Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Being Black in America

Re: Are Black People Staying Back When the Cloud Already Moved? – A Feature Article by Femi Awodele on Nigeriaworld.Com

Dear Femi,

I read your article, on the above subject, posted on the Nigeriaworld website on September 2, 2011 with interest. It is a very sensitive issue you try to address in your write-up. As you have rightly noted you are going to get loads feedback – “unpleasant e-mails” as described by you. Sure some of the comments will be an attack on you as an individual, and there are also those whose comments will try to address some of the issues you raised they either agree or disagree with. I'd say I fit into the latter category.

The argument you make in the article seems to have different thrusts. At one breath it appears to promote conservative political ideology among black people. It also sounds like a clarion call to black folks, “enough of the victim’s mentality already”. At other times it’s as though you are asking black people to return to Christ. And again it calls out the black leaders for failure of leadership.

You correctly describe the moral decadence in the black community; violence, extramarital sex, single parenting, STDs, etc. You mention the blight of poverty that plagues black people. The breakdown of the family is fingered as the root cause of high poverty level in the black community. You fault some of the government programs aimed at tackling these issues. You describe partnership with "Anti-God Organizations" who give sex education. You have issues with initiatives that address gang violence and promote the responsible fatherhood. You see social welfare programs that combat poverty as ineffective. You describe how the issue of homosexuality has now become a civil rights issue. According to you the real issue, which is the spiritual condition of the heart, has not been dealt with, and this is why these programs don't work. You call for a change in black leadership. According to you, it will take a “heart totally sold out to Christ” and one who is bold enough to challenge the status quo.

While agreeing with a lot of the points you make, your article appears to omit, or rather de-emphasis, a critical factor contributing to the plight of the black community in America, racism and bigotry. You and I are Africans – 1st generation Americans perhaps – and have only been here in this country barely 20 years. I do not say that to disparage you in any way but to point out that we really do not fully understand what it means to be a descendant of slaves and to be treated as one. If we didn’t live in Jim Crow America, how are we ever going to appreciate what it means to sit at the back of the bus?

The root cause of the plight of the black people is racism and hate. The dysfunctional family structure, the poverty, the violence, the issue of absentee fathers and single parenting can all be traced back to the damaging effect of slavery. They are all linked to the systemic economical, educational, and social disadvantages that confront the black folks everywhere and every day in this country.

While it is true that the current law, on paper, is no longer on the side of bigots, however bigotry of the heart, which is the most dangerous, cannot be cured by mere legislations. There is entrenched racism in every sphere of the society, and we cannot deny that. You would think with a black man in the White House things are different. But you know, if you have objectively followed the events of the past 3 years, that the election of a black president appears to have unmasked the racism that remains entrenched in heart of many in this country; things have gotten worse.

I agree with you that black people need to take responsibility for their actions and lives. I do not make excuses for the pervading laziness and absence of purpose in the black community. It is true that some black leaders have used the excuse of racism to organize and enrich themselves. However if we look around us we’ll find the banner of injustice flying high in the sky for all to see. It is there in the rate of incarceration of blacks compared to that of whites who commit similar offences – and with a prison record you are doomed for life? You are confronted with racism when you rent an apartment or apply for mortgage financing. It sticks out like a sore thumb in the churches every Sunday morning – more black people attend churches pastored by whites than whites who attend churches with black pastors. You find it when you show up for job interviews and they see your black face – how many black people are in management position at your job.

The political leaning of the black people is not too difficult to understand; it is a very natural phenomenon. People tend to gravitate towards the direction of acceptability. We all feel more comfortable in an atmosphere where we are welcomed: where we are celebrated and not merely tolerated. That is the reason black people tend to support the Democratic Party. I say “Democratic Party” and not necessarily liberalism. Black people at heart are socially and morally conservatives. There are fewer blacks who support cultural liberalisms, like homosexuality etc, compared to the number of white people who do. In fact in the black community homosexuals hide their sexual orientation, unlike in the white community where they flaunt it. There are more black people who are Christians than are whites. Yet black people vote en masse for Liberal/Democratic candidates than they do for Conservatives/Republican candidates. The reason is simple; the Democratic Party and Liberals over the years have been more attuned to the sufferings and needs of black folks – as well as that of the poor, the orphan, the homeless, and the immigrant. On the other hand the policies promoted by Conservatives and the Republican Party have not, in most parts, been favorable to black people.

It is easy to infer from your article that the Conservatives love God more than the Liberals. That is what they want to make us believe. Yet their actions – their fruits – have proven otherwise. It was the conservative southern part of America – where you have the most religious people – that went to war against the rest of the country because they want to keep their slaves. It is in the conservative south – the so called Bible belt – that is the hotbed of racism and bigotry in this country today. No one party or ideology can claim to be more Godly than the other. Righteousness doesn’t have a party affiliation.

According to you “our immediate problem is the “gang and sexual activities among our young ones across America”. I happen to disagree. The main problem we have is the problem that all mankind has; a heart that is not in submission to the Almighty God. That cuts across all races and political ideology. However the next big problem we have is inequality in the society – which by the way is the result of our darkened and wicked soul. We live in a society where greed in the name of capitalism is glorified. The issue we need to confront is the huge gap that exists between the poor and the rich – a gap that keeps getting wider and wider each and every day. The rich keeps amassing wealth and poor keep wallowing in poverty. The social safety nets that have been put in place – which you have condemned – are now been taken away by the policies of the so called “moral” conservatives. The people, who have and live in excessive wealth, fight with all their might against every effort by the government to help those who are less fortunate than themselves.

You consider the welfare law as a failure. That characterization of the welfare law is not accurate. It is true that the welfare law hasn’t completely accomplished the purpose for which it was enacted. However without the welfare law, many more people would have been living on the streets. A lot more children and elderly would have gone without health care. Millions of kids would have gone without food. A whole lot more children would have been born to single mothers? Many more would have gone without an education? Countless more would have gone without a job.

The family institution in the black community didn’t breakdown simply because black people have suddenly turned against God or gone into ungodly alliances. The families broke under the weight of societal ills. While I agree that the black family needs to do more to heal itself, it is wrong to ignore the odds that are stacked against the black people living in America. It is important that we, black immigrants from Africa who are new in the system, fully understand and appreciate the length and breadth of the issues before we cast the first stone.



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