“I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression”-- Malcolm X
I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel. I’ve seen this story before. I’ve read the book. I’ve reread the book. I’ve seen the rerun.
Different day, same stuff.
The question is simple, who decides which one of these is newsworthy? Who's pulling the strings and telling us which ones to be outraged about? Why aren't all of these receiving national attention? The media frenzy around Michael Brown has not been this fervent since the death of Trayvon Martin. Is there something we can learn from this?
Maybe it has to do with age. Garner was a 43-year-old father of six, Crawford was a 22-year-old father of two, Ford was 25 years old, and Parker was 36 years old. Did they not meet the criteria for garnering a public outcry?
Maybe it has to do with location. It has been well documented that although Ferguson's population is predominantly African American, their police force is predominantly white. Is it possible that this statistic lends itself to great copy.
Have we been brainwashed into believing there is a "black male problem" that needs to be fixed? What kind of message is this sending to young black men? Are they broken and in need of repair?
I’ve been asking myself these questions lately. For years we have been exposed to “plight of the black man” messaging. I question the psychological impact this has had on young black men. Let’s be clear, I’m not a psychiatrist and by no means inferring I’m qualified to offer any medical opinions. What I will say is I find it hard to believe that negative messaging has not had an effect on these young men.
If you do a Google search for “black male initiative programs” you will find a plethora of organizations committed to the development of black men. Even our federal government is involved with the launching of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Has it come this far that our president needs to step in and help "fix" young black men? In our zeal to help have we contributed to lowering their self esteem?
“President Obama is taking action to launch My Brother’s Keeper – a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead. For decades, opportunity has lagged behind for boys and young men of color. But across the country, communities are adopting approaches to help put these boys and young men on the path to success.”
I applaud all of these organizations for the great work their doing. They have been instrumental and necessary for many young men. Their efforts are the socially responsible thing to do given the circumstances.
As I look back at 2013, the posts I've written in the Marketplace, the articles we've shared on our Facebook page, and our Twitter messages, I've come to appreciate the power of social media. I am convinced now more than ever that our vision of leveraging social media to effect change is one worthy of continuing, one we must push forward.
We did not deviate from our goal of focusing on major issues such as voting rights, education, and criminal justice reform. We maintained our belief that as a society we need to be more socially aware but more importantly socially responsible. Rest assured, we will continue in this vein in 2014.
My wish for 2014 is for us to spend more time focusing on the little things, the things that often go unnoticed and unrecognized.
I wish we take a moment to read to a child. Reading opens a child's mind to the world. It can create a quest for knowledge. The old adage that reading is fundamental is still relevant. Does your local library have a reading club? Is there a book store nearby that has a children's corner. A child's mind is like a blank canvas, let's take some time to help them paint a beautiful picture.
Let's take it one step further and buy a book for a child.
We all know the cliche: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". If we know this and believe it to be true then when it comes to the election cycle we're definitely insane.
Every year we're bombarded with advertising that's mostly negative. We get our full share of speculation from the various media pundits and because we're special we get to hear the candidates debate issues that someone else decided were important for us to listen to. Then there's the telephone solicitations, bulk mailings, and if we're lucky the door to door visits. All of this leads up to the culminating event, Election Day.
And then what?
Candidates get elected, some of us are happy and some of us aren't. Then we sit back and wait another year for the cycle to begin again. In the meantime we complain that our elected officials aren't doing the job we elected them to do. Do we really think just voting for a candidate is enough? Are we being naive to expect them to do their job and get it done? We may not want to hear it but a career politician"s primary objective is to get reelected. It's the reason why they call themselves career politicians. Politics is their job and they don't want to be unemployed. This is why they stay in constant fundraising mode. They need to replenish the "war chest" for the next cycle.
We need to do a better job of holding our elected officials accountable. We must remind them that we're the ones who put them in office and the ones who can vote them out. We need to be actively involved in the political process.
Here are some things you can do:
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.