by Taki S. Raton
Why is it that all other races or what this writer terms as “ethno-cultural groups” tend to survive, advance and prosper in multicultural pluralistic America and the African American does not?
Why is it that when ranked with all other groups, our people and in particularly our children and youth are not only at the bottom of all known social indicators, but right now in 2011 have additionally surpassed bench mark numerical figures as compared to our circumstance 150 years ago when we were (physically speaking) on the plantation.
As noted, for example, in my last MCJ article on July 14, 2011, a Black child born into slavery then in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent “family” unit than is an African American child born today.
According to the Chicago based Black Star Project, 67,000 Black people were killed by Black people between the years 2001 and 2010.
That would be 63,139 more Black folk that were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan or other White hands the decade between 1890 and 1900 (1,700 persons lynched); between 1900 and 1910 (921 persons killed); 840 from 1910 to 1920, and 400 between 1920 and 1930 (Asante and Mattson, 1992).
And just recently in the June 2011 “Milwaukee Today – An Occasional Report of the NAACP” by R.L. McNeely, David Pate and Lisa Ann Johnson, it is noted in the executive summary that “more African American men in the nation are in prison, in jail, on parole, or on probation than were enslaved in 1850.”
In the April 4, 2006 edition of the Chicago Courier Newspaper, Black Star Project founder Phillip Jackson says that our children are fighting a war amongst themselves and against their communities. He positions:
“Many Black children are out of control. They swear, fight, vandalize, challenge authority and exhibit overly aggressive behaviors. They have a reckless disregard for virtually any social norm, rule or grace.”
And this was five years ago. Today we hear of Riverwest beatings of Whites by our children, the ransacking of a BP gas and convenience store at 1030 East North Avenue, and Black youth flash mob incidents over this past year-and-a-half in Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota; Kansas City, Washington, D.C. and downtown Philadelphia.
We do not see this kind of behavior in young people from other cultural communities. Dr. Claude Anderson in his book “Black Labor-White Wealth” would assert that we as a race are “moving backwards” and will seemingly continue to do so. He says that: “Integration came at the expense of the Black community. Now things are worse than ever.” Quoting an interview of a Black community activist by a local television reporter, Anderson records:
“We have more killing and crime, more school dropouts and drug users. Integration killed our communities. We have no Black economic structure to solve the problems of our community. Our Black churches and families are weak and struggling. We have yet to gain control of our communities and our destinies. The Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Iranians and Mexicans are putting up profitable businesses in our neighborhoods…The next time we go to the Supreme Court, instead of integration, maybe we should seek ‘separate but equal.’”
But “Aren’t we all Americans?” asked Dr. Carter G. Woodson in his 1933 work “Miseducation of the Negro.” If other groups can rise from the bottom up, so should we as such is the general assumption. Are we not all “equal”?
Woodson to this point adds that with us being American, “Then, whatever is American is as much the heritage of the Negro as of any other group in this country” and we should all benefit from the same opportunities.
And therein lay the flaw. Woodson of course was being jestful in his comments. Yes, we are Americans but as a group, we are not properly acting in accord with how all other ethno-cultural groups successfully survive, rise, function and prevail in this country.
We do have equal rights. But equality – according to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his 1965 document “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action” – does not “ordain” or automatically confer that all persons end up as well as start out equal.
All groups in a multicultural pluralistic society, or for that matter, membership in any group anywhere in the world if not the universe, has to be groomed and properly prepared for equal participation within the arena in which he is a part. You may have the equal opportunity to get on the mat and fight your opponent. But if your acquired skills and unique talents do not equal or surpass his, you most assuredly will lose.
Such what I term Higher Order unique skills, talents, ancestral knowledge, historical wisdom, identity, purpose and direction can only come from the participant’s primary group. In other words, only Black folk can teach Black folk how to be properly prepared, how to compete, how to win and how to succeed in a multicultural pluralistic society.
Citizenship, civility, and self-respect start with where you are and with the best of whom you are; with the best of what you have been, and with the promise of the best of that which you can become. In a multicultural pluralistic society, it is not the duty, purpose, responsibility or intent of one group to bring out the best of that which is within the natural being of members of another group.
As a Black man, I cannot teach a Jew how to be a good Jew. As a Black man, I would not be expected to be a model of the history, glory, self-worth or cultural “Beingness” of a Native American Cherokee Indian. “Multi-Cultural” means just that – a multiplicity of cultures. America is a pluralistic society; a grouping or co-existence of plural (many) cultures who maintain their own distinct ethnic, religious and cultural traits.
