As we reflect upon the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps his spirit can help us to understand there is nothing wrong with focusing on the needs of black Americans in 2020, just as he talked about the needs of “the Negro” from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.
Today we are acting as if black Americans have gotten their 40 acres and the “mule” equivalent (e.g., Bobcat bulldozer); Acting as if the “dream” has come true and we are sitting on the “mountain top,” filled with milk and honey from the “promised land.” We are acting as if we are now satisfied being thrown beneath every group that lie under the “minority” blanket whether they be white women, white LGBTQ, and poor whites.
Some will say this type of “black” talk is “divisive.” Dr. King’s talk was divisive at the time of Jim Crow. Ida B. Wells’ talk was divisive at the time of public lynchings. All of the prophets who came before us engaged in talk that was “divisive” in the eyes of the pharaohs; Jesus Christ’s talk was “divisive” in the eyes of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Perhaps our talk must remain “divisive” when looking through the unclean lenses of Trumpism and white nationalism.
Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with “dividing” ourselves away from a power structure and mindset that make us think we must live in a “negative” peace, and a false form of unity while black American children/people continue serving as the nation’s footstool and doormat.
We are falling through the cracks of retrogression as organizations that once stood for the specific needs of “the negro” or “colored people” are no longer focused; busy backstabbing; trying to be all things for “all people;” standing for nothing; and falling for everything.
In fact, according to recent report which compared the Kerner Commission to today or recent years, with respect to homeownership, unemployment, and incarceration, America has failed to deliver ANY progress for African Americans over the last five decades. In these areas, our situation has either failed to improve relative to whites or has worsened. In 2017 the black unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 1968, and is still roughly twice the white unemployment rate. In 2015, the black homeownership rate was just over 40 percent, virtually unchanged since 1968, and trailing a full 30 points behind the white homeownership rate, which saw modest gains over the same period. And the share of African Americans in prison or jail almost tripled between 1968 and 2016 and is currently more than six times the white incarceration rate than we were in 1968 at the time Dr. King was killed.
Yet, we act as if it’s politically incorrect to focus on the specific needs for black Americans. This is only a trick from Satan. Even Jesus said, “As much as ye have done it unto the least, you have done it unto me.” It is intelligent to conclude, society’s “least” would be those who are the most and longest oppressed systemically. This means Jesus would see African Americans “amongst the least of these,” in terms of needing prioritized attention.
Therefore, in 2020, we are going to have to make some changes in how we identify, specify, evaluate, and address the needs of long oppressed black Americans.
It is one thing to be poor and white in America. Poor whites and especially poor white children should receive our prayers and assistance where possible. With that said, we must no longer be disillusioned into believing that giving a business contract, college enrollment, home ownership opportunity or top management position to a white woman or poor white or white LGBTQ or person of another race or nationality has in any way helped or addressed the systemic deprivation and oppression of black people.
It is one thing to be less fortunate or less “successful” based upon your individual lack of performance. It is a different thing to be systemically made poor or “less successful” due to your race or ethnicity and the woeful institution of racism and white supremacy.
We as a society have not risen above racial oppression; we have done nothing toward reparations for the racially oppressed; we have done nothing to address the mental and psychological enslavement of the black racially oppressed; we have done nothing for cultural/historical restoration for the black racially oppressed.
Society has only killed and incarcerated us more than in 1968. You have suspended our children from schools more than in 1968. You have shipped our jobs overseas more than than in 1968. You have flooded our communities with guns and drugs more than in 1968. We even have less voting rights than in 1968.
So what makes you think we as a society, have risen above our need to focus on justice for black Americans as white supremacy and white nationalism are being expanded and emboldened by a vicious recycled wave of hatred from Trumpism?
This is not to say we don’t have other issues regarding other “disadvantaged” groups, this is only to say, we see more and more groups emerging to address the pressing needs of the “immigrant;” we see more and more groups emerging to address the legitimate needs of “women.” We see more and more groups emerging to demand LGBTQ rights. Yet, in spite of the fact the black Americans lag in every imaginable category (e.g. economics, education, judicial justice, health, life expectancy, etc.) of survival, we see less and less groups (including traditional civil rights groups) focusing on the “matter of life or death needs of BLACK AMERICANS. This trend of less focus toward black issues is not “moral,” it is not religious, it is not feasible, and it is not reasonable.
There, in 2020, we must regain the 20/20 vision needed to see the deteriorating rights and existence of black America and righteously act accordingly.
We can no longer be satisfied cowardly waiting on King Day and Black History Month to hold hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.” We must “Overcome” the hypnosis of today’s jangling cords of white supremacy and black self-hatred. We must not have our fire to fight racism extinguished by the rhetorical water-hose of charismatic bull feces. We must immediately begin courageously WORKING “out of the box” of political correctness and camouflaged cowardism. After all, it is not in our best interests as black people “politically,” educationally, economically, psychologically, morally, and neither is it in any way “correct,” to continue being satisfied with only one month of the same “black history” trimmings and not caring for even a single day for a black child’s black future.
Black children born and the not-yet-born deserve more than what we have given them or fought for on their behalf. Based upon their struggle and being born into a society which systemically hates them, black children are God’s most precious jewels. Consequently, we do not give them the time, the resources, the justice, and the attention they deserve, God will ensure that we will all have hell to pay.
Don’t just hear it from me, take it from the Jesus Christ Trump’s America claims to serve: “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2
Sincerely in the spirit of justice,
I am Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood