Selma (2014) the movie is out. Snowstorm barrels into the Northeast. And the U.S. is not expected to fault Darrel Wilson, the Ferguson police officer that killed Michael Brown last August. From the Feds’ decision, it is fair to assume that there could be some similarities in the findings of the Feds and that of the St Louis County, Missouri on what actually happened in the altercation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall a matter be established. That is justice. And that is a closed chapter.
Meanwhile, once upon a time in the animal kingdom, a day came when all animals were reporting to the town hall for a general meeting. But the hen, which felt it had more ‘important’ things to do, absented herself from the meeting but pledged to abide by every decision reached at the meeting by those who attended the meeting. At the meeting, a decision was reached that a ceremony will take place and that the hen and her chicks will be killed to provide the meat for refreshment at the ceremony. The hen wasn’t present to object to that decision because she refused to attend the meeting. And as she pledged, she had to abide by the decision reached by others at the meeting.
Now, when you visit most of the think tanks in the District of Columbia, New York City, Chicago, and California, you will discover that the presence of African-Americans are close to non-existent in our country’s apex policy-making institutions where policies that govern this country are hatched. Some pockets of the Black people you will see walking the ‘corridors of power’ are mostly interns from Africa who are studying government-related courses here in the U.S.
Same goes for all the departments of the federal government at the levels of relevance where folks effect policy decisions. Most workers of African-American derivation you will see at these federal government agencies work administrative and general services jobs. And not top level positions where policies that govern the domestic politics of the United States are formulated. And same also go for state and local governments. And that, my people is a sad and hard fact.
In most African-Americans homes, because we started late in the pursuit of happyness as a result of slavery and racism, most parents, in order to escape poverty and score on social mobility, are more interested in channeling and nurturing their children’s interests in sports and entertainment rather than in public service. This phenomenon is easily understood because a pro-football or a pro-basketball player in a family is a guaranteed meal ticket and a move away from poverty. When people are disadvantaged, they are more concerned about food on their table than what the tax code is, or who the Commissioner of Agriculture is, or who the Defense Secretary is. They just want food in their stomach, clothes for their kids, and the ability to make a living, politics be damned.
But the flipside of losing interest in political processes or completely ignoring careers in public service irrespective of how less lucrative it is, is exemplified by cases like the Choke Hold in Staten Island, New York where an obvious strangulation of a Black man went unpunished.
Chances are that the Eric Garner case would have had its day in court if a Black man was the Richmond County District Attorney. And rightfully so. And even though the Feds by choosing not to charge Officer Darrell Wilson is substantiating the Saint Louis County prosecuting attorney’s decision not to prosecute, but if it was a Black man that handled that case, the outcome would have been no different, but the loss and destruction that followed the irresponsible handling of the grand jury decision would all have been avoided. What am I saying? I am not in any way implying that it is only when African American justice officers prosecute other African Americans that justice is served. All I am saying here is that sometimes there are people in the justice system and in other aspects of the American public service sector who are not supposed to be there but who are regrettably there because folks who should’ve pursued a career in those public service areas and bring to the job the responsiveness and empathy that the job requires chose to steer clear of their civic duties.
I was having a conversation with couple of brothers not too long ago about the need for more African Americans to participate in the political process of this great nation and I was embarrassed by the response I got from them. Some said that voting is a waste of time that it won’t change a thing. Some said that seeking a career in public service to effect a change is a waste of time. That the White man won’t allow you to advance to a position of relevance where you can actually make and implement policies that can effect a positive change in the society. Some said that the White man just allowed Obama to be there to do their bidding.
But none of these are true. First, if voting is a waste of time, why did people bleed and die to secure for us the right to vote? Voting counts and voting matters. The truth of the matter is that when we sit out elections, be it city, state or federal elections, we are regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him as fools who died so we can have the right to vote. And unintentionally, we are saying that the cause for which they laid down their lives was a wasted cause. And that is not supposed to be so.
According to Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights veteran, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It’s the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we’ve got to use it.” It comes handily and cost nothing comparable to protesting perceived injustice. And for people who are still oppressed in the 21st century, there is no better tool for Black people to use to redress oppression than stepping out to vote, any and every time election calls. Nobody should need to knock on your door to plead with you to go and exercise your right that was won for you at the altar of blood and sacrifice. The Democratic Party need not raise money for get-out-the-vote drive so that they can come and prod and remind you to go exercise those rights. You owe it to your Black self, you owe it to Selma, you owe it to Memphis Tennessee where Dr. King was murdered, you owe it to Emmett Till, you owe it to the Black Wall Street, you owe it to Robert F. Kennedy, you owe it to goddamed present and posterity to prioritize and get out of your lazy-and-full-of-excuses-and-full-of-shit ass to go and vote! Go vote.
For every African American that have dared to dream about a reputable career in the United States Government, they all got to where they wanted to be, as long as they qualified for the positions they were shooting for. The system didn’t try to stop them. The system helped them on.