Pluralism additionally implies that each and every distinct group has a right to both exist and equally thrive within that single society (America). But at first light, it is still the responsibility of each unique culture to ensure that basic social foundations are in place in order for their respective membership to succeed and excel within a competitive plural societal corridor.
And it is therefore the responsibility of each respective grouping to cultivate, nurture, protect and eternalize the perpetuation of such unique Higher Order exemplar racial characteristics on into their progeny. Otherwise, that group has no reason to exist and will eventually self-destruct.
Woodson made the same point 78 years ago when he said that the “difference of races, moreover, is no evidence of superiority or inferiority. This merely indicates that each race has certain gifts, which others do not possess. It is by the development of these gifts that every race must justify its right to exist.”
Nathan Glazer and Moynihan in their 1970 second edition published title “Beyond the Melting Pot – The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City,” posits that all immigrant groups had started at the bottom economically and politically and had risen. What was to keep the Negro from doing the same thing? And even given the reality of institutional racism that other cultures had experienced and in particular on the massive scale of prejudice encountered by the Negro, there was in place then and now “well funded city and state agencies devoted to fighting prejudice and discrimination in jobs, education, (and) housing.”
But the Negro then 41 years ago and the Black man today in the 2011 present is still falling behind. Where did we go wrong? What was the nature of our misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the established and understood rules of an American multicultural pluralistic order?
The authors cite that each and every immigrant group is first and foremost different and distinct in its own development where their respective cultural characteristics remain intact. And particularly vital in such ethno-cultural growth and development according to the text is the family unit.
“Ethnic” as viewed by the writers is defined by a common culture as well as connection to a common descent. Each group additionally developed their own distinctive economic, political, and cultural pattern based upon their distinctive historical experiences, their culture and the unique skills acquired from that culture, the time of their arrival, and the necessary adjustment to the economic circumstance that they met upon immigrating into this country.
Each group freely and by choice determined their own structural group pattern to ensure that their survival and growth needs in relationship to other ethno-cultural groupings and to the broader American fabric.
Glazer and Moynihan contend that “beyond the accidents of history, all human groups tend to endure and provide some satisfaction and security to their membership. And no group has ever “dropped” who they are or what they are to become “American” as this label “Americanism” is in their words “faulty.” They position:
“White groups, we argue, had not yet ‘assimilated,’ perhaps they never would.
“The ethnic pattern is (what is) American, (and) more American than assimilation.” All groups, the authors say, are attached to symbols of their past, have some concern over the fate of their homeland, and have a collective desire to see members of their group advance and rise to higher positions of respect – as a group.
Further, each and every–what they term “self-conscious”–ethnic group view the critical necessity of the successful preservation, maintenance and generational perpetuation of their unique ethnic pattern in the competitive cultivation for their members in the arena of education, business, and politics towards the effort of protecting and advancing their own group interest in a multicultural pluralistic domain.
And Anderson would remind us additionally that all ethno-cultural groupings form their own businesses within their own communities for their own economic survival in America’s plural arena.
Their own people become their own market. Their money flows within their own economy, thus allowing for the building of intra-capital accumulation; of an ongoing and ever improving self-reliant and self-defined group institutional development to meet their specific needs from their own frame-of-reference, and most importantly the creation of jobs for their own people. Says Glazer and Moynihan:
“…the best jobs demand skills and training that tend to be kept within the “in-group.” Employment in all groups are based upon ‘connections’ within each group and that the problem is not just discrimination against the Negro, but discrimination against any outsider.”
The authors assert that the Negroes differed from European immigrant groups because we did not develop, in their words, “the same kind of (in-group) clannishness as other ethnic cultures” nor did we have then – nor now – “the same close family ties” that other groups maintained to create “pools” for the development of ethnic based businesses.
Throughout this writing, we have been speaking to the importance of ethnicity and ethnic group patterns of growth and development.
This is actually not only how America works but how the Black community worked and functioned prior to integration. In “Old School Black,” for example we, like all other ethno-cultural groupings, were taught “Dual Mastery” – the love and mastery first of your own culture and kind and second mastery of the dominant society.
