Let’s begin with the facts:
- -Blacks make up 12.4% of the total US population (As of 2010)
- -Blacks make up 45% of the US prison population (As of 2010)
- -Vibe magazine is owned by InterMedia Partners
- -Ebony magazine is owned by JP Morgan Chase
- -Essence is owned by Warner Bros. and TIME
- -King and XXL Mag are owned by Harris Publications
- -BET and Centric are owned by Viacom (the owners of Comedy Central, CMT, VH1, MTV etc)
- -The last remaining major Black media and entertainment outlets are TV One, OWN, and Black Enterprise magazine.
- -Black unemployment as of Sept. 2011 was 16.7% (the highest in 27 years)
- -Percentage of Blacks in higher education is steadily decreasing
Now for my analysis of the cause, which is broken down into the complex stages of oppression, molestation, and exploitation of the Black Man.
It is only appropriate that I begin with this era in time, which is argued to not play a significant role in the current condition of Blacks throughout the world. If you did not know this, no matter what part of the world you go to today, any Black man you find can trace his ancestry to the African continent. I say “the world” because, although many do not know this (including former President George W. Bush, as well as many Blacks), there are Black people in the US, Brazil, throughout Latin America, Europe, and almost every land on the planet. As a matter of fact, Brazil has the second largest population of people of African descent (second only to the continent of Africa itself). At the start of slavery, the rulers of the various African lands attempted to conduct business with the mischievous European imperialists. They offered them their criminals (rapists, murderers, etc) to work off their debts to society in exchange for goods, etc. However, the imperialists didn’t stop at the criminals, they eventually made business of kidnapping mothers from children, children from mothers, fathers from families, and whole families from their homeland. It was at this point that all ties to their home, their culture, their religion, their knowledge of self was stripped away. They were separated from their families and condemned to a life of involuntary servitude simply for being nice enough to welcome the foreigners into their land. The Africans, my ancestors, were then taken to Latin America, the Caribbean islands, West Indies, the US, Europe, and everywhere else we can be found today. Here lies the fundamental connection between Blacks here in the US, Haiti, Trinidad, Brazil, and the like. The only difference is the timeline of revolution and declaration of independence from their imperial powers (If they ever found liberation). So yes, no matter where you go, you share a connection with the Black people of that land. We have faced the same system of racism, molestation, genocide, and exploitation at the hands of the same enemy. Under slavery, we were not considered human beings created by the hands of the same God that was forced upon our ancestors by these heaven sent “missionaries.” In fact, focusing in on the United States for now, we were lucky enough to be considered at least three-fifths of a human being.
JIM CROW ERA-
Now to move on to the abolition of slavery in the US and what was celebrated as the new beginning for the lost children of Africa. This is where the groundwork for today’s current plight is laid. The newly freed Blacks were now considered five-fifths of a human being, however were not free enough to enjoy all the liberties promised to them under the constitution because “…all men are created equal” does not include “Black men.” Now Blacks faced Black codes, grandfather clauses, Jim Crow Laws, and the first form of terrorism that this country has seen, well before 9/11 (uh oh, he said it!). Now hopefully Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) doesn’t lead to my arrest after that statement and I can continue. Moving on, Blacks were not allowed into most establishments and public areas in the places they called home. This being the same home in which they lived in fear of being kidnapped, brutalized, and lynched solely for the fact that they were Black (funny the things society forgets). They were forced into mediocre living conditions, forced to continue slave-like labor and 2nd hand jobs, and forced to seek minimal education in death-traps called school-houses. Despite instrumental contributions from white philanthropists, such as the Rosenwald group, Black youth were forced to quench their thirst for knowledge in hole filled, un-kept, deteriorating, unstable buildings with little or no educational resources. However, they continued to strive, with the communities putting together literally every cent they could scrape up to go towards improving these conditions. The taxes Black citizens paid to the state were used to pay for the education of the white students in communities that they would be hanged or shot for even looking at. Blacks who attempted to protest this racially biased system of taxation were evicted, fired, harassed, or worst of all, lynched for sport. Soon tensions began to boil, Blacks began to organize for their true freedom, and the world would be shaken by the Civil Rights Movement.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT-