I read in Times how Condoleezza Rice, the first female National Security Adviser (NSA) to a U.S. President, and the second female Secretary Of State in U.S. history, when she was a child and visited Washington D.C with her father. As they were walking past the White House, hand in hand, she told her dad than one day she will occupy an office in the White House. And that she did as the NSA to President George Walker Bush. Colin Powell rose to the rank of a General in the U.S. Army and became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He was the NSA to Ronald Reagan and the first African-American Secretary of State. Eric Holder has been the U.S. Attorney General for the past six years and is likely to be succeeded by Loretta Lynch, a Black woman and the first of her kind, if confirmed by the Senate, to occupy that position. This is just to mention a few. And Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant is the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. My people, these things are not fairy tales. They are realities. They are happening in our time and they are possible for everyone who dare to dream. And we actually need more African Americans to dream of becoming something of a big player in the political theater of this country because the more we insert and integrate ourselves into the system, the less likely it is possible for those bag eggs in government to make and implement policies that are discriminatory and racists. Because they will have us to contend with. If the hen had attended the scheduled meeting like other animals did on that fateful day in the animal kingdom, first of all, in deference to her, no animal in its right mind would’ve dared suggest that the hen and her chicks be killed to provide the meat for refreshment for their upcoming ceremony. All the animals would’ve put their heads together and reason out a way out that will be fair to all. But because the hen chose to watch television, paint her nails, or play PlayStation while others were out debating important matters, she and her kids are made scapegoats. Democracy is a representative system of government, when you are not represented, you and your interests will be overlooked.
It is outright ignorance and stupidity to suggest that President Obama was installed by White people to do their bidding. Considering all the character assassination, vitriol, and stiff opposition to his progressive agenda that this young man has endured. Agenda that has the capacity to set America apart from the rest of the world in terms of economic development, but agenda which the opposition regardless, opposes for no other reason than to deny him any lasting legacy. For someone to turn around to say that he was a puppet of White people? That is damn preposterous.
And despite needless opposition, the president is still working for all Americans with sound and smart policies and programs. And just like most policies and programs of presidents past, the fruits are not usually reaped while they are in office, but mostly after they have left. And in due time, African Americans as well as White people, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and immigrant Africans will reap the fruits of his policies and programs.
Encouraging steps have been made by Whites and Blacks alike to achieve a more perfect and equitable union. But more work need to be done. And the bulk of it lies on the shoulders of today’s African American youths. Therefore I want to encourage my African American brethren to spend more time thinking of what they CAN do to combat racism than they spend simply talking and getting mad about it. Get involved. Educate yourselves. Read the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, Time Magazine, the Economist, Newsweek and others. And don’t tell me it’s the White man’s version of news. It ain’t. All news have elements of glossing in it to satisfy the needs of corporate bosses of media houses. But a smart man can read between the lines and draw conclusions for himself. Get smart. I also encourage y’all to watch Meet the Press, Face the Nation, C-Span, and This Week to keep abreast of what is happening in the polity that you are part of. For those social science students, I encourage you to seek internships and careers at our elite policy-making think tanks which includes but are not limited to Cato Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Milken Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the United States Institute of Peace. Get involved. Join the military. Join the pool of Foreign Service personnel. Prepare yourselves for district attorneys and other positions of relevance Just like Abe Lincoln’s time came, yours will come. Run for commissioners of agriculture, land, and whatever in your respective states. Volunteer for political parties. Jon the FBI, the CIA, the NSA. Insert and integrate yourselves into every fabric of American body polity.
There are tons of scholarship opportunities out there for college degrees. Explore them.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have the College-Ready Education and the Post-Secondary Success programs whose goals are to ensure that graduates from high school are made ready to succeed in college and to ensure that all students who seek the opportunity for college degrees are able to complete a high-quality postsecondary education that leads to a sustaining career. Take advantage of it. We also have Startup: Education, the Mark Zuckerberg Foundation, whose mission is to take a startup approach to improve education for all students. Take advantage of that opportunity too. Workforce Solutions in Texas awards full scholarship to Texas residents. I believe other states in the union have similar scholarship programs. I was a beneficiary of the Texas Workforce Solutions scholarship. It covered my tuition, paid for all the books that I needed, and also provided money for miscellaneous expenditure such as printing and photocopying. If an immigrant like me can access those educational opportunities, I believe citizens of this great nation can also access them more easily. Take advantage. The rich made themselves rich through hard work, determination, and focus. Don’t envy the rich their wealth. Don’t ask the government to take from them and hand it to you. Prepare yourselves like they did and then key into the system and you will be rich like they are.
The truth of the matter is that whether you want to do bad, be a mediocre, or do good for yourself, they all require work and investment of time. The amount of time it takes to sell drugs by the street corner or walk the street with the hope of being picked up for sex, probably by a sick person, one can invest same amount of time to read and assimilate two to three chapters of a college textbook at the public library. Beyoncé and Jay-Z are no different from any hustler from Houston’s 3rd Ward. What set them apart is how they utilized their time and what they channeled their energy to.
Only if that young man disillusioned about his future can see himself in Tim Scott, the junior Senator from South Carolina, a Black man elected to the U.S. Senate on the Republican Party platform. Only if that young girl that thinks that the only way she can make a living is by walking the street can draw inspiration from Congresswoman Mia Love, a Haitian-American, a Mormon from the State of Utah, and a Republican.
Finally, it is imperative for our parents to educate their wards on the necessity and glory of serving their country. And for those parents that endured the civil rights era, it is also vital that they focus on teaching their children of the need to take advantage of their rights to vote and be voted for so that they can effect the change we want to see in America, rather than talking and reminiscing about racism, racism, racism. Move on!
Folks trooped to the cinemas to watch Selma. Watching Selma in itself and seething with anger or repulsion at the evil that was done does not constitute an honor or tribute to those that died for our right to vote. Taking the rightful step of participating in the political process with our votes, with our education, and by putting ourselves out there to be voted for so that we can serve with our expertise, is the only thing that will make the dream of an African American being judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin a reality.
Let the debate continue…