Living on Different Sides of the Street

By Hakim Abdul-Ali

It’s no secret that the United States of America is a racially divided country. So much so that it shouldn’t be a surprise to any ethical person. “It is what it is” as so many candid pundits of modernity proclaim.

I’m a man of color born in Harlem—the center of the black America—during the 1940s. Harlem gave me my introduction into understanding what being an American and a person of color are all about. From every end of this land’s democratic standards of pseudo equality, it seems as though, from the plantations to the ghettos, ebony souls have been prominent beggars for inclusion into the saintly American inner circles of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Understanding the detrimental dynamics of racism in this nation has been a persistent reality where people of African descent have always had to know about what’s happening in white America, but not the reverse. The African American population has been living precariously on the other impoverished and menial sides of the street in so many ways.

I’ve always felt that the majority of white America, from the suburbanites to politicos, never had a clue how or what black folks really feel, think and care deeply about. I’ve often wondered whether those proud, self-professed “Americans” really know they are ignorant to other ethnic American identities, histories and given social views.

The portrait of who black Americans are and what we’re about has been intentionally, systematically, calculatedly rub out, fostered by traditional misinformed scholastic processing—brainwashing—on the part of the white status quo.

“Living on Different Sides of the Street” is an American institutional reality, born of white supremacy, racism and prejudice.

Africans in the Diaspora, especially those in the US, have a unique pedigree. Upon careful examination of the very nature of how our ancestors arrived here. From movies to standards of beauty, tools of indoctrination have been subliminally established to create, among African descendants and others, a purposeful and destructively negative concept of their ancestral homelands, traditions and cultures. We see the impact of this every, both subtly and overtly. For many people of color, black and otherwise, assimilating into white America is done willingly. The system is self-perpetuating.

Advocates of the black power movement sought to establish strong African centered values and overall self-love and self-determination among the nation’s people of color. Yet, the movement and it’s leaders were undermined and black love seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of the continued acceptance of definitive Euro-centric mores and culture. Understanding this, I cannot help, but wonder how many folks really understand that black is beautiful, now and forever.

Black people still believe in the American dream. Despite the real and worsening educational, economic, housing and healthcare disparities we continue to face.

My job as a columnist is to get you and others to think (and reflect) about the ahistorical issues that have and still do impact us, like biased criminal justice systems and both liberal and conservative media’s tendency to report disproportionately negative stories as they relate to the nation’s Black communities. These and many other factors result in grossly misinformed representations about African Americans, many of which have been internalized by black people themselves. This is serious business, especially when oppressed people of color have to deal with so much divisive political skullduggery and white supremacy operating covertly, behind the democratic facade of freedom, justice and equality.

As a black man, I know that black folks have a distinct and prideful history, completely independent of European input. About ten years ago, Ann Morning, a New York University sociology professor said, “There’s a difference between the folks who are multigenerational descendants of slaves in the American South as opposed to people who are immigrants.” Thus, Dr. Ben Carson’s recent statements about black folks’ arrival in this land were grossly misinformed. Clearly black America isn’t a monolith.

Morning also said, “To be a Black living in California is not the same as living as a Black person living in Georgia or New York.” I don’t know whether that still applies but, I ask politely that you think about the diverse worlds of a the small percentage of black folks who supposedly made it, i.e., living the American dream, compared to the rest of the African American masses, many of who have little to look forward to in a nation that has consistently demonstrated that they don’t matter. Please think about that.

We have to be willing to do things differently and drastically so, in order to make this nation a fair, multicultural place where equity and equality for all Americans, regardless of who they are and where they live, is more than a bureaucratic dream. For today and always, that’s life “As I See It.”

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