Guest Author - Lorraine E. Chavis
Black Americans have fought a long, arduous battle to gain equal rights, civil rights in their own country. Black Americans did not solely struggle with the United States government, they had to also struggle with fellow citizens – both black citizens and white citizens alike. The struggle was more than just marches to be able to eat in restaurants or to check out library books in certain libraries – it was also a mental battle as well. The media also perpetuated “Jim Crow” stereotypes. These racial stereotypes, rooted in plantation life have caused a divide in Black America that can cause blacks to treat each other without respect.
Now, the question all blacks must asked is, what’s next? How should blacks act now towards each other and towards others? For so long, blacks have fought for basic freedoms, but that doesn’t mean all blacks are the same or have the same philosophies of life. There is a common philosophy that all blacks should appear “well-behaved”, meaning they should dress, speak, and act with a certain cultural propriety. There are memes that depict “well-dressed” black men to juxtapose black men who sag. Should sagging pants give authorities the right to victimize black men?
Black Americans have undergone a type of reconditioning, they are not speaking to each other, joining social organizations and dividing themselves into the “haves” and the “have nots”. They are taking each other’s lives, disparaging each other’s character and are not being held accountable. There’s a problem with this reconditioning because it is being seen, but it is not being dealt with. The philosophy of the day says, you teach others how to treat you, by how you treat yourself. Black Americans are treating themselves very poorly. The Civil Rights Movement won so many battles, but now the community has begun to undermine the movement. Why is that?
We see this change in rap lyrics. The artists commonly refer to women as female dogs and garden tools, and more common colloquialisms. They depict the women in stereotypical hyper-sexed roles. Some may say it shouldn’t matter how rap artists depict these women because it’s just a song, a lyric and they’re not talking about all women, just some. The problem is when you take a medium and you use it to show a gender in a bad light, there is no way to balance that image. It does matter. Hip-hop has a huge platform, it’s largely male-dominated and there is no balance in their depictions of women. It is sad to see the struggle of this community be turned into a stereotype all over again.
We see this behavior when US black celebrities decide to veer off the typical path of black celebrities. One that comes to mind is Oprah. She had her last episode and is now venturing into a network of her own the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN. Oprah has done a lot for the community overall not just black Americans, not just white Americans, not just Americans, but worldwide. One of her accomplishments was a school in Africa. Oprah received a lot of flack from many in the black community for saying that she thought Africa should have a girls’ school for leadership. They felt she should have started a school in America. Some blacks have said they don’t watch her show and they won’t watch her network. Being a black crossover celebrity costs a lot in black America. Crossover celebrities risk alienation from the black community. They have to balance the desire for more in their careers and the ability to still belong to “the community” in a colloquial fashion.
These were just a few snapshots of the inner struggles that continue to go on. The problem is some black Americans have yet to understand that they don’t need anyone’s approval or affirmation anymore. This is not a negative comment. This is the truth. People respect people who stand up and take responsibility for their own actions, especially in America because it is our way.