The recent arrest of George Zimmerman, who was charged with killing Trayvon Martin, rallied many people of all races together to defy the shooting of an unarmed person. This was indeed a wake-up call to the senseless profiling of young black men who are deemed to be a threat if they wear hoodies or are just simply, black.
Many times, however, when injustices happen within the black community in terms of black on black crime, not enough people speak out about it. Rev. Herbert Daughtry said recently that we as a people need to also speak out when there is black on black crime. But many times it is hidden and swept under the rug. Well, it’s time that the dirty laundry is put out on the line and exposed.
We all know about the drugs, poverty, unhealthy Korean “soul food” restaurants, liquor stores, bars, lack of jobs and resources and often poor housing conditions that plague many inner-city neighborhoods. But what about the poor treatment many blacks inflict upon one another?
What happened to the days when blacks stood together in solidarity during the civil rights movement of the mid-fifties to sixties and the black power movement of the early seventies?
What happened to the days when blacks chanted “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, and when blacks had R-E-S-P-E-C-T for one another? Doesn’t anybody remember or reflect upon the sacrifices our leaders like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and countless others made for black people?
For quite some time now, there seems to be a growing disrespect among many black people in many urban communities. There is no one exact cause. Many attribute the roots of this friction to slavery years ago when the slaves were separated by complexions after being brought to America whereby darker skinned blacks were made to work in the fields and lighter skinned blacks were made to work in the slave master’s home, causing dissension and conflict among blacks.
In some parts of the deep south, there were even separate churches for dark skinned blacks and light skinned blacks.
The issue though is larger than light skinned vs dark skinned. For some reason or other, blacks do not seem to be totally unified and they seem to treat each other very poorly at times.
Even the late Don Cornelius was quoted in an interview for Right On magazine stating: “We as blacks treat each other worse than any other group of people.” He added that, “Blacks have to learn to love each other more.” He made that statement in 1974.
There have been many times, for instance, when I was treated rudely in restaurants and stores by cashiers and other workers who happened to be black. They were either unattentive, had extremely nasty attitudes or were very rude. I have observed that when workers like this wait on people of other ethnicities, they were more professional.
Of course, poor service is not attributed to being black or any color, but rather poor training on the part of management in most cases. Still, this is something I and many other black people that I know have observed and took note of.
Then there is something else that has been spoken about for years in the black community: the idea that blacks who try to achieve and grow are trying to be white.
The fact that we have a black president who is well educated and speaks well should make black people feel proud. A large number of black people, however, have criticized him. Would these critics rather the president walk around with sagging pants and his cap turned to the back drinking a forty ounce?
Growing up in the inner city, I have been a target of being called a nerd and accused of trying to be white when quite simply, I wanted to achieve the best education I could possibly get. Moreover, because I was an introvert and did not hang out or play on the city streets like a lot of my peers did, I did not adapt the so-called “hipness” that a number of my peers acquired: Speaking a lot of urban slang, walking with a “bop,” having swag or being caught up in the latest gear. Because of what they perceived as my lack of “hipness,” it made me a target of much teasing and ridicule throughout my school years. Also, because I have freckles, I was laughed at and made fun of and called “white boy” and all kinds of names in school, in my neighborhood, even sometimes when I would travel on local buses in my area. In short, in the view of these ignorant people, I wasn’t “keeping it real.”
Sadly, many black youths are still going through this type of treatment in urban communities and it needs to be rectified.
This fixation with being “hip” or “keeping it real” has caused many black people to fall far behind in various areas of life. So many of our people feel that if they aspire to grow or to elevate themselves, then they are acting uppity or white and they do not want to be looked upon as sellouts or trying to be better than everyone else. Therefore, they remain in their current situation, refusing to grow or to educate themselves and hate on other blacks who are progressing in their lives.
Even now that I am an adult, I still encounter the ignorance of some blacks, many of whom are also adults, who hate on me and criticize because, in their view, I am not representative of what “being black is” since I don’t speak ebonics nor hang out on street corners, don’t smoke weed or blunts, don’t sell drugs, don’t drink forty ounces, don’t wear sagging pants showing off my underwear and don’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder looking like I am angry at the world.
