Our paralysis is tied to our hopelessness (Part 1)

August 18, 2014

Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)

Given the downward spiraling out of control of every negative demographic facing the Black community, it is obvious that our community seems unwilling or unable to mount a collective offensive. The question must be raised: Who amongst us should be leading this effort? You have to conclude, if you’re honest, something is wrong, seriously wrong with our community. When nothing is being done, our children and many of those less fortunate begin to believe in the misrepresentation that Blacks are inherently inferior – which is preposterous but is getting significant traction in both the white and black community. Did our ancestors bargain for this? Our ancestors are rolling over in their graves because, not only do we have to contend with structural issues that prevent the self determination of Black people; now, we must face what we are doing to each other. – I contend that “it’s not what they’re doing to us; it’s what we’re not doing.”
While, I fundamentally believe that we could do so much more, I will never take America off the hook for the damage done to our people. Most of our issues point back to where it all started and how Blacks have been structurally and systematically denied the full rights of citizenship and all of its benefits as equal members of America. And for those of you who believe in the so-called “post-racial society” and that the “past is the past,” I reprimand you stridently and ask you to rethink your position because you’re dead wrong and depending on the person, you’re either completely brainwashed, a traitor to your people, or both. In spite of all of our problems, – I love our people and we, when you really examine us, represent one of the greatest groups of people in modern history. Just think what we would be if we could rid ourselves of the self-hate and inferiority that has been and continues to be branded into our minds on a daily basis.
It absolutely matters where you start and every fight waged by our ancestors to be treated fairly and equally, like other Americans, was met with the most devious, hated, and mean-spirited resistance ever organized. Don’t get it twisted! You should asked yourself, why? If you don’t know, you should do a little studying because you’re lacking some very basic information. The enslavement of our ancestors was a brutal and vicious institution that hurt us, I believe permanently, and it continues to haunt us today in every way. Slavery was a very profitable American institution. While the institution of slavery doesn’t exist today, its infrastructure (ideas, beliefs, values, and policies) has morphed into other American institutions. If you’re one of those Blacks individuals that actually believes where you start is not important, I can show you ten million ways why it does matter.
What do you think the White community was doing while our ancestors slaved for nothing for 300 years? They were building, on our ancestors’ backs, the strongest and most powerful country in modern history and today America represents the leader of the world. America is the world’s leader in finance, management, education, medicine, transportation, global trade, agriculture, manufacturing, technology, innovation, media, culture, and law government. Where you start matters.
When we were finally freed from this vicious and barbaric system, most of America’s institutions were already built (i.e. law and government, finance and banking, health and education, etc.). Some say, we were freed from bondage because we were no longer needed.
When we were freed, we were penniless, uneducated, and stigmatized not just by White people, but by our own people as well. How many times have you heard that there are limits to what a Black person can/should be able to do and to question this is, many times, considered to be uppity? Many Black people bought into (hook, line, and sinker) the concept of black inferiority. We were indoctrinated in numerous ways in the belief of black inferiority. Like many victims, we bore the burden that this was our fault and we were deserving of it (self-guilt). How many times have we heard how the victim is made to believe that they were deserving of the mistreatment? Black man and woman, we must study how this happened to us. I believe this is one of the reasons why the issue has been allowed to be tabled. Brothers and Sisters, I don’t care what people are saying; we must take a page out of the Jewish community’s mantra “never again and never forget.” We must never forget nor let anyone else forget what was done to us and we must begin to develop solutions that are truly designed to address both the structural and emotional damage done to our people.

For those who just don’t get it (Black or White) or just refuse to accept the truth, I equate our situation to a 100 meter track race where the competition has a 99.9 meter advantage (300+ years advantage) and the winner takes a multi-trillion dollar economy. When the whistle is blown, who do you think will win? Especially, if you consider that our opponent not only has an insurmountable lead, but we have been physically and emotionally damaged. We have been damaged by inferior housing, inferior education, inferior food, and inferior thinking. And then, like magic and in a twinkle of the eye, our competition which, which owns mass media, the higher education institutions, and Hollywood has convinced everyone that this race is fair and competitive. How insane! But, we lie down and take it. Today we hear from many “right-wing” conservatives (keepers of the American way) telling the Black community to stop playing the “race card” and to stop bringing up the past (the past doesn’t matter). They say “the past is the past and I didn’t enslave anyone.” They also say “my people endure hardships too,” so if Black people can’t compete under the concept of “free competition,” something is wrong with Black people and nothing is wrong with the system. America is about free enterprise. With little to no institutional memory and the real truth a million miles away, our children grow up to believing in this myth, which becomes the core of hopelessness. This is how it is and this is how it will always be.
Not knowing just a little of our history one would might conclude that the myth of “fair competition” is not fair but a myth.
This is why we must recommit to learning and teaching about our history, especially the last 400 years in America. Having it all isn’t enough for many White Americans. They wanted it all now and forever. Why is it that every fight Blacks have fought for freedom and civil rights in the country has been absolutely rejected and defended against by the white establishment? Not one gain that we’ve achieved in this country was a gift – all of them were hard fought wins. During those struggles, we lost time, wealth, dignity, and many times our lives for these very basic gains. Even today, instead of achieving more gains, many of our previous gains are being rolled back. I can show that every issue facing the Black man in America has its roots in this absolutely, unbashful, idiotic, ridiculous, insane, and unfair start. Our disconnection from our past has significantly contributed to our hopelessness which currently paralyzes us.
I will address the damage that has been done to our people in another article, but we must asked ourselves why the needle isn’t moving. Why are our problems getting worse and, most importantly, where is the fight? Where is the struggle? In my humble opinion, the last big wins for Black people was the in the 1960’s – nearly 50 years ago specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin; The Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibited racial discrimination in voting; and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act) that provided for equal housing regardless of race, creed, or national origin.
I recently wrote about the 60- year anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, a landmark case that finally recognized segregated white and black schools were not equal. Most of those landmark cases were challenged for a number of years before we could claim victory. The problem is that we should have had more gains over the past 50 years because none of these gains were perfect – in fact, far from it. They were to be perfected over time with additional challenges and fights. Given the loss of many of our gains along with the mounting of our problems, why are we unable to mount a serious offense? Let me ask: “Do you believe that we are inherently inferior as a people? If you believe we’re inherently inferior, you’re a victim of the Black Inferiority propaganda campaign. We’re just the opposite, we’re a GREAT PEOPLE.
We’ve faced and beaten odds and beaten them worse than any other group known to mankind has had to face, but today we are paralyzed due to our hopelessness.
However, as a group, we’ve taken our eyes off the prize, especially our most educated and most successful over the past 50 years. As I stated at the beginning of this article, given the downward spiraling out of control of every negative demographic facing the Black community, it is obvious that our community seems unwilling or unable to mount a collective offensive. You have to conclude, if you’re honest, that something is wrong, seriously wrong with our community. I would suggest the latter. I believe that most Black Americans care about our future and are prepared to do something – but what? I say the first thing that we must all do is to restore hope. It appears that we are paralyzed. Our paralysis can be seen in our belief that it’s hopeless, especially by the elite and the most economically mobile amongst us (my position is, if we’re to make progress, this group is going to have to play a very significant role).