Remembering our Blackness

slaveAfrican Americans have lost their blackness. As a race, the identity crisis of this group people shifted somewhere in the early and mid-70s and never came back. Once the Civil Rights

Movement era claimed victory for blacks through the action of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the dismantling of Jim Crow laws and opportunities not afforded to the black race, African Americans sort of went into the tank for a long period of time when it comes to continuing the fight for equal protection under the law.

For over two decades, black people got comfortable and took for granted almost all of things their predecessors work hard to accomplish. Hopefully, it is not too late to get that Black Pride back. Today, there are some African Americans ashamed of being black. We are ashamed of where we’ve come from.

We can’t forget. We can never forget. We cannot afford to let our children or our grandchildren forget the terror reign of the Ku Klux Klan, the denial of the right to vote and being treated as sub-humans through the atrocity of slavery. Young black men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are still losing their lives for no reason other than  being black.

Instead of running from our history, we should embrace the fact that as a people we overcame the worst odds of survival to become prominent today’s social fabric in American life. The Oscar-winning movie, “12 Years a Slave,” and the transformational television event-“Roots,” takes us on that journey to realize the pain and anguish in which our forefathers and mothers had to endure just to live.

Professional athletes like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, as well as high profile celebrities such as Will Smith, Jay-Z, Denzel Washington Oprah Winfrey, politicians Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and President Barack Obama show us how far we have come. And we have come a mighty long ways.

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But when you mention slavery-the discussion sets off complete apathy, drunkenness in ignorance, embracement of the past or a shunning of the topic altogether. There are a lot of African Americans today who would rather not you even bring up the subject because out of concern that the conversation somehow will stir up some volatile reaction from black folks and would automatically put white America on the defense.

That is simply foolish thinking. You must remember the past in order to know where you are going in the future. It is because of ignorant bliss that allowed us to sit and watch the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 get gutted out by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court. It is because of our lax attitude as African Americans that allowed current fear-mongers in the form of local, state and national politicians to try to hand down sneaky ways to deprive people the right to vote (North Carolina).

You can look around and see the reflection in the mirror every day. There are many who do not know the background of our history, nor do they really care.

In fact, black history may have lost its shade of color altogether. In some part of the country, the celebration and acknowledgement of Black History Month has become nothing more than an abbreviated irritation. The discussion around the history-makers of African descent has become mutilated over the years to the point that it has become nothing more than rhetorical rubbish to some people, even among African Americans.

Instead of picking up their iPad to learn about the legendary exploits of acclaimed journalist Ida B. Wells, and her quest to see an end of lynching laws, people are too quick to turn on the latest garbage being spilled out into our lives by the latest television reality show.

photo credit: Ryan Vaarsi via photopin cc
photo credit: Ryan Vaarsi via photopin cc

There are plenty of black youngsters (adults too) who are not aware of the stories about the Great Black Jockeys…African American men like Isaac Murphy and Jimmy “Maestro” Winkfield, who rode to Kentucky Derby and racehorse glory in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Widespread institutional racism curtailed the tradition and established legacy of the Great Black Jockeys, but not before African Americans riders claimed victory in 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derby races.  This is but one of thousands of the great achievement that is lost among the shuffle of knowing our history.

Usually if there is a discussion about Black History Month it usually is around the same half dozen individuals we were taught back in grade school to admire.

We all know the names…Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and Medgar Evers. These were great men and women who we own a great deal of gratitude and honor to for the sacrifices they made in order to further the progress of African Americans in this country.

But Black America is far from being defined by a handful of individuals.

The black experience is not limited to a group of black leaders that mainstream America finds more acceptable than the rest of his brethren and sisters. While everyone is raving about the so-called new breed of quarterbacks in the NFL like Russell Wilson and RGIII, let’s not forget that Doug Williams is the first black man to lead his team to victory in the Super Bowl.

You are not going to learn that from the history books.

That’s because the month of February seems to have a lot of things going on. Awards season is in full bloom. You have the Academy Awards. There’s the NBA All-Star weekend to inhale.  The Super Bowl is in February. It is difficult to remember anything with all the business going on in February to keep people distracted from learning about themselves.

Let us not forget about Arthur Ashe. Let us not forget about swashbuckling heroine Ida B. Wells and her courage to fight lynching laws. Let us not forget about Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress. Let us not forget the courage under fire in which Rosa Parks displayed for not moving to the back of the bus.

Let us not be ashamed of our struggles and triumphs or forget that we have overcome unthinkable odds to be where we are today.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1076 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.