Take back what is yours. Invest in your community. Help your people move forward and earn equal bargaining power as other ethnicities in America have done.
How can a culture be so creative, authentic, original, and resourceful but lack the ability to shine beyond other cultures? When I say shine beyond other cultures, I am referring to self-sustainability and bargaining power. Black culture in America relies too much on white power and control. Black culture lacks the ability to sustain itself because black leaders are too eager to preserve and value individual uniqueness instead of what binds us together. Community unity and community investment are lacking tremendously. This has negative consequences because when individuals in a community feel disconnected from one another—for any reason—they can easily be tempted by self-gain. On the other hand, if they see themselves as integral parts of their communities, tempting them with self-gain would be virtually impossible.
Invest vs. instant gratification?
Instant gratification. The black community is programmed to indulge. Not to preserve benefits for future members of our ethnicity. These statements are very general and the focus is to highlight the impact of what is missing. (It is fair to state that not all black people behave this way.)
Slavery, oppression and marginalization programmed us. Slave masters favored certain blacks and provided them with more privileges. Those blacks indulged in the opportunity of better living conditions. Survival of the fittest was the prevailing law and these “privileged” blacks were trained to protect what they gained and hate whomever the master did not favor. We were taught to hate each other and not form alliances. We were afraid to advocate for the rights of others because we did not have any rights ourselves. We did not want to anger the master by disobeying him. The repetition of these conditions destroyed our concept of unity. Our minds were programmed to always work towards favoritism from white leaders or those in power.
Programming a dysfunctional culture
As the black community started to fight for their rights and gained some momentum, the focus shifted from slavery to dependency. We were given just enough freedom to make us grateful but not free. White leaders always remained a step ahead of us, creating rules and regulations on how to continue exploiting and benefiting from our talents and creations. Their strategies held us captive to circumstances that translated to financial gain for them.
Education was restricted. White leaders feared the more we learned and discovered knowledge, the more power and insight we had to advocate for ourselves. They did not want us to overcome the bondage of slavery, oppression, and captivity. In a continued effort to deflate our power, they did not allow us to design a mainstream education system or process things our way. They required us to operate from a disadvantaged position so they could always remain one step ahead of us. Conditions remained harsh to ensure that.
Black leaders who stood up for our rights and challenged the status quo were marginalized and persecuted, even during the civil war with the North advocating to end slavery. In fact, most American politicians held beliefs that did not fully recognize black equality and freedom. In the 1900s blacks fought to preserve the originality and ethnic sovereignty that black leaders first fought for in the 1800s. White leaders who watched “non-rule abiding” black leaders rise to power were scared by the agenda of a unified black culture. Countless black leaders were persecuted. Many were assassinated. Black ideologies, which embraced self-sustainability and dared to promote educational access and equality, drove these assassinations.
Black leaders never quit advocating for the idea of self-sustainability. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are two of the most memorable and influential leaders of the turbulent 1960s. Both lives ended in horrible assassinations. Poverty forced some blacks to create other methods to share their stories and to assert their freedoms in areas more receptive than politics. They embraced expression through sports, music, and dance. In each of these methods, they found great success. Those who took the sports path demonstrated physical abilities that surpassed many white athletes. In the mid to late 1900s, black music and dance was authentic, original, and disruptive. They provided a medium of expression to communicate pain, joy, happiness, and frustrations.
We prevailed through centuries of persecutions and oppressions. During these treacherous time periods, we never stopped creating. We took ownership of our creations in the 1900s when arts, music, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship finally hit Main Street. Amidst all the segregation and oppression, we found our identity. Mainstream white culture adopted and monetized it. We were cornered by our own creations. Some blacks, seeing no good way at the time to break into the white mainstream world, quickly gave up ownership for a small gain instead of preserving and sustaining art within the black culture.
Today most black leaders are sellouts. They spend more time focused on their own gain than investing substantially into our culture. The black community contributes tremendously to the US GDP. Sports and entertainment are leading cash cows. These two categories hold a great number of successful black contributors. (This may be too controversial for you to learn or understand what I am suggesting.) Black athletes and entertainers need to put pressure on the top executives to increase black leadership representation. If that’s not possible, they should pull out, take a pay cut, and run their own entity that benefits black culture. If we do not advocate for ourselves, then no one else will. Others may try, many may even have the best of intentions, but they do not fully represent who we are. So their “solutions” will inevitably lack the relevance that only we can provide.
My recommendation is simple. Embrace the community model. Tune out noises and other cultural influences and focus on your own culture. Leverage the power you have and invest money to create self-sustaining infrastructures. Self-sustaining infrastructures require unity, ownership, sacrifice, resourcefulness, and collaboration. Focus on the basic needs first; health insurance, nutrition, safe homes, better education, and monetary assistance. Before you can help others get where they want to be, you first need to meet them where they are.
Black leaders must learn to sacrifice short-term financial gains in order to maintain ownership. By sustaining our communities, black leaders will create sustainable preservation methods. These methods will lead to a mindset shift that will influence other black people, giving them the tools they need to preserve their ownership power in their own environment. The more this is amplified, the more you will see the black culture in America begin to change. Over time, more blacks will identify with black leaders who pave the way, and who also invest back into their communities to push them forward.
Ownership does not mean separating yourself from other cultures and making yourself exclusive to your culture alone. It’s about prioritizing and urging black people to think of their bigger contribution. A contribution that improves society and moves the black community forward. This assertive model gives black people in America the power to put value in the things they created and contributed to this country. Value that many people benefit from but tend to take for granted. It is time we take the credit we have earned. This approach will increase our bargaining power. And it reminds other cultures of the importance of black people in America, what we contribute, and why we deserve fair treatment.