There are two famous quotes that come to mind when I think about the status of Black America. The first quote is from Mamie Till, the mother of the late Emmett Till, when she said, “Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, `That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.”
The other quote is from who some would consider the greatest civil rights leader of all time, and that person is none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
As we press toward November, and what looks to be one of the most challenging elections this country has ever faced, I find it truly detestable for Black people because I believe that no matter who is in office, we will face the same issues that we have been facing since the start of of this country. I have become troubled about one thing that has come out because of what was said by one of the Presidential candidates. Donald Trump stated, “Black people are living in Hell!” The explosion that has come from this has made me scratch my head one moment, and hold my head in my hands the next.
After Trump made this statement, I have seen Blacks posting pictures of their cars, their homes, and what they are doing all over social media. I have heard people say, “I am not living in Hell. They may be living like that is some places, but I am not.” I have seen people post, “It is not like that down here in Atlanta. They should move down here!”
According to stateofworkingamerica.org, “Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans had the highest poverty rate, 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. 45.8 percent of young black children (under age 6) live in poverty, compared to 14.5 percent of white children.”
If these numbers are not enough, maybe we should look at the unemployment numbers for Black men in Chicago. According to University of Illinois Chicago, “47 percent of 20-24 year old African American men in Chicago were out of school and out of work in 2014. Across the state, the number was 44 percent, much higher than the national average of 32 percent of young black men.” The unemployment rate nationally for Black men ages 20-24 is 32%!
I am bothered with how we look at our personal situations, and claim that everything is alright with me, so what is wrong with you?? We have lost the compassion that we once had for one another. We look down on Chicago, instead of finding out what the real problems are. We don’t want to accept that we are collectively living sub par. Instead we find comfort in knowing that we don’t look like the rest of us. I hear people bragging on their ability to escape the strong hold of our community. The question I have is have you really escaped?
I have learned that we are more accepted by White America when they do not see us as a threat. As long as we are conforming, and not causing any fuss, we might just have some different opportunities. Yes, they want us to forget about helping our brothers, and sisters who are living below the poverty level.
The Willie Lynch letter is nothing more than a remake of Exodus 1:9-11 where the Bible reads, “And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.”
We are being dealt with wisely. Unfortunately, there are people who do not see themselves as part of the “Them.” No matter what you have going on, don’t think for one second that you have become the exception.
When I visit Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Baltimore, I know that there are lot of people who are experiencing what would be considered “Hell on earth.” I have enough compassion for my brothers and sisters to fight for them. We need to start concerning ourselves with our brothers and sisters who are dealing with struggles that we don’t understand or have to endure, because it could very well be us.
Mamie Till is the prime example of how quickly things can change. Please do not wait until death, or a loss comes knocking at your door to help you realize that you may not be living in Hell, but are very close to the heat that most of us feel daily.
We have to start looking at ourselves as one. I believe this is the message that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mamie Till were trying to get us to hear.
For the record, I am not a Trump supporter.
Gregory Meriweather is the CEO of The Black on Black Network. He is an activist, writer, public speaker, and voice of the Black on Black Radio Show with Gregory Meriweather. Please follow Black on Black blackonblack.network