Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
The state of Black America is in crisis. Despite our best efforts to date, the general condition within our neighborhoods and schools continue to deteriorate for too many of our children and families.
We continue to celebrate our individual successes without an understanding of what is happening to us a group.
Blacks have lost significant ground with nearly every “positive” demographic decreasing and nearly every “negative” demographic increasing – creating alarming disparities and multiple risk factors (this is a key issue that gets no traction).
Coupled with shrinking public resources, specifically in the areas of our greatest needs (i.e. health, education, social services, economics, etc.); many cities and states are broke or near broke – THIS ISN’T GETTING BETTER NO TIME SOON.
With a significantly diminished public opinion against the use of public policy and resources to correct the impact of slavery (i.e. many previous “affirmative action” gains are being challenged in court today), the Black community lacks organizational capacity to challenge many of the issues facing them. There is a different fight that must be waged.
Black people spend lots of time talking about accountability; mainly holding others responsible for their contributions to the deplorable conditions facing Black America.
While I’m a one thousand percent supporter of Reparations, I also fundamentally believe in the concept of “Do for Self.”
There are so many things that we can do NOW that we’re not doing.
In my last article “We’re all Accountable to the Movement,” I tried to describe how the Movement is on-going and unless we’re prepared and organized, the gains we achieve will be lost and it will be very difficult to replicate those gains.
In fact, the last real gain for the Black community in America was in the 60’s – we haven’t secured any landmark achievements since (we’re in a 50 year drought) and some of the achievements of the civil rights legislation of the 60’s is being rolled back.
Do for Self must be our Mantra! This means that we must do all we can (go out of our way) to support Black-owned business and we must stop making EXCUSES.
We must overcome the “brainwashing” that someone else’s water is wetter.
We must also make a conscious sacrifice and endure whatever it takes to support our Black businesses because when we do we actually create more black-owned businesses; better and competitive products and services and pricing; more jobs for our Black men and women – especially our youth; reduce the number of Black men in prison; and, ultimately reduce Black poverty and change the downward economic trajectory of our people.
Do for Self does not just mean that we harness our economic assets and create opportunities for ourselves, it also means that we work to protect the image, family, and culture of our people, all of which have been significantly weakened.
Many experts acknowledge the socioeconomic and political challenges that exist in the Black community, but few acknowledge the“Cultural” crisis.
A community can be likened to the human body with its many systems (i.e. Skeletal, Muscular, Immune, Circulatory, Nervous, Digestive, Respiratory, Sensory, etc.).
All of these systems complement each other and have specific roles to ensure that the body is working optimally.
If one of these systems starts to fail, it will impact the workings of the other systems, which could ultimately threaten the human life.
Within the community, we have multiple systems that work the same way (i.e. Education, Economics, Housing, Business, Cultural, Political, Religious, Family, etc.).
I liken the Immune system in the body to the Cultural system within our community.
The immune system (the ultimate defense mechanism) is a system of biological structures and processes within the body that protects against disease.
To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of viruses or other agents that have the capacity to adapt and evolve to avoid detection by the immune system.
When this system breaks down the body is vulnerable to disease, which could ultimately result in death..
The Black community’s immune system (Black Culture) is broken and we have allowed disease in that threatens our existence.
Are we really what we are portrayed to be? Who speaks for the Black community? How does the media portray Black people? What do Black people think of themselves?
When we can answer these and other questions, we can attest to the fact that we have some housecleaning to do.
Let’s consider just generational failures, male/ female relationships, and self-hate.
Generational Failures – Too many of our children are being born in unstable environments with nearly 2/3rds living at or near poverty levels.
Many of our children are so far removed from our history and the tremendous accomplishments made by our people that they just don’t believe in themselves.
Structural poverty will produce a certain mindset and unfortunately, there aren’t enough models to balance the tremendous negativity that our children see from the womb.
Many experts talk about how our children “hate” us which is exhibited in so many destructive behaviors (i.e. dress, music, tattoos, language, expectations, incarceration, sexual, etc.).
One great pastor told me “our children can’t hear us because they’re too busy looking at what we’re doing.”
If we look at the core period of group success in America (1950 – 1970) coupled with Black flight (our most successful families have moved out of the urban core leaving these communities very poor) there have been 4-5 generations that have seen our culture dissolve to the level where abnormal behavior has become normal to too many of our young people.
The good news is that if we act now and with purpose, we can steer our children in the right direction in spite of the home and community that they live in.
Male/Female Relationship – Statistically the demise of the Black family can be seen in the intentional schism between the Black man and Black woman.
In part two, I will continue the discourse about self-hate and the role of the media.