Many people with this mentality always blame the “white man” for their lack of growth and getting ahead. While racism and racial prejudice are still very much alive, blaming the white man or anyone for that matter due to one’s own lack of willingness to learn and grow is shallow and petty. Think about all of the many black men and women who have made great strides in history way before the Internet and other forms of social media. Do the names Benjamin Banneker, Madame C.J. Walker, Daniel Hale Williams, Charles Drew and Garrett A. Morgan ring a bell?
Again, there is still racism in the world, but unlike the days of slavery, when a slave could be beaten or even killed for reading a book, these days no one can stop you from picking up a book or even going on the Internet to learn and educate yourself.
There was an essay or poem that was circulating some years ago over the Internet about how the KKK can retire and not have to do anything more to black people because many blacks have all turned against each other. Sad, but true.
The lack of respect between many blacks is not just limited to ghettos or urban communities. Even in some sectors of the corporate world, there seems to be an unwritten rule that blacks shouldn’t congregate or associate with other blacks in front of their white co-workers or it could be viewed as militancy. It’s true. I have experienced this working in the corporate world where black co-workers of mine would not speak to me or interact with me in front of their white colleagues, with the exception of work-related matters, but when their white colleagues were not around or when we were outside the office, it was “safe” for us to interact. Thankfully, I did not feed in to those corporate political games.
Blacks using the “N” word and the “B” word among one another like terms of endearment has been going on for many years. There was a time the use of those words would be direct insults and could spark fights. When certain rappers and recording artists excessively used the “N” word in their recordings and in their everyday language (and still do), one has to wonder that now that many of these rappers have children, what if a racist white person called their children the “N” word or even the “B” word? How would they feel about that?
Do any of those rappers know what it feels like to be called the “N” word by a throng of racists when walking down a street minding your own business? I do.
Although many say the “N” word has a different connotation among blacks than it did many years ago, still, for me, it sparks images of black men being hanged, blacks sprayed with water hoses, and the tragic story of Emmett Till.
Then there is this belief in many inner-city communities, particularly among males, that if you do not carry yourself like a thug, look angry or act “real hard,” you are less of a man and are therefore subjected to being called a “punk,” “soft,” or derogatory gay slurs, which could cause fights because one’s so-called “manhood” has been put to the test. This is absurdity beyond belief!
You also have grown men old enough to be grandfathers and great-grandfathers out on street corners hustling and listening to old school music trying to prove to the “young heads” that they are still “hip.”
It has gotten so bad that if you look at someone the wrong way, or wear certain colors, it could spark a fight or even the loss of someone’s life.
People, particularly youngsters, have been beaten up or worse for not conforming to the so-called “ways of the hood.” Moreover, people have been attacked in inner-city areas over drama resulting from pettiness. Enough is enough!
What message is all of this madness sending to our black youth? They are our future and if we don’t give them the proper knowledge and guidance, they will fall to the wayside.
Bottom line is you can still live in the hood and not be of the hood and you can still be hip and educate yourself.
In fact, truly being hip is getting the right and proper knowledge and setting goals for one’s self and aiming to reach those goals, whether you have swagger or not.
The hood can even be a peaceful paradise if everyone is on one accord. Indeed, it takes a village not just to raise a child but also to look out for one another.
Black people need to come together,unify and uplift one another and love one another instead of tearing down and hurting one another.
Instead of calling another black man the “N” word, call him brother. Instead of calling another black woman the “B” word, call her sister. Instead of punching your brother or sister, give him or her a hug. Some would say this is wishful thinking, but hey, why not wish for or dream of togetherness?
The anger many of our people have harbored for years for various reasons has to be channeled in proper, constructive ways. Destroying our communities and destroying each other is not the solution.
Of course, there is no one solution nor an easy solution, but there is an urgent need to bring love and unity back in our urban communities like there was many years ago and for people to treat each other with kindness, love and respect and become one like a family.
Families will disagree, but they can still have love and respect for one another.
People living in urban communities don’t need to “retaliate” among one another but rather “motivate, educate and elevate” one another.
Although several urban communities have made some significant process in recent years, the majority of them still have a way to go. Many urban communities are like ticking time bombs waiting to explode. Wake up!
To paraphrase a line from Michael Jackson’s timeless song “Man In The Mirror”: “If you want to make the hood a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.”
Bring back unity in the black community! Let’s rally, shout and come together not just when injustices are done to us by another race, but also when we do injustices to each other.
In addition to being a journalist, Stephen McMillian is also developing creative projects within the entertainment industry.