Since the post Civil Rights Era, the Black community has largely
abandoned its collective struggle against continued racism and
discrimination. Gone are the demands for justice and an end to
inequality. They have been replaced by narratives of meritocracy,
“colorblindness” and the bootstrapping individual negro who can
single-handedly rise above his circumstance to beat the odds stacked
against him. As Pharrell recently explained, today’s Black is a “new
Black”– a Black blind to racism and the everyday struggles of its
community. Blackness should evolve as we continue to redefine it for
ourselves but not at the cost of dismissing the challenges we still
The “New Black” should be both forward thinking and informed.
Regardless of the amazing feats accomplished by single individuals, a
system of racism still exists in free America that is currently waging a
war on the Black community. Millions are being taken prisoner. Through
legislation, discriminatory legal practices and segregation, the clock
of Black progress has been ticking backwards in recent history.
Here’s what you should know:
1. It hurts to admit, but racism is alive and well. Many Black
people fear that admitting or accepting the prevalence of racism will
negatively impact their sense of autonomy. While we are all individuals
with our own struggles who should not allow anything or anyone to hold
us down, it is important that as a community we fight the many forces
that threaten our collective physical and psychological well-being.
2. Morgan Freeman was wrong, race has everything to do with income inequality today.
Intergenerational poverty has crippled the Black community, limiting
access to education, healthcare and employment. If Morgan Freeman
believes the history of slavery and Jim Crow plus present-day
discrimination in the form of unfair sentencing practices, predatory
banking practices and school segregation has no effects on income
inequality, he is either willfully ignorant or simply–yes it must be said– a sell out.
3. The Black church has been both a friend and frenemy.
Historically, the church was a powerhouse center for activism, Black
advancement and cultural dissemination. Unfortunately, the Black church
today took bribes from banks that specifically targeted the Black
community for subprime mortgages (a
mortgage with an initial low-interest rate that skyrockets within a few
years) which have decimated the Black middle class community.
4. The success of African or Caribbean immigrants in America does not represent a non-racialized America. Immigrants
self-select and must meet various requirements in order to enter the
United States. That means that such individuals generally represent the
most successful minority of their entire population. Their success is
often used as a political pawn by politicians who conjure up tales of
the “model minority” to derail important conversations about America’s
race problems. Our Black community comprises people of West Indian,
African, South American and American heritage alike. We must not be
5. Despite media depictions, Black men are good fathers. The
story of the absent, worthless Black father is a myth. Multiple studies
have found that resident African-American fathers spent more time or the
same amount of time providing physical care, feeding and soothing their
infants as White fathers.
Adjusted for income, it has also been found that African-American
fathers report more frequently participating in caregiving activities
and participating in more cognitive activities with their children than
both White and Latino fathers. Non-resident fathers of ALL races tend to
have difficulty maintaining relationships with their children, however
that is not an exclusive Black male pathology.
6. “There are more Black men behind bars or in the legal system today, than there were slaves in 1850”–Michelle Alexander.
Of the 2,000,000 men in prison 841,000 are Black (39.1%). Despite
modern stereotypes that characterize Black men as more violent than
Whites, both groups commit proportionate numbers of crimes. However,
multiple studies have found that Black men are not only more likely to
be “randomly” searched (stopped and frisked), but are also more likely
to be found guilty and receive harsher sentences than Whites.
Most of the Black men in today’s prison system are not even locked up
for criminal offenses, but for illegal sale and possession of drugs
(crimes largely ignored in middle class and poor White communities).
This dehumanization and unfair incarceration of the Black man is not
new to America’s racist prison legacy. In Alabama in 1865, as Blacks
gained their freedom, White racial stereotypes of them shifted from the
happy, child-like and foolish Black slave to a lubricious, aggressive
population of reprobates in need of restrain. Within two decades Blacks
went from 2 percent of the prison population to 74 percent.
7. And there is Big money involved. The US annually spends 70
billion dollars on incarceration, probation and parole: A 127% increase
since 1987. Local police also receive large government grants to support
the continued “War on Drugs” in the form of cash, training and military
equipment and laws permit law enforcement to seize and keep private
property obtained while enforcing this war, even if an individual has
not been found guilty of a crime.
Want more information? Read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
8. Schools are waging a war on our children. Students of color
face disproportionately unfair disciplinary action when in school and
many are funnelled into the prison system vis-a-vis the “zero tolerance”
policies implemented in the late 90’s.
**40% of children expelled from school each year are Black
**70% of children arrested or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino
**Black students are 3.5x more likely to be expelled than White students
**Black students are twice as likely to not graduate high school.
9. American schools are becoming increasingly re-segregated. Remember
when decades of activism bore fruits in the form of federally mandated
school integration? Those days are now gone. States, not the federal
government, now have control over its own integration policies and it is
safe to say White people are still not excited about integration based
on the shifts back to segregation seen in many schools nationwide policy.
