Progress in the African American community over the last 25 years has been disappointing at best. While many Blacks have fared very well, the vast majority have been left behind. Graduation rates for Blacks both from high school and college are 20 points lower than Whites. Infant mortality among Black Women is nearly twice that of Whites. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate 6 times that of Whites. The unemployment rate for Blacks is nearly doubled that of Whites. Last year, 15% of White families reported being millionaires, up from 7% in 1992. Over that same period, Black millionaire families remained the same at just 2%.
Why has this disparity occurred, particularly at a time when people of my generation expected the opposite? After the struggles and sacrifices of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the stage was set for a renaissance in the Black community. Most would point to Racism as the reason. I believe something else is at play. While Racism is certainly a factor, it does not account for the shortfall. I grew up in the segregated south in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I know and have experienced firsthand the debilitating effects of Racism. Ask yourself this question; even if you believe America is Racist today, do you believe it is more racist today than it was 25 years ago?
What we have today is a community that has declared itself a VICTIM and to some extent, refused to accept responsibility for its own success. We are quick to take to the streets over allegations of police brutality. Where is the outrage over the more than 2,300 Black lives lost each year at the hands of their brethren? In fact, today in some circles the mere discussion of Black on Black crime is considered racist. How can we ever expect to develop solutions, if we refuse to discuss the real problems? Every Sunday at thousands of churches throughout the country, Black Preachers spew fire and brimstone from the pulpit while all manner of violence runs rampant at their doorsteps. The communities they are suppose to serve, but rarely reside in, suffer from poverty rates that have improved little over the last 20 years. Too many of our young people believe that respect for authority, police, principals, teachers and other adults is not cool. They do not embrace the principles of trustworthiness, dependability, accountability, hard work, perseverance, dignity, integrity, pride and self-confidence necessary to be a successful person and valuable member of society. We are quick to criticize and declare racist colleges, universities and other institutions for a lack of diversity when the real problem is a lack of qualified minority candidates to fill the positions. We refuse to accept that life can be difficult, challenging, disappointing, competitive and sometimes down right cruel. But it’s that way for everybody. You have not been singled out because of the color of your skin.
So, what can we do. Michael Jackson said it best: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” No message could have been any clearer. “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” We have to acknowledge the real problems and stop blaming racism for our shortcomings. Does Racism exist; of course it does and probably always will. But we have to teach our young people and some adults, that you can succeed in a society where racism exist if you focus on your success and not on the racism. Focus on being smart, respectful, trustworthy, dependable, hardworking and self-confident. Realize the best defense against police brutality is avoiding compromising situations. And perhaps most importantly, develop a winning ATTITUDE. In his article on Attitude, Charles Swindol wrote:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company—a church—a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is plan on the one thing we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there is no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our ATTITUDE.
By: Al Austin
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