CULTURE

It is important to think about the “why” in action. Many factors play into our beliefs, behavior, life choices and the paths we take. We are all different-we have different experiences-been exposed to different things. So, it is inevitable that our perspective-the way in which we “frame” things be different. Differences can be great tools for interpersonal relations, but not without respect.

There is something special about the collaborative process. Not only does it provide a forum for mutual encouragement, it affords the opportunity to become enlightened-to broaden our horizons-to alter our “frames”. If we begin to think about why we “do what we do”, we might gain a deeper understanding of others. 

Our beliefs, lifestyles and values are for the most part prescribed, literally from the time we are born. If everything else about me were the same (i.e. personality, temperament, race, size, blood type, etc) but I was raised in Germany by german parents, then I would be typing this in German, possibility from an entirely different perspective.  I say this to say that judgement should be replaced with understanding and the acceptance of differences. Of course, we can’t always see things from the other’s perspective, or understand the logic behind their actions,  but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong and we’re right. Respect peoples’ rights to do what they want to do and to be who they are. Respect is the only requirement for peace.

 

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THE RESIDUE

We are unlike any other group of people-our roots are as varied as our skin tones. We have just a little more bounce in our step-zest in our voice-and color in our character than any group we are compared with. For this reason, we are judged, admired, mimicked,  stereotyped-simply misunderstood. We have to prove ourselves, we are guilty until we prove ourselves innocent. We all bare the burden when one of us “mis-steps”. We have to work harder than everyone else because a different set of standards has been developed especially for us. And God forbid we mess up after we have been deemed one of the “decent” or “exceptional” ones.

We can’t hide, there is no blending in. Even before we speak, there is no mistaking one fact: We are black. This, in and of itself qualifies that our lives are different. Even if not in our own eyes, but always in the eye of the “prejudiced”. We’ve made great progress, fought through unspeakable adversity- protested our way into universities and neighborhoods-into positions of power. But, our shortcomings still seem to shine through a little brighter than our accomplishments. The residue of our ancestors’ reality is all around. We are only as good as our weakest link and our neighborhoods are in turmoil-our children aren’t living long enough to reach their full potential-to fulfill their purpose-to build families. Historically, our families have been the cornerstone of our communities.

It’s apparent that the wounds of our past are just a little deeper than some of us are all willing to let on. Chicago did not become a war zone because people with a fair chance decided not to take advantage of it-New Orleans didn’t become the “murder capital” because a whole population of people said “we don’t want to succeed”-the teen birthrate for african-american teens in Memphis didn’t skyrocket because little black girls decided that they wanted to reduce their chances of achieving success. These things are the residue of the unimaginable pain our people endured not just physically, but psychologically. There is a sense of hopelessness that has been passed down through generations. We are poorer than other races because we weren’t given the same opportunities to acquire wealth. While other races were chasing the “American dream” we were trying to pick up the pieces of endless years of slavery-trying to mentally adjust to freedom. Removing the chains doesn’t grant instant freedom.

This is not to insinuate that all other races were handed a “silver spoon”. It’s just to say that no one gets to determine when “we” should be “over it”. We’re talking about generations of slavery-pain-of being at a social and spiritual disadvantage. It means that we’ve been through a lot -that we’re still carrying the pain of those who came before us-who paved the way or at least tried to. It’s a lot deeper than what the media reports. It is not our intention to perpetuate negative stereotypes. All of us want to do better-to overcome-it’s just that some of us don’t know any better. We must receive spiritual help before we can move forward.

I say “we” because although it can be quite frustrating-we are only as strong as our weakest link. We shouldn’t abandon our neighborhoods-our communities-our people. There is no conquering in division. I know it seems like it’s beyond repair, but I’m sure a slave with your blood flowing through their veins, visions of freedom became clouded or lost in despair at some point. When you submit to hopelessness, you accept defeat. What if they had done the same?