The License to be Black
There are two parallel belief systems at work within some corners of the black community. The first is the notion that our history of oppression, racism (both past and present), and the difficulties of life, forces us to make ends meet anyway we can, including but not limited to hurting each other. And because of this, we are exempt from accountability; our worst behavior is excused if not justified.
The concordant belief is that this reality is so fundamental, so elementary that all African-Americans should understand and embrace it. Those who do not irrevocably breach the unwritten black code. Thus, they are not really black. They are instead disloyal “Negros” who should know better; “others” who believe themselves better than those whose self-destructive behavior they condemn. The real problem therefore lies not with the black perpetrators of social, political and economic dysfunction but the black critics thereof. This is especially true of blacks who have “made it”.
People like Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and Charles Barkley fall into the category. They and other like-minded African-Americans have been subjected to withering condemnation from other African-Americans for daring to criticize certain aspects of black society. How dare they pass judgment on those they cannot hope to understand? Clearly, they and other like them have forgotten from whence they came.
And for this affront; this lack of compassion and understanding, this “holier than thou” attitude, this terminal offense there is but one course of action, i.e., to marginalize, vilify, ostracize and otherwise banish the offending party(s) from the African-American community. In order words the revocation of their license to be black.
However, at the risks of the ultimate punishment, a life without a people, some things done by and within the African-American community are just plain wrong. And those of us who say so are neither Uncle Tom’s nor out of touch with reality.
It is wrong for African-Americans (with names like Murder, Killer, Dog, Gorilla, Bastard, Bada$$ and worse), to write lyrics which speaks of “busting caps in or pimping out” their brothers and sisters, even if they make money doing so. It is equally wrong to demean and humiliate ourselves and other African-Americans on shows like Real Housewives of this or the Preachers of that. If a white supremacist group or police department were to produce such swill we’d be marching.
We do not contend that African-Americans be excluded from opportunity, wealth and prosperity. However, there are limits to what we can and should do. Behavior that is destructive of the black community is not excused by past wrongs or the desire for personal gain. This includes many of the activities we now take for granted. And the way we routinely mistreat each other is far worse than wrong. It is a crying shame.
Personal responsibility and an end to black fratricide are two of Blackacre’s core values. As such we address these issues with terrifying frequency, perhaps too much. Moreover, our opinion sometimes places us in an uncomfortable position. While being at odds with much of our base, we find ourselves agreeing with at least some of the comments advanced by our traditional adversaries. Ouch!
But we do not approach this subject from a sense of self-righteous superiority. We look down our noses at no one and are clearly no better than anyone else. We know that life is hard and that our challenges are not easily overcome. But we also know this.
A dog eat dog attitude is not in our collective best interest and progress is neither easy nor free. It is 2015, and we are still overcoming.
Like then, we cannot prevail by harming each other, by killing and exploiting each other, by referring to each other fools, niggas, dogs and bitches, by “thuging” pimping, playing and whoring or by going to prison. We cannot succeed by convincing our young women that their only value lies in the size of their rear ends or by telling our men that their manhood is a function of their ignorance and rage.
We do not mean to lecture. But regardless as to the difficulty of our struggle, the ends do not justify the means. The gravity of our situation does not entitle us to engage in self-destructive behavior; we are not permitted to exploit other African-Americans for personal gain and we commit no sin by holding accountable those who would tear us all down.
Calling out bad behavior within the black community does not equate to being disloyal. Quite the contrary. We demonstrate our love and commitment by saying what needs to be said and doing what must be done.
We have survived the worst our adversaries have thrown at us and we are still here. If we lose this battle it will not be because of what others do to us. Instead, it will be because of what we do to ourselves, because our tactics are ineffective and our values are skewed. And we do not forfeit our license to be black by saying so.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum