This thought is dedicated to every individual that contributes to my current existence as a Black Man in America. This idea is dedicated to the “common man”, “theologian”, and the “intellectual” for we need all in the progression, freedom, equity, and justice.
When I was a teenager, my first job was doing janitorial services for $100 a week. In the 1998-99 school year as a busy young man, it was easy to stack $100 cash while being an honor student, young preacher, and athlete. I barely had time for much outside of that and a girlfriend at the time. Working that job and using my mind ultimately afforded me the opportunity to get a scholarship to college, pay for my books, and have some fun like any other teenager. What I did not know at the time was that I was preparing myself for an inner conflict.
W.E.B. DuBois wrote a piece many years ago entitled The Talented Tenth. The concept was inspired to motivate Black young people to pursue education and excel in various areas of life such as politics, medicine, law, etc. The hope was that these individuals would return to their communities and influence change in society that would ultimately benefit the greater whole. This idea was always pitted against the approach of Booker T. Washington. The initial leader of Tuskgee created a strategy that focused more on agriculture and infrastructure.
The two educators that offered very different approaches to the growth and liberation of African American people in the late 19th and early 20th century, never witnessed in a real sense the manifestation of their theories. As a matter of fact, I am of the opinion that the separation of these ideas are seeds that have manifested in the midst of our current struggle in 2018.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed the intellectual being pitted against the “common man”. It has always proven to be an unnecessary conflict that has blossomed into opportunity to dismiss one over the other. We have people who have been blessed to obtain higher education that never came back to the community to enhance it. Rather they felt it necessary to move beyond the past into a brighter day for their future family. The success of the intellectual has somehow become an opportunity to lord a false sense of superiority. Ultimately, the feelings of “being brand new” permeate the fractured relationship.
The “common man” is known for being a hard working individual. They have a sense of pride in enhancing the environment and performing honest work. They have built the infrastructure that all people including intellectuals enjoy. Yet, moment come when the common man sees the intellectual as a lazy, imaginative person with high ideas and no sense of reality. Unless you have put your hands to something, you have not contributed to the overall process.
With some truth being seen from different perspectives, I am of the mind that we have forgotten how to use the best of our resources, gifts, and skills to bring about positive change and transformation. It is easy to stand an identify obvious issues that are before us. Yet, I wonder if we are able to be accountable for how far we have drifted from the foundation of unity that brought about the Civil Rights Movement, Voting Rights Act, Black Wall Street in Oklahoma, and various other entities that have proven our might and creativity in the midst of systems not built for us to win.
As Black people are attempting to navigate the nation under the administration of Trump, we are witnessing the division of an oppressed people in a magnitude not seen since the plantation. We have individuals who have decided to adopt every supremacist form of religion, politics, economic, and social ideology possible in order to be found in the among those who appear to control the meter. In order not to feel the pressure, pain, or suffering of oppression, the resolve is to give up integrity, uniqueness, and character not be seen as a threat.
On the other side of the equation, people are daily in the struggle to demonstrate their humanity among other people. The protests have made people uncomfortable. The constant emphasis on equity has brought out the most bigoted of ideas to the forefront. Individuals have shown more sympathy for a piece of cloth than the people who continue to face systematic oppression. The agitator is cursed for bring brokenness to the forefront. The sellout is praise for being a lapdog.
We must finally be resolved to stop feeding into the need for separation among ourselves and recognize the truth of our condition. Nobody can truly be free until we are all free. No one person can achieve liberation on his/her own. We cannot accomplish movement without listening and understanding one another. We will not experience power moves until we are locked arm and arm focused on one mission and goal.
Now, I don’t claim to know everything. I definitely do not know all the answers. What I do know is that it takes 100% of the community to liberate 100% of the people. We cannot make it through unless we repent of our internal foolishness, our apathy toward liberation, our selfishness toward our own individual preservation, and our denial of our God given uniqueness.
My petition to you is simple. Find the greatness again. Do not allow the known evil and pretentiousness of the narcissistic prevail over our ability to thrive. Don’t give room to the enemy to continue forge separation in the name of the status quo. We shall overcome together. But we will die alone if we stay separated.