Now we move into the era of outspoken outrage and revolutionary change being demanded by the Blacks in the US. I won’t focus on any events or too many figures from the movement, but moreso on the response to it. Progress was being achieved, things were getting done and White America was becoming more and more enraged. Their anger was a device used to mask their fear in what was happening to their way of life. What did they do to alleviate the growing threat that would reshape American society as we knew it? They committed organized genocide on our Black leaders. In 1956, J. Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI, an organization full of current and former members of the Klu Klux Klan. In response to the growing number of Supreme Court Cases boosting the morale of the movement, such as Brown V. Board of Education, Hoover created what is known as COINTELPRO. If you do not know what this is in depth, I encourage you to visit Wikipedia now. COINTELPRO was the FBI’s counter-intelligence program meant to monitor and eliminate any threat to American society (sounds like NDAA right?). They composed files on all Black leaders and faucets of Black culture ranging from Black music, movies, common hang outs, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party, and so on. The documents from this program, which was meant to remain secret from the US citizens, were discovered and exposed by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, a leftist activist group, in 1971. In the documents, which you can find and read by a simple search in google, the goal of preventing the raise of a “black messiah” is outlined. The plot to create tensions within the Black community is outlined and current threats are listed, including Malcolm X and Dr. King. Dr. King was however said IN THE DOCUMENTS to pose an even greater threat to becoming this messiah if he were to abandon his theory of non-violence and become a more militant minded leader. This would soon be the case towards the end of his life when he began to speak out against the Vietnam War, along with the likes of Stokely Carmichael and SNCC, and ultimately becoming a threat to their cash-flow from foreign exploits. For those who fall victim to fearing “conspiracy theory,” see the hundreds upon hundreds of pages monitoring every breath taken by Dr. King and other Black leaders striving to get our people to the golden mountaintop of freedom, success, and the “American Dream.”
If the two words above didn’t scare you away, I’m now moving on to something near and dear to my heart and identity: Black Power. Though I will discuss the Media’s historic role in destroying our culture and community as a whole, it is necessary when mentioning this inflammatory phrase to address it. When Stokely Carmichael gave his Black Power speech back in 1967 he coined the phrase to be in direct opposition to the image that had plagued Black people around the world for centuries and is still plaguing us today. He wasn’t promoting Black supremacy as the media claimed, however Black pride. He turned what was initially oxymoronic into a badge of pride, love, strength, and admiration for one’s self. Black is beautiful, Black is strong, Black is powerful, unlike what the television and mainstream media wants you to believe. Black is powerful unlike the history of oppression and cultural molestation has made you believe. But still, something meant to uplift our people that did not pose a threat to anyone else’s cultural identity was vilified. Pan-Africanism was created and celebrated as a refresher course into our cultural history, something we were deprived of hundreds of years ago. Pan-Africanism was meant to give Blacks a sense of belonging, a sense of history, a sense of cultural pride that we were unable to attain in trying to assimilate into a society that is innately foreign. However, mainstream media is very good at its job and worked to not only make Whites fear and hate the concept of Black Power, but to make Blacks fear and hate it as well. This is the very reason why Malcolm X was initially ridiculed and hated by the very people that would eventually praise his life following his brutal assassination. Carrying this idea into the era of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the media in conjunction to COILTELPRO, which was still very active, served to make them America’s most wanted. Here was a group that we have to thank for breakfast and lunch programs in schools across the country, a group that wanted to protect their people from the harsh police harassment plaguing their communities nationwide. The BPP was appealing to Black youth in their time similar to why the Nation of Islam was so appealing some years prior. They were a fearless symbol of strength that refused to sit by and wait for things to get better and instead stood on the frontlines of revolutionary change. However, the media served to portray them as anti-American, ignorant rabble-rousers when in fact they were the most intelligent, most organized, most American group of their time.
