By Deon Osborne
Living while Black in America can be a constant struggle that breeds frustration and self-doubt.
Not only do we have to defend ourselves from constant white supremacist attacks on our spirits, bodies, and communities, but we also often find ourselves being critiqued by each other in a never-ending struggle for acceptance.
Acceptance from the world.
Acceptance from other black brothers and sisters.
Acceptance from ourselves.
This sphere of consternation ends up mobilizing us into (at least) two camps: Black people who vehemently push against the social, political and economic attacks of racism, and black people who distance themselves from anything resembling black radicalism for fear of being stereotyped, while ignoring racism as an immovable force of nature not worth the time to address.
While members of both camps ultimately want the same future–one where our experiences, opportunities, and outcomes are not predefined by our skin tone or African heritage—this division in how to go about it leads to a void of leadership which allows racist ideals of inferiority to fester in our social lives and evolve into the forms of hate and violence that we expel on each other: acts of gang violence, refusals to trust black businesses, and desires to adopt Caucasian features.
Fifty years ago, a young revolutionary and protégé of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X sought to uplift black people socially, politically and economically by empowering a new consciousness within ourselves.
“The goal of black self-determination and black self-identity…is full participation in the decision-making process affecting the lives of black people, and recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people,” Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) said in his 1967 book “Black Power”.
Ture was a remarkable young martyr who coined the term “black power,” igniting a generation of marginalized people across the country. He also formed a black political party in Lowndes County, Alabama after being dissatisfied with both major political parties. The logo of the black panther became the inspiration for a separate organization called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, which organized for political representation in the South, and implemented socialist concepts of free, universal healthcare and free pre-k education at chapters across the nation during a time when it was unheard of in America. Ture became a leading member of this organization as well.
Ironically, it was the Black Panthers’ defense of gun rights and protecting their communities from police brutality that led to the nation’s first gun control laws in California.
Ture and others recognized that in order for black Americans to gain acceptance and power among the larger society, we must first gain acceptance, responsibility, and power for ourselves within our own communities.
In a society based on ever-increasing individual greed and conquest, it was the simple yet revolutionary ideas of communal responsibility for one another that inspired African nations to violently repel colonialism and motivated Black Americans to, adamently, enforce the Civil Rights Movement.
We don’t have to choose between calling out racism or calling out violence against each other because both are products of the same machine: A machine that allowed White Tulsans to burn down a thriving black community in 1921 Greenwood, the largest domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history, and to ignore the effects of that violence today.
The same machine that allowed the local government to construct a freeway through the formerly wealthy, black district, dividing it in half.
It’s a machine that enables a white Lawtonian whose truck was recently stolen to ignore the two white boys who stole it and instead shoot their young black unarmed friend who had his hands up, trying to run away.
It’s a machine that tells the larger society to punish poverty with police brutality under the direction of politicians who never step foot beyond their side of the train tracks.
A machine that ships a few bright kids into middle-class schools while abandoning the majority of minority kids who must navigate through crumbling buildings and outdated textbooks.
A machine that tells little black boys and girls, straight and gay, that suicide is a viable option for our problems.
No longer should we be afraid to demand reparations when even the United Nations is calling for it. No longer should we give our hard-earned, meager incomes to corporations that fund our oppressors.
No longer should we hide our beautiful skin, strong, resilient hair and vibrantly, loud voices out of fear of being “too black”.
There’s no such thing. Let us have conversations with each other about solutions for each other.
We should begin the process of decolonizing our minds, infiltrating the political process and investing in black-owned businesses in order to create a better future than the ones our predecessors fought, voted and died for.
Let us free our communities by any means necessary.