by Taki S. Raton
My good friend Phillip Jackson, founder and head of the Chicago based Black Star Project wrote in his monthly organization newsletter that “America is now getting out of the Black people business” and with “no more cotton to pick, what will America do with 36 million Black people?”
He adds that even in states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, Black people are no longer involved in the planting, growing or harvesting of cotton. This is now done by White and Latino men and women who drive machines that plant and pick cotton “as millions of Black men of working age stand idle on street corners.”
Chicago’s Third World Press founder and recent Hurston/Wright Legacy Award winner Haki R. Madhubuti teaches that a primary dilemma of Black people, and in particular Black men, is that unlike other cultural groups in America and around the globe, we lost sight of our identity (who we are), purpose (why we are here in America), and direction (what it is–given our unique historical circumstance–that we must do from our own vision and towards our own destiny).
We lost sight of the fact that we were brought to America to pick cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane. We were captured, kidnapped from our Homeland, forcibly transported to this foreign land of North America, ferociously transformed/altered from the personality of an African to that of a slave to cultivate another man’s economy and advance his civilization.
Black Africans then had economic value. But according to Jackson, America’s quandary today in 2010 is what to do with “36 million Black American descendants of slaves whose heirs today have lost their values to the American economy?”
But again, we might be asking the wrong question. It may, and perhaps should not be, what will America do with our 36 million numbers. The real question would be what is it that we must do with ourselves, with our own people – with our own central city communities, with our own families, with our own children, and with our own future? Why leave this question and solution up to somebody else and why would we expect for someone else to look out for the best interest of our wellbeing?
Were we to leave this ultimate answer up to America – and exclusively as we have been doing up to the local, regional and national governmental agencies towards which our Black civil rights leadership would indeed guide us – then America already has a response. And it is very, very clear.
However, it is widely known by all that Black people do not read outside of what it is that we need to academically or mentally consume to work for and be with others. We sing, we dance, we play sports, we work for other people – but we don’t read!
We paid no attention to this author named Sidney M. Wilhelm who 39 years ago in 1971 published his title “Who Needs the Negro?” Clearly stated in its forward written by Staughton Lynd, it was shared:
“In its repeatedly expressed formulation, racism expresses itself within economic limits created by the White American’s need for Black America’s labor. If the White American no longer needed Black American’s labor, this does not mean that the White American would no longer be racist. On the contrary…if the White American no longer needed the Black American’s labor, he might then feel free to express his racism fully; not merely to exploit the Black American male’s labor as in the last 300 years, but to kill him.”
Lynd goes on to say that the “ultimate destiny of the Afro-American is likely to be extermination, not assimilation.” He notes that when the Black militants of the 60’s era prophesized genocide, “they have accurately grasped the end to which the logic of automation leads.”
And again of course, our civil rights leadership, politicians, ministers, Black school teachers and principals; our business leaders, athletes and entertainers don’t want to hear no stuff about this “genocide” self-destruct thing in their gross misunderstanding of human nature, particularly the nature of other men.
They don’t want to hear that what we should be doing is taking matters into our own hands and become like all other people – and like all other men in this country and in the world – become self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-determining and self-responsible for our own lot; for our own children, for our own communities, for the creation of our own businesses, for our own future, and for our own sizeable and commendable contribution as a Black people to the onward flow of humanity.
“No Black man. You can’t be responsible for yourself. That is so “un-integrationist” and so un-assimilationist.” You have to remain as this White man made/recreated you, into a perpetual state of “boyishness…”
Or, what Kenneth M. Stampp in his book “The Peculiar Institution” noted as “The perpetual child.” Concurring, Waliyyuddin A. Sabir says in his title ‘Reconstruction of the African American Male”:
“The stage was set and environmental conditions were created where the African American male would be seen by others and most importantly by himself (as being) in a perpetual state of boyhood.” He later adds that we have not developed a “backbone so we could hold our heads up with a sense of purpose, aim and direction in life. We are found on the corners holding our heads down to the challenge of a man’s world.”
This writer might also add that we are also found in the boardroom, at the principle’s desk and as head of this and that “holding our heads down to the challenge of a man’s world.”
“No Black man, you can’t be responsible for yourself. You were not (re)created to be self defining as a result of the slave system.”
Until you/we rescue, reclaim, reinterprete, reconstruct, resurrect, restore and redeem ourselves and our rightful place on the world stage of time and achievement, we are destined to remain in this perpetual state of “boyishness” that has been structured for us and never be a self-fulfilling man amongst a world of men.