The BPP was inspired by the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (Wikipedia if you haven’t heard of them), who used the black panther as their symbol back in 1965. The symbol’s meaning was this: “a beautiful black animal which symbolizes the strength and dignity of black people, an animal that never strikes back until he’s back so far into the wall, he’s got nothing to do but spring out.” The party was not about brute force and aimless aggression towards Whites as they were portrayed, however many Blacks as a result turned their backs to any association with them and ultimately, anything Black. Soon, COINTELPRO would continue its rampage, literally ordering the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago. Fast-forwarding to the late 70’s, well after COINTELPRO was exposed and the Black Panthers were destroyed, we find a group known as MOVE, lead by John Africa in Philadelphia. Here was the last Pan-African, Black Power strong hold amongst Blacks in the US. They were ridiculed due to their endearing reverence for the African continent, which they felt strong ties to, their protest to technology, and embracing of naturalistic living. The Philadelphia government wanted them out, but despite unlawful evictions, MOVE refused to budge. Soon the police harassment, which would result in the murder of an infant child in the organization’s central home would lead the members to institute a fenced off and armed front. Next the police department would spark a shoot-out in which many MOVE members were injured and one police officer was killed. While the source of the bullet is debated, MOVE holding that it was the result of their friendly fire, 9 members of the group were incarcerated for life and were aptly named the MOVE-9. After the group picked up the pieces and relocated to a home on Osage Avenue, complaints of their political protests would ultimately lead to the Black Philadelphia mayor, Mayor W. Wilson Goode ordering the brutal war-like bombing of Osage Avenue. On US soil, so-called Americans were bombed by military-grade C-4 dropped from a helicopter; military grade C-4 that could only be provided under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
WAR ON DRUGS-
It was around this time that the death-blow needed to be delivered and it came in the form of crack cocaine and the infamous “War on Drugs.” It takes a fool to think that a power other than the US federal government could start such a drug trafficking syndicate across the well guarded US border and into the Black community. This is where the mass incarceration effort gains rigor and momentum. Now Blacks who have had a back-seat position as US citizens since their arrival on this land are looking for a means to make ends meat to support their families. They won’t get hired for high paying or even well paying jobs due to discrimination, they are essentially locked out of the higher education sector, and the only thing left is to funnel poison into their communities. Now I am not condoning this in any way as it is by far the worst thing to happen to our community since COINTELPRO. I say this to speak to the human instinctual methods of survival: doing whatever it takes to make it, whether or not this is at the expense of others. This was well known by those who made the drugs accessible to the society and now they have us essentially doing their job (keyword: exploitation). Now not only do they have a subdued Black America feeling the pain of drug infection, they also have a steady influx of space fillers for the prisons in the form of the dealers they have on commission and those who use them. This is carried on into the Marijuana industry and so on. Now we see a shift from the Civil Rights days when mass occupation of prisons was used as a means of protest to a means of oppression. We now see the deterioration of the Black family, as they are destroyed the whole nation over.
THE MEDIA AND EXPLOITATION-
Here is where I back track for a bit to discuss the history of media manipulation that has been used to make Blacks hate their history, their culture, and themselves. JUMP JIM CROW!!! The origin of the name for the discriminatory laws is with a traveling minstrel show that depicts a caricaturized Black man as the star. He is essentially a buffoon; a slow-witted, bad postured, bad grammatical, ugly fictional man that was created to satirize Blacks in the US. This was an image reproduced throughout the 20th Century in America (the US, South America, etc) and around the world. It is one of the earliest forms of exploitation and what I include in the umbrella term of “media,” and furthermore, one of the earliest forms of self-hate in the Black community. Public opinion here and abroad is continually shaped by television, radio, literature, and news media to be just this. Even child’s cartoons portrayed this negative and altered image of Blacks, as demonstrated by early Looney Tunes, Warner Brothers, and Disney cartoons (Youtube and google for more). Soon, the campaign to hide any ties to the African continent, which was portrayed as a land of savage beasts, and to the Black race began. Hair straightening products, hair coloring products, skin lightening products, and the like are all devices which are meant to mask the true self. Whether it be a conscious or subconscious effort, it is still gaining momentum today if you look at society’s demigods, celebrities. Countless celebrities who I will not name out of respect have either obviously or allegedly taken extreme measures to appear as one of their White counterparts. The influence this has on the youth coming up is immeasurable and will continue to eat at our sense of self-pride as a people until it is non-existent.
