Black History Month ... Check The Label Before Buying
February 23, 2016
White Hats versus the Black Hats, Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, illegal aliens, undocumented workers, Obamacare, Urban radio, Top 40/Rhythmic, Evangelicals, pro-life, pro-Choice, Nixon Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, Kitchen Cabinet, millennials, baby boomers, Neo-Soul, Classic Rock, socialist, stupid, etc. These are all labels too many Americans use in an attempt to categorize people or things. The labels themselves have no value and can be used in positive or negative ways. We tend to think more about labels whenever they used in a negative light. There are good labels; brainiac, smart, good guys, computer nerds, philanthropists, and do-gooders. You get my point. However, like all labels, when used the wrong way, they can also be insults.
Labeling is a fact of life, but how it is applied to people is a subjective and a wide ranging subject. This sort of thinking is completely understandable in terms of marketing a product, but labeling when applied to an educational, social or economic situation can be potentially stigmatizing individually and or collectively for people.
Creation Story-Social Characterization-Branding A Label
Every human being has a series of defining moments during their life. Children can be shaped by seemingly harmless labels as early as first grade. Ask anyone and they can tell you what reading group they were a member of in elementary school.
I remember catching a cold followed by the measles and missing a lot of time at school in first grade. When I returned to class, my teacher determined I had missed too much time and might have fallen behind with my reading skills, so she moved me from the first to the second reading group. When I got home both my parents and grandparents could see I was upset. I explained my teacher didn't think I was very smart anymore and I was now in the second reading group. After soothing my ego, that night I overheard my grandmother talking on the phone to my teacher. My grandmother was also a teacher and on this occasion she used her friendship to stress to Mrs. Riley what effect changing my reading group status had on me. Although my grandmother taught in a different school district, my teacher apparently respected her words and sure enough the next day, to my surprise, I was back in the first reading group. My social status with my peers had been restored and I can still remember a couple of the kids asking me what kind of stuff the second reading group was studying. Unknowingly, it was my first lesson in how labeling can affect social status and how people can look at others as different because of belonging to another group.
For many years, white supremacists and numerous historians with less than honorable intentions have used false scientific data and other myths to justify their belief that African-Americans and other minorities are inferior. At the same time some African-Americans have pointed fingers at those trying to get an education as "acting white." This term was once used by some scholars to label African-Americans who excelled in school and allegedly were shunned by some of their fellow classmates. Although painful to think about, the term itself is a modern derivative of the labels, "House N####" and "Uncle Tom."
The whole crazy "acting white" notion was addressed at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by then Senator Barrack Obama, "Go into any inner-city neighborhood and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says black youth with a book is acting white."
There have always been cliques within cliques at every level of our society. However, for such propaganda to be spread at any level is demeaning. So, in other words, are we to believe the only reason any minority has obtained an education is because they wanted to be white? It is insulting to the current and past African-Americans who have become pillars in education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and sciences. All of these areas were once deemed out of reach for African-Americans and people of color.
Unity & Compromise
I once heard someone refer to reading as traveling without moving an inch. The skill has been a constant springboard to African-Americans and minorities traveling up the social economic ladder.
Discussion and disagreement of how to continue advances will always be a source of argument. Compromise is the key, but for some reason the definition of the word has been redefined as a defeatist thing. Too many are buying into the revisionist thought process which sees compromise as caving in. Congress and too many cultural leaders are guilty of promoting such thought. Recently one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matters Movement refused to take part in a discussion at the White House with President Obama and civil rights activists. This sort of thing is counter-productive and plays right into "Divide and Conquer." It is hard to build on individual successes if minorities can't project a show of unity. Disagree privately, but stand as one publically.
Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X
There is strength in unity; we see it in finance, education, portions of politics, and everyday life in general. Unfortunately, we don't get enough on the positive sides of compromise. You can disagree with someone and still find enough commonality to agree on something. Over the years we have all learned more about how Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X set aside differences and began a process of coming together on the big picture for African-Americans. It is too bad the assassinations of both prohibited the potential think tank which could have produced all sorts of new initiatives for African-Americans, minorities, and all Americans.
The Montgomery bus boycott worked because of the unified effort by the African-Americans in that city. There was a lot of bickering behind the scenes but publically the show of economic unity by withholding the dollars, moved Blacks from the back to the front of the bus.
The bus trip is still on the road, but the GPS needs to be updated to reach the destination of a united front for the future.