Before integration, before the rise of single parenting, out-of-wedlock households, before high Black-on-Black homicide rates, before the rising tide of poor school performance, before our dismal high school graduation rates, before Riverwest and before flash mobs around the nation, from our own – albeit segregated – ethnic base, we produced group members,
Black children and youth who were proud and–with dignity–prepared for humane interaction, civil cooperation, work ethic preparedness, competency mastered, competitively skilled and contributorial orientated to enter mainstream society. We were respectful, had self-confidence, and were proudly clear with vision for our tomorrows.
Unlike all other groups in America and in the world and indeed unlike the entire animal kingdom, our civil rights leadership had no vision of us being “different;” of us being our own natural selves; of us cultivating and growing from our beautiful Black uniqueness and proudly reclaimed African ascendency as did and still do all other groups to include little crickets in the forest.
What would happen to crickets if they gave up their “cricketness” to become a grasshopper? They would fail and eventually die out because the unique talents and gifts bestowed upon them to be a cricket will not be used, refined or cultivated. They will eventually become easy prey for predators.
But a reason for this lack of natural and normal behavior is provided by the authors.
They would submit that because of our historical circumstance of slavery which was nearly completely transformative of our African selves to that of a slave, it is not possible for Negroes to view themselves as other ethnic groups view themselves because the Negro is only an American, and nothing else.
“He has no (unique) values and culture to guard and protect. He insists that the White world deal with his problems because he is so much a product of America.”
Because our African enslavement detached us from our natural African “Way,” turned us against ourselves and inferiorized us, that values and culture of the Negro were so “American” in origin that we “had no strong incentives” to create our own schools to preserve our history, heritage, culture or an esteemed African ancestry. We had not a drive to develop businesses to create our own economy to protect the dignity of a unique community of beloved kinsmen.
Renowned Sociologist Dr. E. Franklin Frazier, as quoted by the authors said it best: “The Negro had been remade in America, and nothing African had survived in American Negro culture.”
Fortunately however the occurrence of the Black Power Movement, Black Studies and particularly the African Centered curriculum thrust may shed a different light on both Frazier and the author’s remarks. But they are correct in pointing out the path from which we have traveled and perhaps the path upon which many of us may still venture.
It is not a matter of two Americas – one Black and one White. It is a fact of plural ethnicities within America. African Americans have a right to be and practice to our fullest the best of all that we are – African American and African ascendants – as would all other groups.
Again, in this regard as I noted in the last article, the teachings and vision of such individuals as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Minister Louis Farrakhan and a grand host of other Black ethno-culturalist and African Centered thinkers were correct relative to ethnic patterns that we should follow.
And one of the greatest mistakes that we as a Black people have and continue to make (reflecting the words of the authors and Frazier) is the statement that “we are all the same” meaning that all people are the same.
No, this is not true. We are not “all the same” and no, we are not supposed to just give up our Blackness and automatically “blend” into White and become invisible or become “race transcendent.”
As Woodson, the cricket and this writer position, that would most assuredly mean death to our people.
We can love ourselves, unify Black, become self-determining, and be completely racially ethnic and respectfully contributory with dignity and civility in the American mainstream at the same time.
Quoting again as I did in previous articles the words of Joel Kotkin in his work “Tribes – How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy,” he notes that the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese and the Indians have been at the “center” of the world’s economy for centuries because of their strong ethnic identity and sense of mutual dependency upon one another; a global network that allows them to function beyond regional and national borders; a passion for knowledge from all possible sources around the globe which they bring back to the group to foster collective growth and updated competitiveness; strong family bonds that reach locally, regionally, nationally and globally, and the creation and stabilization of their own schools and cultural institutions wherever they appear outside of their home boarders to ensure that their unique culture and way of life is passed down to their membership residing in a foreign land.
He positions that the traditional African American civil rights agenda runs counter to this practice and as a result is the source of Black community powerlessness, dysfunctionalism and decline.
The aforementioned stats and social trends in our families and with our youth would give witness to the truthfulness of this observation.
As Woodson says: “At this moment then, the Negroes must begin to do the very thing which they have been taught that they cannot do. They still have some money, and they have (community) needs to supply.
They must begin immediately to pool their earnings and organize industries to participate in supplying social and economic demands.
If the Negroes are to remain forever removed from the producing atmosphere and the present discrimination continues, there will be nothing left for him to do.”
We would then, as we have irresponsibly and inappropriately have done, produce a Black population that will be a burden on the larger society; a population threatening both to our community and to others, and most decidedly, a population that is no longer need-exploitable – but now expendable.
by Taki S. Raton