge percentage of them cannot read nor write a sentence. A Chinese delegation visiting the United States in the 1930’s, was appalled to learn that Black America put the education of their kids in the hands of a race of people who all along had very little interest in them. Carter G. Woodson correctly identified it as the “miseducation of the Negro.”
Due to the failure of the traditional cultural institutions, the peer group has picked up the slack and fill the needs of our young. Gangs now provide our youth with a sense of belonging. They become the family, they provide the members with an ethical code drawn up among themselves for their survival in a society they feel is out to destroy them. Reading and writing become insignificant and replaced with the ability to shoot straight and have the temerity to aim a gun at another human being and shoot him or her.
Actually, I haven’t written anything here that most of you already don’t know. The question then becomes when is enough going to be enough. When will we tire of this killing and destruction of our kids and ultimately our culture. The more important consideration is how do we turn this madness around? What can we do as a race to reach our young and share with them the strength and beauty of their people throughout history. And that our ancestors came up the rough side of the mountain and took the brunt of the abuse so that we could live better lives. It is up to each one of us to make a commitment to invest our resources and talents, without consideration for compensation other than we did our best to turn this situation around. I have made that commitment and will elaborate on what I plan to continue doing for the rest of 2017 and for years to come in my next post. Until then, I encourage each of you to think about what you also can do to save our children because Black Lives REALLY Do Matter.