Back in January 2001, an episode of Stargate SG-1 aired entitled “2010.” (I am a sci-fi fan and will attempt to dial down the “nerdiness” to communicate my point.) The episode featured the earth team meeting an alien race with advanced weapons, technology, and medicine they were willing to freely share and simply wanted to live among us. All of earth’s intergalactic enemies were defeated and life was peaceful. The new alien friends even offered medicine to extend our lifespan. It was 9 years later the people of earth started to realize something was wrong. People were living longer, but no one was having children. They discovered the medicine to help them live longer was also simultaneously making them sterile, and slowly killing the population. Their peaceful allies were wiping them out with a smile. One or two people had said over the years something was wrong, but their voices went unheard. The tipping point in the episode was the overwhelming reality that the “help” they were receiving was the cause of their undoing.
Today, we are once again dealing with race relations in the United States. African-Americans are outraged and hurt. News stories, politicians, police officers, and community leaders will tell us again “things are getting better” despite the killing of another unarmed pedestrian black teenager. The defense of these actions will be that Black-on-Black crime is high and never addressed—which is partially true but a deflection and excuse to not deal with the present situation. We have the same conversation when the same events happen every few months. What will be our tipping point? What will it take for us to wake up as a people and as a nation and realize just because you change the laws doesn’t mean you automatically change the people.
Perhaps it is time to accept the fact that integration failed. Our parents and grandparents marched for laws to change giving equality to all. Laws were changed. National integration was both made legal and encouraged. Yet, here we are in 2014, with a:
Lack in Education.
– Our HBCU’s are chronically underfunded. Many of them are across the street from major universities with overflowing budgets and multi-million dollar scrolling marquees purchased by alum who were admitted during a time when African-Americans weren’t, and made significant wealth through businesses endeavors African-Americans weren’t allowed to have.
– Our inner city schools are underfunded and underperforming. This crosses culture, but schools in predominately black neighborhoods do not have the resources to educate Black students at the level where they will be able to compete on state and national levels.
Lacking in Economics.
– Our Black businesses practically non-existent. Race riots of the early, mid, and late 20th century around the nation destroyed them and because of the lack of economic capital in the Black community, those businesses closed and were unable to rebuild. The few that exist, because of cross-cultural ignorance and fear, are not frequented by anyone. We aren’t trusted to do business with excellence, and even more, we don’t support our people. The NAACP reported, “Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours.” In the non-profit world, Black businesses are grossly underfunded, and in majority white non-profits, most Black staff struggle with being underfunded their entire careers. The expectation to perform at the same—if not higher as you advocate for yourself and your people—levels while getting paid less is a problem we have been addressing since…the end of slavery.
Lacking in Equality under the Law.
– Our children are still policed by everyone with minimal legal response. Trayvon couldn’t walk down the sidewalk in the rain. Michael couldn’t walk down the street. Jordan couldn’t listen to music at a gas station. Eric’s size made the police believe he had to be subdued like a professional wrestler and not a civilian with Miranda rights. If we are stationary or moving, driving or walking, college-bound or headed home, we are not safe. Not always, but what has been the case lately, none of these Black teenagers broke the law. Yet, the media searches under every rock to find previous misbehavior and arrives at the conclusion, “If they weren’t guilty now, they were then and therefore it’s ok.” If you are rich, you can run over and kill four people, be arrested alive, and sent to counseling. You can shoot there president and be arrested alive, and found mentally incompetent. Our elders have said it before, but it bears repeating, “A Black life is not seen as valuable in the United States.” I would add “unless we have a ball or a microphone in our hands.”
Lacking in Diversity in majority white organizations.
– Google, Apple, and Twitter have all given recent reports their organizations are mostly White male and Asian. (We need a whole website to address and affirm the ladies.) Integration in businesses and our churches, looks like two—yes, two—Black people in the building. Sometimes, they are married…to each other. They are in every picture, staff meeting, and publication as “pictures of diversity.” The overwhelming majority of the time, we are not developed academically or professionally, and we are not hired. What will be the tipping point? The wake-up call that enough is enough? We need take seriously the issues within our own community like Black-on-Black crime, and the issues outside of community like seasonal murder of unarmed African-Americans?
Finally, I ask, what will be the tipping point for our non-Black brothers and sisters?
How many African-Americans have to be killed in news stories before we face the reality that the system is broken. We are quick to go to Iraq, Syria, and Russia (and rightly so) to fight injustice there, but still are dealing with Dr. King’s reality in Letters from a Birmingham Jail, where we are “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice…prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension [over] a positive piece which is the presence of justice.”
How many times will watch us be killed in streets, sidewalks, gas stations, and on the news? When will the encouragement to us that “things are getting better” stop and the advocacy of “treat them as you treat us” begin? When will I not be afraid for my friends, family, classmates? When will I stop being afraid for my mother? When will I stop fearing every time a police officer pulls behind me at a red light or on the highway? We need your voice, your advocacy, your support today. It is needed now, while the rest of us are still breathing.
I don’t believe Black people are supposed to run away from other cultures. Nor do I believe any other culture is the problem. Each culture adds unique value to all, and in order for European, Asian, African, African-American, Latino, and all cultures to be there best, we need every voice at the table. Every voice treated equally, respectfully, and justly.
That episode of Stargate SG-1…It ends with the remaining people on earth being wiped out. The main characters on the show used the classic sci-fi plot device: time-travel to undo the episode.
That’s not a luxury we have.
Unlike the show, this is reality. The past cannot be changed, but we must learn from it or it will continue to be repeated? What say you? Is this the tipping point, or do we need to discuss this again in a couple of months?
My fear is that one day there will be a remnant of other cultures that had positive experiences with other Black people and they will reminiscence about their Black friends that are no longer around. “What happened?” They will ask.
Only we won’t be around to answer.