I made a personal decision to back away from public commentary on happenings around me, trying to concentrate instead on my creativity in the visual arts. Up until now, that has worked quite well. I have had time to put my energy into creating three-dimensional artwork, which I find more difficult to produce than two-dimensional. However, I love the challenge just the same.
Yet, no matter how hard I try to keep my mouth closed on local and national issues, I keep getting the urge to put my proverbial two cents in the conversation, for whatever it is worth. And, often, it is worth very little, according to the responses. But like they say, everyone has an opinion, and I’m not least among them, if you will.
WITH THIS PAINFUL confession, I must speak on recent headlines in the news, where we black people have had a say – a very vocal one I might add. And that’s just what continues to worry me. Are we being too vocal? We seem to be, in many instances, rebels without a cause, looking for the first sign of racism.
Yes, black individuals still suffer indignities across the board. Yes, still in some cases, we are the last hired and the first laid off. Yes, white people would rather be around themselves than around us, and so do we. What’s new? Yes, we still suffer injustices.
However, it seems to me there ought to be another strategy for fighting theses ills without blaming other people – especially a whole race of people. A whole race of people, by the way, can’t really be blamed for anything. In most cases, it’s just one individual. But the case is made stronger when we can include everybody.
Is it fair? No, for either race. As long as we have others to blame for things we can fix ourselves, or that we brought upon ourselves, we will forever be subject to the very people from which we say that we are trying to gain independence. What we are really saying is that we need the white man to fix our problems. We can’t fix them ourselves. In other words, we are more dependent on him than we would like to admit. I hate to inform us that Reconstruction is over. The white man is not giving up anything but bubble gum – and he’s fresh out of that in these uncertain economic times.
I am tired of seeing us protesting for everything. Take, for instance, the Trayvon Martin case, which was deliberated recently by a jury of six women and a not-guilty verdict rendered. I think black people in general, and from the beginning, took this case to point out racial prejudice in the justice system. It didn’t matter whether George Zimmerman was of mixed racial origin. He looked white. He shot and killed Trayvon. Therefore, he is a racist.
In other words, we did to Zimmerman what was often done to us in the past. We tried, convicted and hung him before he had
his day in court. And not a civil rights worker said diddly-squat about it.
THIS CASE WAS about race and, no doubt, we made it that way. Under the same circumstances, if both men had been black, only family, local people and those involved would have known about it. We must find other ways to bring attention to the plight of black people without invoking race in every occasion.
Before anyone thinks I am condemning all demonstrations, we have had over the years demonstrations to win the conscience of good people – people who had influence to change things. History has proved repeatedly that those kinds of demonstrations worked in our favor. However, I now must question how effective today’s demonstrations are. Even in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s day, the demonstrations were not about race. They were about inequality. People of all races can relate to inequality. This phenomenon affects whites as well as blacks.
What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that today’s fight shouldn’t be about race at all. Someone has said that race is an artificial construct anyway. It’s hard to grasp, to get your hands around. The black man cannot win that fight, even if he thinks God is on his side. For one reason, God, says the Bible’s Book of Acts, is “no respecter of persons.” He ain’t on nobody’s side. So He’s not going be dragged into a racial fight, anyway.
Our energy should be spent trying to prove that we are willing to drop our buckets where we are, as the great Booker T. Washington once said, and start contributing our share to this great country of ours in the 21st century. We waste too much time talking about what this country owes us and what it’s not. In fact, there’s not too much we can do about that but talk. The task is too difficult to figure out who is owed what and how we can make what’s not a reality. But I think it all starts with individuals, not groups.
However, the first thing we can do as a race is stop blaming the white man. If we have a problem, let race be the last, the very last thing to which we attributed the problem. Surprisingly, most often, the problem has absolutely nothing to do with race.
Now, don’t think that I am naïve to think that racial prejudice is nonexistent in 21st-century America. However, trying to eliminate it shouldn’t be a priority of ours, in light of those ills we bring upon ourselves that we are afraid to talk about, for fear of ostracism.
LET’S TALK ABOUT our children not taking advantage of education. Without it, everything else is downhill. Let’s talk about the lack of respect our children have for authority. Let’s talk about killings within our own communities. Let’s start talking about girls having babies so that babies can provide lives for mothers that mothers should be providing for babies. Now that’s a hot issue – babies taking care of parents through the welfare system. The more babies, the more money the government will provide to mothers.
What I’m trying to say, black people, is that if we just take time and take care of these problems, race would be less of a factor in our lives. Stop allowing so-called leaders to jerk you around to rebel without a cause.
(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)