This year marks 50 years since the landmark Civil Rights legislation of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, whereby it outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women in the United States.
Black people lauded this legislation and once segregation was dismantled and integration took effect, many Blacks began to abandon their neighborhoods, their schools and their businesses, seeking to assimilate themselves with their newly discovered White counterparts.
Black beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 inherited a rich legacy of social gains, political progress and economic strength from the parents and grandparents who sacrificed so much and fought to attain many of the freedoms they were eventually able to enjoy.
Integration, while it seemingly appears to have been one of the best things that happened to Black people, has in actuality turned out to be one of the worst things if you look at the statistics and outcomes since 1964.
Black beneficiaries of the struggle have failed to embrace the playbook that was laid out by Civil Rights pioneers and the basic tools they used to make them successful.
So the question is: who is to blame for this occurrence and who has suffered as a result of it?
Black youth have suffered and all you have to do is look at statistics and the current state of Black youth and it will shed light on the situation.
A CRACKED FOUNDATION
There is no denying that Black people have historically suffered at the hands of White people in this country and have had to deal with the recovery aspects of what was taken and withheld from us, along with building a strong foundation ourselves.
If we fast forward to 2014, we see that Black people no longer need the help of their White oppressors to carry out the mass genocide of its own people; they are doing a better job of contributing to their own demise by themselves.
Sadly, news of Black on Black shootings and murders continue to dominate headlines, while this epidemic continues to plague our nation. Although the city of Chicago has been the focal point of most mainstream media attention, this issue of Black on Black violence has permeated the heart of almost every American city.
This issue of senseless killings and Black on Black violence goes far deeper than the acts themselves; it goes to root of the issue plaguing Black people. There is an apparent lack of self-love that appears to have infiltrated the minds and hearts of Black people, so much so that to kill another Black person seems acceptable and normal.
That lack of self-love and this serious crack in the foundation of our Black youth have come because the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle have unfortunately dropped the ball.
Because the beneficiaries of the struggle failed to carry the torch and continue teaching our Black young girls and boys about the struggle and connecting them to foundational values and principles of who they are, those same young Black children have had to scurry and find an identity to call their own. They have been seeking answers to who they are and what their God-given purpose is.
That is why many young Black kids, who were the children and grandchildren of beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle, created and joined gangs; embraced the drug culture; created the hip-hop culture; where saggin’ pants; and want to be athletes and entertainers.
These lifestyle choices are the direct result of many Black youth feeling as if they have no other alternatives to select and no other choice but to embrace a lifestyle where most of them feel wanted and accepted. This is where most Black youth feel they belong.
Every day, the news is filled with stories of people committing senseless killings over senseless things such as gang violence, aggravated assault and other heinous crimes. The brazen callousness that many Black youth have, which allows them to justify their actions and believe it is okay to deliberately seek out and harm another person, is a disturbing trend that didn’t just happen overnight.
Many Black people are quick to blame the media; the White man; the system; the government; or anyone who can be blamed for this epidemic, when in essence, the true responsibility of looking in the mirror at the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle and acknowledging how they’ve seriously dropped the ball, is the first step in realizing the problem.
THIS HAPPENED ON YOUR WATCH
Black people make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, while whites make up roughly 73%. The U.S. Department of Justice released a report in November 2011, showing that Black people have been responsible for committing the most intraracial murders in the entire country from 1980 to 2008. In the Bureau of Justice Statistics report entitled “Homicide Trends in the United States,” statistics show that from 1980 to 2008, 93% of Black victims were killed by Black offenders.
These statistics are startling, considering that the overall percentage of Black murder victims during that same timeframe was 47.4% and the overall percentage of Black offenders during that time was 52.5%. Blacks are disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders, compared to any other ethnic groups in the country.
In 2008, the homicide victimization rate for Blacks (19.6 homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for Whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000). Most of the people who are murdered and those who are committing the murders are young Black men. Many live in inner-city neighborhoods, where poverty is a significant factor in high homicide rates, gangs and the drug epidemic.
This happened under the watch of the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle.
Mandatory minimum sentencing significantly impacts Black young men and women more than any other cultural group in the United States and the jail system has been the primary beneficiaries of a manufactured “War on Drugs” and other unjust laws on the books. This and other mandatory minimum sentencing laws have done tremendous damage to the Black community in the United States, particularly amongst young, Black males.
Between 1985 and 1995, the American prison population of drug offenders increased from 38,900 to 224,900, with African-American males being the leader. There are about 7% of African-American males in the nation and there are about 46% of African-American males in prisons nationwide.
This happened under the watch of the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle.
The wealth gap between Black and White Americans has tripled; traditional Black schools are being closed at an alarming rate in traditional Black neighborhoods; Senior Citizens are being assaulted and even murdered; social services are being cut in Washington D.C.; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been weakened and voting rights are being challenged and threatened daily; Black unemployment is as high as it has ever been; Blacks are at or near the top of every negative category and at or near the bottom of every good category; Black political power, community strength and political representation has weakened as a result of a continuous mass exodus of Black people, away from Black communities and towards communities who are primarily inhabited by other cultural groups; the Black dollar doesn’t turn over at least one time in the Black community anymore; and all of this happened under the watch of the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle.
A NEW PLAYBOOK NEEDED
As it was during the Civil Rights struggle, Black youth must be the focal point of African Americans, if they wish to ensure a bright future for their people.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Black people were told they could not go to the same schools, shop at the same stores, live amongst or eat at the same restaurants as White people. It was during those times, that Black people were forced to live amongst each other, attend the same schools as each other, shop at the same stores, and eat at the same restaurants with one other. Blacks had to support one another and do so while having to raise Black children during turbulent times.
Beneficiaries of the Civil Rights struggle failed to hold their political and community leaders accountable, as well as failed to impart important knowledge to the next generation of young leaders to make sure they were adequately prepared to carry on the torch for future generations.
Black people possess faith and freedom. Black people had the faith to endure hundreds of years of slavery and oppression. Black people had the faith to beat the odds and overcome the economic, social and political disenfranchisement that sought to choke the life out of them for years.
Because of the tireless efforts and faith of many, Black people now have the freedom to vote for who they want to vote for, start a business, shop wherever they want to shop, live wherever they want to live and pursue an education wherever they want to pursue an education.
The passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act opened up doors for Black people that many activist leaders and supporters of equal rights for blacks fought and died for. I thank them for that.
But none of those gains and no part of the Civil Rights struggle will make a difference if the current crop of Black youth are mentored and embraced by the very Black leaders who should have been doing so since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.