Oh, don’t get mad with this writer, the messenger. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in similar terms himself back in 1966 when he lashed out against Stokely Carmichael’s philosophy of Black Power. According to The Fourth Edition of “The Negro Almanac” (1983), King said:
“I happen to believe that a doctrine of Black Supremacy is as evil as White Supremacy. I don’t think that anything can be more tragic than the attitude that the Black man can solve his problems by himself.”
The Black man in America, according to King, could not, will not, and must not be like all other men – self reliant, a lover of self and kind, builder of self and kind, cultivator of self and kind, definer of self and kind, protector of self and kind, and perpetuator of self and kind.
Definitely not! According to Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders – then and now – the Black man and his people in America can never be, will never be, nor must never be like other men in the world for example as described by Joel Kotkin in his work, “Tribes – How Race, Religion and Identity Determines Success in the New Global Economy.”
Kotkin examines five groups, which he calls “tribes”. They include the Jews, the British, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Indians. None of these cultures on the road to independent group economic success integrated/assimilated like we did – to give up a whole identity as a people; to decidedly always want to be with someone else and work throughout a lifetime to be accepted by everyone else except your own.
To the contrary, each group sited did just the opposite. They unified based upon who they are as a race. In addition to a love and complete knowledge of self, they all shared, as referenced by Fred Lee Hord in “Black Culture Centers – Politics of Survival and Identity,” several characteristics:
a) A strong ethnic identity and sense of mutual dependence; b) a global network which allows them to expand markets beyond their boarders; c) a passion for technical and other knowledge from all possible sources which they used also to continually build and advance their own race/group infrastructure fostering rapid cultural development critical for successful competition in today’s group competitive market; d) strong family bonds that reach locally, regionally, nationally and globally, and lastly, e) the creation and stabilization of their own schools and cultural institutions wherever they appeared outside of their home boarders to ensure that their unique culture and way of life is retained, safeguarded, protected and perpetuated for their children, for their families and for their future.
But not the Black man in America. We were/are conditioned to believe that we are inferior; that the Black community is not worth the investment, and that we should not lead, guide and direct our own children toward a future that we – like all other men – build for them to grow into.
Even Carter G. Woodson in his highly acclaimed 1933 writing “The Mis-Education of the Negro” positions that as a result of this enslaved conditioning, all we are prone to do is to “imitate” others. He says that even “if the Negroes do successfully imitate the whites, nothing new has thereby been accomplished. You simply have a larger number of persons doing what others have been doing. The unusual gifts of the race have not thereby been developed, and an unwilling world, therefore, continues to wonder what the Negro is good for.”
Ironically to our want-to-be-with-others enslaved conditioning, Kotkin says that the only Black leadership who has come closest to mirroring how economically successful and culturally advanced groups in the world function are Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X because of their emphasis on family, group unity, self-reliance, race institution building, character development, entrepreneurial development, and preparation for responsible and dignified citizenship.
Comparing the above noted Black nationalists, the author would conclude this point citing the “inability of the (Black) mainstream civil rights movement to halt an accelerating slide toward mass criminality, social collapse, and economic devastation within significant portions of the African American community.”
So yes, Black man, your race as a result is dying, thanks in part to the directive and mis-visions of your civil rights leadership. The “extermination” of which Lynd spoke is not originating from the outside but is indeed self-imposed. We are in fact participating in our own self-genocidal process. We are regretfully living out Kotkin’s observation of mass criminality, social collapse and economic devastation.
Take Black-on-Black crime for example. Black Star Project’s Jackson writes that “Young Black men are exterminating other young Black men at a very alarming rate” and that “The African American community has failed miserably in creating positive, stable, successful young Black men. And as a result, entire generations are being lost.”
Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper also sees this self-imposed extermination. As cited in Jill King Greenwood’s December 12, 2010 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, “Black communities face ‘epidemic’ of violent murders,” Harper says that every time one of these homicides happens, “two families are ruined because one young man goes to the grave and one goes to prison. We’re basically standing by as a society and watching Black men exterminate themselves.”
Jackson shares other stats in his December writing on the plight of the Black man here in 2010. He reveals that only one out of four Black males 16 years to 24 years old are working in New York City. Sixty percent of Black men are jobless in Detroit, 53 percent are jobless in Milwaukee and more than 50 percent Black male joblessness in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The Black Star head says that this is a “trend in every major city and rural community in America.”
