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)
As I’ve tried to articulate in parts one and two of this article, the Black community is at a serious and unprecedented crossroads in our history in America and IF we want to change the negative trajectory that is currently in place for hundreds of thousands of future Black children – WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THAT WE HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO DO FOR SOME TIME (COME TOGETHER). There is good news – we can do this but we must act quickly, we’re at a crossroads.
The Black community has faced some of the toughest challenges known to modern man and we have prevailed time and time again (our ancestors have been up to the challenges).
Yes we faced the notorious and vicious trans-Atlantic passage; 300 years of brutal chattel enslavement that reduced generations of Blacks to being less than animals and internalizing this inferiority; Jim Crow segregation and physical and legal “apartheid” by denying Blacks access into American institutions and places ; the “unchecked” violence and terrorism orchestrated by the KKK and now the local police inflicted on Black men with the sole purpose of destroying Black manhood (masculinity). Despite these unimaginable challenges,the Black community is still around and hasn’t given up the fight for full and complete freedom in America.
Still, at some points in our history in America, Blacks have prospered under such inhumane conditions and oppression.
However, the racist enemy of the Black man today is even more lethal today than the “outward” racist of the past, because the enemy is hidden and invisible and is buried within all of America’s institutions.
Racism is now structured with participation standards that disqualify a good portion of the Black community from the door at a time when America has developed a serious and “convenient” bout of amnesia.
Because of the massive bombardment of negative Black images of inferiority; the danger that Blacks have been portrayed to be to mainstream America; and the substandard living conditions for Blacks, Blacks have lost the fight for justice and equality in public opinion and now ignorance of our “collective” past prevails.
Now, many believe there is no need to treat the Black community any different than other groups.
Today, the dominating thought regarding Blacks’ progress in America is that Blacks are being judged in a race that miraculously has become “fair” and “even” forgetting about America’s open and protracted and prolonged assault on Black people and the damaged that has been done. While Blacks struggled at the hands of white supremacist for nearly 450 years, white America has amassed a tremendous level of wealth and power that was the direct results of the American institution of slavery – the impact and consequences thrive today (the legacy of slavery).
The social and economic disparities are the size of an ocean.
The social and economic challenges are so pronounced for Black Americans at the same time that America has elected its first Black president – this is proof that America has changed and it is no longer intolerant and oppressive of Black people – THIS IS A VERY BIG LIE AND A MASSIVE ILLUSION.
There are way too many Black people that have been deceived by this lie. While we see symbolic changes of a so-called race-neutral society, the day-to-day life for most Black people is completely opposite and THEIR BLACK SKIN IS THE SOLE REASON.
It’s very clear to Black people that they are unwanted in American society – this message is clear, continuous, and extremely loud.
Even when evidence of abuse and oppression is uncovered (i.e. the video of an outright shooting of an unarmed Black male, etc.), many in white America say they need to study the issue a little more – this is code for don’t believe your lying eyes.
Massive levels of substandard housing and blighted neighborhoods; poverty, near poverty, and working poor; long-term unemployment and/or massive under-employment; failed academic achievement at every level; police brutality and unfair incarceration; no wealth or access to capital, etc. – how else does the average Black person process these realities?
This isn’t a new phenomenon for Black people – news alert!! Most Black people’s parents experienced the same UNFAIR social and economic conditions.
As a collective, we can and we must rise up and respond to the onslaught of issues that face the Black community.
Guess what? We have no choice. Either we start a movement that will bring a “critical” mass of conscious Black people together and begin to address the issues that we face as a group or we become a permanent underclass in America.
Yes, the Black community is in A STATE OF UNPARALLELED CRISIS with no real and strategic plan that adequately combats the negative demographic data coupled with the structural and institutional racism that is buried in the continuums (pipeline) that exist that certainly will ensure that the negative demographics will be maintained.
Brothers and sisters we must wake up to the challenge that lies before us and take our rightful place in the chain and brotherhood of our ancestors and the continuation of the struggle of self-determination for Black people in America.
I know it’s tough; it’s hard; and in many instances, it just not fair.
But it is, what it is and we must respond and do for ourselves what no one has or will do for us.
What are we waiting for? What evidence do you have that demonstrates that America even cares about the plight of the Black man?
Most, if not all, of the issues we are faced with were caused by a racist and dangerous white America that practiced and implemented the most brutal and tortuous campaign against a people that the modern world has ever witnessed, and now we seek their compassion coupled with our inability to do the work – it’s a foolish proposition.
Who will represent and fight on behalf of our ancestors, who were the victims of this obscene treatment – where is the justice?
Who will fight for this historical justice for them?
How do we honor our ancestor’s struggle?
We can honor their struggle by continuing to fight and demand justice for them and ourselves.
We can honor their struggle by continuing the fight for self- determination of Black people.
As we recently celebrated Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, a holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery in America, Blacks must ask themselves are they truly free – the answer is an absolute NO.
True freedom, the freedom that allows you to determine the highest of heights; the freedom that gives you true liberty and the ability to pursue happiness; the freedom that allows for full protection under the law – the same protection that hundreds of thousands of Black men have fought and died for in American wars; the freedom to be “full” American citizens that enjoy the human and civil rights afforded to white Americans; THE TRUE FREEDOM THAT BLACKS MUST HAVE IN AMERICA MUST BE ECONOMIC FREEDOM.
The Black community is at a crossroads because the issues we face are very severe and near permanent. I use the term “near” to signal a sense of urgency and unless we act NOW, the near will disappear and the issues and problems facing the Black community will become forever permanent.
We are witnessing the “perfect storm” and the enemies of the Black community are winning – I dread what 2115 will look like for Black people if we don’t respond today.
