The lens through which we view our history that shapes our future has become distorted. During the worst days of Jim Crow, there were strong influences within the Black community that championed education, respected hard work, and embraced family values. All of this was held together by our local community churches. There was an upward mobility that was broadly supported across our communities. We sent our children off to college, welcomed them back to help others, and supported our heroes -- in entertainment, sports, business, and education.
Now, we seem to find ways to criticize all achievement. Our politicians are not black enough, our business people are reviled as Uncle Toms in corporate America, our educated bourgeois are regarded in negative terms, and now our entertainers are the subjects of the lowest form of entertainment -- hip hop misogyny and reality shows that reveal our worst characteristics. Meanwhile, the Black Nationalist movement (once rooted in Black pride) is just a whimper on the fringes of our community. So, just what defines "our community?"
I can only observe with helpless amazement. What would Douglass, Washington, Sojourner Truth, Woodson, Du Bois, Baldwin, Ellison, even ML King and Malcolm -- and other great thought leaders in our history think of where we have come? The long view envisioned by King was "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." Now it seems that the colloquial version has more truth -- "Not justice, just us."
What are the values that anchor our community today? Those who excel are viewed as exceptions who are constantly implored to "get down" with those who are wallowing in despair, low self-esteem, and self-destructive behavior. We no longer have a long view that is shaped by upward mobility. The arc of our progress seems to be trending downward.
So, I go about my daily activities looking for just one child to help along the way. I no longer have the luxury of thinking about "our progress." I watch as the old lions of the Congressional Black Caucus fade from the scene, and young bucks like Artur Davis seem to betray everything that we fought for. Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby are no longer regarded as relevant. They have been replaced by Jay Z, and P Diddy.
The lens through which we view our future is cracked. There is no longer a clear view. Our actions are just as fractured as broken glass. What a sad condition we find ourselves in.