As I make a new commitment to do the things that I need to do to reach the goals that I have set for myself but have not, for many reasons, achieved, I have to remember those who came before me to do the things they did so that I can do the things I can.
A long sentence, I know, but when you think about it, isn’t that one of the reasons we are interested in genealogy? We want to know who our people were and want to learn about their accomplishments in the midst of some of the most trying times that humans have had to endure. Slavery. Jim Crow. Segregation. Racism. Sexism. Intraracism. The list goes on and on but the one thing that is consistent in spite of it all, is the resilience of a race, a people who had to fight for the right to be called human since we touched upon these shores. Now, of course, not all of us were slaves, but we all were subjected to discrimination in one form or another, regardless of the color of our skin, except those who could and did pass for whites to have a better life – who made a choice that can be respected because doesn’t everyone have the right to a better life?
I write this with tears in my eyes as I think about all that our forefathers and foremothers endured so that we may one day have a generation of African Americans who can say they made it, the Oprahs, Chris Rocks, Jay-Zs & Beyonces, Michael Jordans, and countless others who have achieved the American dream. But yet, even with these success stories, there are countless others who are just struggling to get money so that they will be able to eat tonight. There are others still who are trying to figure out ways of how they can keep a roof over their heads and not freeze this winter. Yes, we do have the first African American President in office but we still have racism in the workplace and everywhere else. Don’t believe me, search the web for articles about people disrespecting the President and his wife, and tell me racism isn’t alive and well.
I promise this post has a point. The point is, there are times I wonder if integration was the promise land as it was painted to be with by thought that, if we could enjoy the same freedoms as our white counterparts, life would be better. I’m not so sure. As I study the history of our people during Reconstruction and before the 1950s Civil Rights Movement, I read about the great number of African American entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, lawyers, ministers, and many others who created for themselves a self-sustaining environment that was nurturing and successful. Schools, banks, libraries, insurance companies, cemeteries (they even wanted us separate after death), and other institutions were created for us by us so that we may have the same services as enjoyed by our counterparts. There was a strong sense of community and achievement and people fought hard to get the things they needed in order to be successful.
My question is what happened to that…it seems that after integration, we were so happy to enjoy the ability to go to the white businesses, schools, recreation centers, and other institutions, that we left our own, forcing many of them to go out of business. Now, many stores and services in our communities, are owned by people of other races. One of the best/worst examples is the beauty supply stores in our neighborhoods that cater to the African American clientele but are more than likely owned by someone of Asian descent.
There’s something wrong with that. There’s something wrong when we would rather shop at a store owned by someone of a different race; where when we have an African American boss, we give them the blues and second guess their ability to do the job; where, as African Americans sitting around the table in the Administration of a company, are forced to listen to and endure seemingly racist comments, and all we can do is look at the other African American in the room (if there’s one) and put on our masks.
We owe our forebearers a great deal of thanks for all that they have done so that we can now enjoy the freedoms we have, but I think if they were to come back and walk the earth again, they would look at us today and ask: Is this what I died; took beatings; was bit by dogs and sprayed with water hoses; endured the slash; flew a fighter jet in service a country I loved but didn’t love me; marched with my bloody, sore feet; walked 10 miles to the nearest school through the mud with no shoes; etc. for only for you to now be more concerned about buying the latest fashion than making sure your child had the tools they need to compete in a technological age; running away from the schools that we fought to get your admitted too; killing each other over turf that you don’t even own; walking around with your pants hanging down below your butt?
I know this is a blog about genealogy but what is genealogy without history, aren’t they one in the same, only called a different name? We as a people need to do better. Those who have, need to do what we can for those how do not have. Those who are teachers, need to teach the stories of the past so that the kids of today will know of the strength that resides within. All we need to do is care and I think through the caring and with the faith in God that has sustained our people, that we can make the changes necessary for a better community. I’m off my soapbox now and I promise, the next post with be about genealogy but consider my words. They were shared for a reason. Thanks for reading.