And from this writer’s own stats in recent articles concerning our children, young Black males in particular, we now have only a mere 48% graduation rate for Black males in 2007-2008; a 25 percent graduation rate for Black males in New York, 28 percent in Philadelphia, 37 percent in Brown County, Florida, 44 percent in Chicago, 47 percent in Nashville, Tennessee, 50 percent in Wisconsin and 27 percent in Dade County, Florida; Cleveland and Detroit.
We are scoring at the bottom on the ACT testing with a 16.9 composite score and only 12 percent of Black male fourth graders are performing at or above proficient levels in reading.
In Palm Beach County and in Milwaukee, citing a 2006-2007 survey, the district-wide middle school suspension rate for Black males exceeds 50 percent with a cross-district tally for Black females suspension in Wisconsin’s middle schools at 52 percent. All this on top of the recent November reporting accounting that Black female out-of-wedlock birth has soared to 72 percent.
A John Hopkins University study on African American middle school suspensions (Balfanze) reveal that youth most at risk of later incarceration were clearly identifiable by middle school. According to Balfanz’s research, “the typical ninth grader who went to prison had previously attended school only 58 percent of the time, failed at least one quarter of their classes, and read at a sixth grade level at the end of the eighth grade.”
The latest 2009 statistics from the Department of Justice indicate that Black males are incarcerated at a rate 6 times higher than that for White males. For every 100,000 Black males in the population, an estimated 4,777 are held in federal or state prison or in a local jail.
Briefly, this writer recommends the following. First, like the Jews did with their Holocaust, we must go back and immerse ourselves into the North American slave experience – face the horrors, understand the process of transformation from African to slave, reverse this process in our continuing growth, rescue and reclaim what we really lost which was/is our “Way” and begin the healing process. We still carry with us and continually pass down generationally huge vestiges of mental and psychological enslaved impairment from this experience (DeGruy/2005).
Secondly, we need to rescue our historical African presence on the world stage of time and achievement and teach our true history, heritage, and ancestry to our children. With a proud past from which to come, our children will then see the promise of a future that is theirs to grow into.
Thirdly, we need to build our own institutions and duplicate the success of African Centered schooling from the Pre-K through 12th grade levels. A track record of over 30 years of success can be demonstrated in the social development, academic achievement, college entrance, and career preparation of African American students.
Nationally in these predominately if not all-Black academies (like the schools of Kotkin’s “tribes”), our students reflect the outcome profile of high self-esteem, accelerated academic competency, critical thinking, skill incorporation, acceptable positive peer and elder interaction, a vision and commitment to college admission, a commendable moral character presence, mainstream pluralistic orientation mastery, future career mobility acclimation, and community service accountability.
And lastly, in addition to mentoring, in the best Higher Order Upline spirit of this writing, our children need “Jegnas.” A Jegna is an Ethiopian term meaning “a very brave person who is a protector of a culture and the rights of his or her people and their land.”
A Jegna is described as being more than a leader. He or she is that African American who is not afraid to speak truth to power, is uncompromised, has integrity and at the very core of his or her being places the welfare, interest and advancement of his/her people as paramount. And interestingly, this description is exactly the same as how the Jews, the British, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Indians – successful global cultural groupings – feel about their people.
A Jegna are those special people who have: a) been tested in struggle; b) demonstrated extraordinary and unusual fearlessness; c) shown determination and courage in protecting his/her people, land and culture; d) shown diligence and dedication to our people; e) has demonstrated an exceptionally high quality of work, and f) has dedicated themselves to the protection, defense, nurturance, and development of our young by advancing our people, place, and culture.
This writer has over the years been trained by Jegnas and he himself is a Jegna trainer. Jegnas just do not only lead or teach our children. Jegnas build Black institutions and themselves create a path and a future for our children to grow into, thus allowing them to realize the promise of the unique talents and genius that lies within their young beautiful souls.
And further, to all our folk out there doing all this “mentoring” stuff, you really need to look up the origin of this name.
So Black man, we are beyond a “State of Emergency.” We are beyond a national crisis with our people and with our young. Our race will most assuredly and eventually die out if the proper cultural based interventions do not occur. All the answers that we need to do what we have to do lies within our history. This is not rocket science and there are not mysteries. And our answers most definitely will not and must not come from others outside of our race.
As we look at the Christmas holidays this coming weekend and popin’ that cork on New Year’s Eve, what will you do Black man to rescue our children and save our people in 2011? There is no more cotton to pick. Indeed, our own survival and future is now in our hands.
Taki S. Raton is a school consultant in the African Centered instructional model. Raton is former founder and principle of Blyden Delany Academy in Milwaukee.