By Beverly Gadson-Birch
This week as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with parades and grandiose speeches, what will we do when it’s all over? When the spotlight no longer shines upon you, what will you do to advance the “Dream”? Will you retreat to the comfort of your home in the suburb, oblivious to the homeless as you drive by; or, will you lend a helping hand to those in need? What will you do to make this world a better place for the next generation? We can no longer sit back and wait for someone else to serve up freedom on a silver platter. It is not going to happen!
Black History is laced with violence perpetrated against blacks by slave owners. The further we research the past, the more disconcerting the information. It is difficult to maintain your composure without becoming rebellious when you read about a slave owner selling his slaves for ten cents, whipping his slaves and splitting open their skin, destroying families, raping women and children and forcing them to engage in ancestral sex.
Black History may be disconcerting to say the least but there is significant factual history to prove what has been discriminately taught. It is important for Black children to know their “real” history to break the chains that continue to restrict their upward mobility. Black children have no knowledge of their ancestors’ inventions and how their inventions improved the quality of life for both blacks and whites.
Although painful and sometimes deadly, Dr. King’s use of non-violence during the Civil Rights Movement proved to be successful. There are arguments against Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence, but the proof is in lives saved and laws passed. If Black children knew their history, they would be in school and not selling drugs on street corners, working on Wall Street and not robbing homes on our streets. True Black History, if taught to White students, would dispel the myths and lies that date back to the beginning of time. “Knowledge is power” and knowledge has a way of diminishing fear. White children, through no culpability of their own, have been brainwashed into thinking they are superior to Black children. And, it is this misconception that has been passed down from generation to generation and has created discord between races.
History has distorted the facts about Black inventions and achievements. Some have said, “it’s been over 400 years, “get over it”. It is easier said if you have not been on the receiving end of discrimination. Education is still not equal. Major disparities in the workforce still exist between Blacks and Whites. Discriminatory lending practices have made it difficult for Blacks to obtain loans or charged higher interests. Black contractors are still absent from major building contracts. Few Whites support black businesses or vote for black candidates. And, Black families are restricted to certain neighborhoods because there is no such thing as affordable housing in more affluent neighborhoods.
Black children should be taught about the endurance of their forefathers then they would understand that they must also endure. Black children need to feel they are somebody and assume their place in this world. They need to know that although it may be difficult to achieve their goals, it is not impossible. They need to know that if they continue to chip away at those things blocking them from their goals, they will get there eventually if they persevere. They need to know that there is no honor in hanging out on street corners but hanging out in school is. They need to know that killing each other is not the answer but understanding who they are is.
Despite of the many sacrifices, Blacks have become complacent. Black children have been subjected to less than an “adequate” education and we have not responded. The educational system continues to beat down black students in order to keep them down. I was talking to a mother last week whose son works at a highly rated restaurant, attended by majority whites, on one of the local beaches. Her son told her, he doesn’t know much about slavery, but he feels like a slave on his job. He said, “white customers speak down to him and say to him ‘get me this and get me that in a demeaning tone. When will Blacks be treated like the human beings that they are?”
Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., asked the question “how long?” I ask the questions, how long do we let others steal our land that our ancestors worked so hard to hold onto, how long? How long do we sit back and elect the same “no counts” to office, how long? How long do we sit back and let our children raise themselves, how long? How long do we allow others to treat us as second-class citizens, how long? And, how long do we sit on the sideline and do nothing, how long? Did Dr. King give his life in vain? Y’all tell me!!
Y’all grandiose speakers need to stop perpetrating a fraud. Dr. King refused to watch from the sidelines. He was involved; he led the fight for freedom. The best way to honor Dr. King’s legacy on the anniversary of his birthday is to “Get in the Fight” and not let the fight get YOU.