Black Americans must be part of telling own story

The sad state of black affairs is the trolling for black votes and misrepresentation of its importance to the state of affairs of this nation.

One thing has been clear in the Democratic debates: the fact that black folks are simply an aside and aren’t being calculated in decisions being made that will have a lasting impact. For Republicans, people are so concerned with the trickle-down economic impact of this administration’s progress for different groups that the truth about the party’s history unheralded efforts to help blacks is buried deep in memory banks.

Voting is most important, but voter suppression efforts have never overcome the mindset of a people who believe their votes don’t matter or that if they register to vote they will be tapped for jury duty or other civic responsibilities. It’s sort of the same with the Census — where too many do not want to come out of hiding and be counted or not understanding Census data is used to help calculate apportionment to municipalities and state government. By not being civic-minded, too many folks are counted out. Are we so sure that blacks are only 12% of the population; if we aren’t counted who knows the truth?

But while people are playing or trolling black folks and pandering for their votes, the reality for too many of us is that we too often are becoming our own worst enemy.

C. Delores Tucker, a civil rights figure of the ‘90s railed against the degradation by the pornographic imagery of self and females in much of “gangsta” rap. Yet, the vile name-calling sees no limit in pursuit of music awards, which wash the mind and entrap a  new generation of young people.

Too many of our young want to dance or be a star, while engineers and teachers need replenishment with role models to ensure our future. TV and movies would have you believe that drug lords, pimps, buffoons or wannabes are who we should be.

Black history has been distorted in allowing people to choose our heroes for us rather than we look to history to find them for ourselves.

The first seven black U.S. congressmen were Republicans and impacted the establishment of precedents including the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment and first Civil Rights Act of 1866, but they have yet to see a Black Heritage Stamp. Could this be because they were Republicans?

What about Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cells formed the basis of human molecular biology, work for the human genome cell sequence unlocking, template for vaccines and a $350 billion dollar industry of medical wonders? That was all without compensation to her family or recognition with the naming of a National Institute of Health building or even one at Johns Hopkins University, where her cells were taken.

Why are they not captured in the lexicon of what is important to this nation?

Then, there is the story of Abraham Galloway from North Carolina, who was one of the first blacks to meet with President Abraham Lincoln in protest of the treatment of blacks. He served as a spy for the Union Army, which helped turn the course of the Civil War. He led a life worthy of a James Bond-type production.

With the massive debts today’s students are bearing, the disproportionate impact upon students of color pales next to the negative debt balance of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Of the more than 130 HBCUs in the 1930s,  slightly over 100 such accredited institutions survive today, with many people asking the stupid question “should they exist?” HBCUs have been the gatekeepers of opportunities in higher education and the professions for black students. Yet, many see their alumni as helping in their failings in not repaying their debts or demanding accountability for their excellence. Enter one Robert F. Smith, a black billionaire whose largess to his alma mater Morehouse College in forgiving the class of 2018’s debt demonstrated we have the resources to help right this wrong.   

Another issue underlying the struggle of the HBCU’s is their indebtedness to federal and state governments in borrowing to try to keep their doors open. For years I have been trying to get Republicans and Democrats to forgive all such debts incurred before 1964, which aggravate these schools’ ability to demonstrate financial stability to accrediting bodies.  It has been the Republican Party that has shown some willingness to do something, but it has not been enough. This is only fair and not reparations.

Living black cannot be how others define us, but what part we are willing to play in telling our story.

Though it is said often, those who do not appreciate or understand history are likely to repeat it. I say those who do not understand civic and history will always be counted out.

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