Why the sense of urgency? Why should the Black community be concerned? Let’s consider the following:
• Blacks Face Multiple Risk Factors – Most experts don’t truly appreciate and most people just don’t even know.
Many times our approach to addressing the issues facing the Black community in America is usually viewed from a very narrow lensed, specifically a “silo” approach (this is how the entire society is arranged).
Usually we isolate our discussions to focus on one issue at a time.
The reality is that all of the negative demographics (i.e. health, poverty, unemployment, incarceration, education, etc.) that we’re always discussing are just mind teasers and don’t truly reflect the massive disparities and its impact on the Black community.
It’s one thing to have two or three point disparities between Blacks and whites would be acceptable unfortunately, the disparities can be up to 60 points disparities making them statistically unexplainable.
In addition, what’s hardly ever discussed is the impact that all of these negative demographics and massive disparities has had on one group of people – the Black community in America.
This is a current and a historical argument. You don’t get these types of numbers overnight – this is the legacy of the enslavement of Black people.
Yes, poverty impacts all groups equally but the Black community, unlike other groups, especially other immigrant groups, has little possibility of escaping poverty because the Black family unit is threatened by not two, three, but sometimes four and five risk factors which further exacerbates their poverty.
Where one lives, specifically where one grows up matters. Many Blacks have been relegated to social and economic isolation (ghettos) that has created profound alienation from mainstream American and allows for the perpetuation of race policies that seek to further punish (structural racism) the Black community.
The structural disparities are not the only issue that the Black community must contend with – those are external forces.
After several generations living under these social economic conditions a “culture” is developed where abnormal behavior becomes accepted as normal behavior.
Too many children are being raised in extremely unstable environments (children having children), and as a result of extreme levels of poverty and structural racism the socialization process has incorporated self-destructive behavior.
In addition to the pathologies of our parents (i.e. addiction, abuse, etc.), parents that are not educated, motivated, and economically successful tend to pass these traits to their children.
Because of these issues and so many other factors, Black children are born significantly behind which makes escaping from poverty extremely difficult for every generation.
• The Pipeline is Primed – Unfortunately the massive disparities and multiple risk factors are not the only problems facing the Black community – they represent only half of the problem.
The other half of the problem lies in the continuum (pipeline) that is producing these staggering and alarming outcomes for Black people.
When we begin to examine the continuums (systems) that produce the current demographics (outcomes) we see that the pump is primed to, if not continue, increase the problems facing the Black community – this is very alarming.
Each one of these continuums is comprised of a number of systems and institutions that contribute to the outcome that we primarily focus on.
If you are to change the outcome, you must address each system and how those systems and institutions contribute to the overall problem.
These systems and institutions operate based on existing laws, rules and regulations, and the overarching policies that have been crafted by politicians and are being implemented by bureaucrats – they’re running on autopilot.
In the previous two articles, I used an example of the “continuum” the criminal justice system and this system comprises several other systems primarily: law enforcement system, judicial system, and the corrections system.
It’s hard to make the distinction from the other disparities that the Black community faces, but the mass incarceration of Black men is absolutely destroying the stability of the Black family and the Black community.
There are about 2.4 million people that are incarcerated in America’s prisons with nearly half comprising Black men – this is a staggering figure on so many levels.
Not only does America have the highest incarceration rate in the world but it also incarcerates a minority group at a level never seen since the period of enslavement of Black people.
Although Blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 50 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black (even this number has been skewed because when you measure only Black males between 18- 35 the acceptable percentage should be more like four percent versus 50 percent).
The human costs of this mass incarceration is wicked with hundreds of thousands of wasted lives, wrecked families, troubled children, and permanent economic and political damage – extensive disenfranchisement.
The Black man, like all other men, is the natural provider and protector of the family.
So if he is removed, especially at the scale that it has happened, this must be an attack against Black people and ultimately the enemies of the Black man have resurfaced and are clearly in charge.
The mass incarceration of Black men is another form of slavery because, like slavery, its survival is based on the control and exploitations of one group.
The public discourse regarding “missing Black fathers” is real not because Black men don’t want to be fathers to their children – nothing could be further from the truth.
Nor is this an affirmation that Black men don’t want to take care of their families.
Black men are missing because Black men are the victims of America’s new slavery (mass incarceration).
Black men didn’t just walk away from their families; they were taken away in handcuffs.
The results of this demographic have weakened the entire Black family.
If we are to change the massive disparities that the criminal justice system is producing we will have to address the police, courts, and the corrections system.
• Passing of Elders – Those African Americans that actually lived as adults prior to the historic legislation of the 1960s represent the closest victims from the American institution of slavery.
Many of these Blacks were born in the 1930s and early 40s and are now 70 years and older (this group is only one to two generations removed from slavery).
This group experienced directly the threat of the KKK or colored only participation.
This group was physically and legally discriminated against and it was, not only acceptable, but it was also legal.
This group also clearly understood the enemy of the Black community and fought to end its rule over them – they clearly understood that being Black was a curse in America and that their civil rights were nonexistent.
Today the argument regarding having the United States government repair what was done to the Black community has been hijacked by a very weak argument that slavery ended 150 years ago and there are no slaves living today, not acknowledging the current damage and the legacy of slavery.
This generation represents our biggest defense against such a ridiculous argument and this group has the capacity to help restore this conversation to a healthy dialogue which must not be defeated.
The Black community must restore this conversation back to the main stage of American public discourse.
The multiple risk factors, the primed pump of the continuums, and the passing of our elders create a sense of urgency for the Black community that require us to quickly organize at the highest level or risk our Black children becoming a permanent social and economic underclass in America.
Because America is driven by free markets the ability to challenge structural racism will become much more difficult, if not impossible, to combat.