10. Personal success of an individual does not negate the existence of racism. The
most influential man in the country is Black, President Barack Obama.
One of the richest women on the planet is Oprah. Yet, both of these
individuals have been subjected to racial profiling and it has been made
clear that their achievements do not mark the end of the fight. Racism
does not end because one person “makes it.”
11. Black people must reclaim “personal responsibility.” One
of the most fallacious charges of American racism is that Black people
are irresponsible, and this charge continues to exploit a reality where
Black people can never prove themselves perfect enough. As long as there
is one example of poor decorum or there exists a single instance of
questionable character, Black integrity will be vulnerable to American
racism. However, it is not Black people’s obligation to be super-human.
It is our obligation to be of the human variety and to claim that right.
The failure to do so has allowed spurious racial statistics, steeped in
the inaccuracy of racial engineering itself, to go unchallenged. This
has enabled everything from the myth of the Black welfare queen to
commercial Blacksploitation imagery to misrepresent the resilience of
the Black community. Nothing short of our responsibility has allowed
Black people to endure what we have for as long as we have.
12. Do not let the absence of the word “Brotha Man” fool you, politics are still racist.
White America has evolved its political language, excluding outright
racial epithets and replacing them with low-key allusions, but don’t be
fooled today’s political coded language is still very racially charged.
Words/phrases like “thug”, “welfare state”, “drug war”, “crime war” and
the imagery of the “lazy Black man” are all weapons employed by
Democrats and Republicans alike to gain White approval from the lower
and middle classes who fear Black progress infringes upon their own
13. Race is false. The experience is true.
Trying to illuminate racism can sometimes feel like swinging at air.
One reason is because race is a fallacy. Race does not actually exist.
The idea however is deeply ingrained in the American psyche, so
much so that it has spawned vocabulary like “Black-on-Black crime,”
“White Hispanic” and “White culture.” Race is posited when broadcasting
IQ rankings and government statistics but is somehow less clear when
debating reparations. As soon as race comes to weigh on America’s moral
record it is customary to question, “Well, who is Black?” Indeed, who is
Black? Who is White? These classifications remain socially arbitrary
and scientifically inadequate, which has allowed American racism to
create any statistical reality it wishes. Still, the idea of race is no
less real in affecting how many people have come to be treated as
members of American society. The mere perception of someone as “Black”
has effectively enabled the devastating practices of racial profiling
and mass incarceration to continue even today.
14. Black women need Black men out of prison. Discussions
surrounding the Black male/female relationship tend to center around
dating or marriage “preferences” while a much bigger picture is ignored.
Despite claims that Black men are more likely to date interracially
than black women, the dating/marriage pool for Black women has been most
affected by the disproportionate number of Black men behind bars. What
is the future of the Black family where 70% of college educated Black
women are unmarried and 1-10 Black men between 20-30 are in prison?
15. The average African-American bloodline is more American than a White one. Despite
White America’s attempt to classify itself as “American,” to the
exclusion of all people of color (including the Native people who remain
the original “Americans”), African-American ancestry dates back 200
years on average, whereas the average European-American’s family history
is roughly 100 years old.
16. Black cultural property is still under attack. Black music
and dance has always been a source of exploitation by commercial
entities that cyclically appropriate, commodify and rebrand our art for
“mass appeal” by recruiting White faces to market Black artistry. It has
been done countless times in the music industry with genres ranging
from Ragtime, to Country and Rock music where Elvis Presley is now
referred to as the “King of Rock”, despite the genre being historically
Today, Black faces are disappearing from R&B and Hip-Hop and
being replaced with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke,
Mackelmore and Iggy Azalea. Will Mackelmore and Iggy Azalea reign as
Hip-Hop’s king and queen? Without a collective effort, most assuredly.
17. It is important to be inclusive of White people in discussions about racism.
Although being born under the auspices of Whiteness can confer certain
advantages, specifically the ability to dismiss the relevance of racism
itself, it is important to remember that many White people have aided in
the struggle against White supremacy.
18. “People of Color” is a complicated term. One of the common
responses to addressing the Black/White dichotomy is that it excludes
all other minority groups. However the Black/White dichotomy actually
overlaps the broad grouping of “people of color.” Many people of mixed
heritage — Native-American, Middle-Eastern, Caribbean, Asian, African —
continue to be functionally encompassed by the Black label, and
demonstrate why progress like the Civil Rights movement benefited many
more than just African-Americans. However, culturally isolated minority
demographics, like the Native Americans, are still suffering racial
injustices specific to their communities. For this reason it is
impossible to ensure a visibility-for-one-visibility-for-all platform,
but we should be mindful and supportive of one another in building a
19. We need new Black leaders. Black progress hinges on the
leadership of young people and a new generation of concerned, connected
individuals unafraid to speak, be heard and take action. Generations
before paved a path that has enabled people of color to obtain higher
education and access to better jobs. It is time for this new generation
to demand progress for the next to come.