The media has done its job of shaping what is right and what is wrong, what is beautiful and what is plain ugly, and et cetera instead of giving people the chance to decide for themselves. An effort to bring an end to this was the founding of Black media and a Black entertainment culture that would highlight all that is beautiful and to be proud of in Blackness. Ebony magazine, Jet magazine, Vibe magazine, Essence Magazine, and the almighty BET were born and it was good to be Black again. For the first time, we could pick up a magazine and see a face that looks like ours on it, hear the stories relevant to us, and see the things relevant to our people and our struggle. What has happened today? As I listed at the beginning of this document, none of these media outlets are Black owned anymore. We are getting our news, our culture, and things that are supposed to be important to us from the imperialistic system that forced us to create these outlets in the first place. This leads me to the next topic:
BLACK SPENDING POWER-
Being that we are 12.4% of the population, we must have a great deal of spending power right? So why are we still living in the poorest neighborhoods in the nation? The answer lies in the overstressing of integration. Oh the ridicule Malcolm X faced for speaking out against the sole focus on integration and that which I will likely face for sharing his ideologies. However, it isn’t hard to understand his logic. In the Civil Rights Era we focused too much on being integrated into a society that pushed against us instead of first having a place to cal our own. We didn’t create strong cultural hubs that would continually enrich our sense of who we are, where we are from, and what it means to be Black. As a result, today all we have are widespread ghettos and hoods that are worsened by the way in which society has isolated them from the world around them. Think about this: If you want to go out to dance to the art of your own people, you must leave the comfort of your own community and go into Manhattan, Hollywood, and so on. This takes money from the community and further serves to isolate the Black communities, the ghettos, from the outside. You have to leave your own community to hear your people speak to you about the struggle that you are living for the economic benefit of a rich White record label. The art form that was created to speak out against this system of oppression, hip-hop/rap, is now being exploited. They call the shots on what our artists can and can’t say and ultimately shape our opinions by controlling what we hear as we drive through our communities. The few remaining Black owned businesses are facing demise at the hands of Wal-mart, Target, and other wealthy White owned corporations that don’t fund our community programs, help our ailing educational system, serve to try and turn the ghetto into something to be proud of. Look at China towns everywhere, look at Korea Town, look at Little Armenia, and other cultural hubs throughout the country. Korea Town in LA is overflowing with rich culture, nightlife, Korean foods, Korean shops, Korean Banks, and is a completely self-reliant community that is serving to foster a sense of racial and cultural pride in Korean citizens here that wish to maintain close ties to their homeland. Where is ours?
THE BLACK PRESIDENT-
Sigh… ok, Barack Obama is my brother and I love him so much, however I love my people as a whole more, so I must say some things. I quote Malcolm X who said “a man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” You can tell me time and time again how the president doesn’t actually have that much power and so on and so forth, BUT he does. Barack Obama has a voice and he needs to use it, even if his pen isn’t the almighty sword some may think it is. I saw the look in my grandmother’s face when she saw this charismatic man who looked like her running for the president of the most powerful nation in the world. It brought tears to my eyes to see how Black people around the world were crying out that “this is it, the Dream has been realized.” There was a sense of pride and love for all things Black that I never thought I’d see and fear I may not again. Here was a man painted by media the world over the realization of Dr. Kings dream; the man who would turn the world upside down with change, serving as a soldier of equality for all people. Since Blacks are at such a disadvantage in this country, sure it would seem like he’s being biased in leveling the playing field… what’s wrong with that? So here it is, he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and we praise the future. But then we see the flame in his belly slowing extinguish as Republicans bully him on the congressional playground. We see the war overseas continue, more American lives lost in fighting this war that were lost in the terrorist attacks that allegedly sparked our middle eastern presence. We see the reopening of Guantanamo Bay. We see the Black unemployment rise. We hear him tell us to “stop complaining.” Most recently we see him “reluctantly” sign the National Defense Authorization Act. I have seen enough to really understand the likes of Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, and Maxine Waters.
Now here’s all I ask of President Obama: Show us you are listening to our cries, tell us you understand, and tell the world. Don’t be afraid to say “Black people in America are doing bad, we need to figure out why. We need to fix it.” Those simple words carry more weight that any bill, any law that any pen could sign. This sends out a call to action amongst the American people who can demand change from the elected officials they put into office to be their voice, yet continue to put them on mute. Right now, to the vast majority of Blacks struggling in the hoods and ghettos see a Black man in the White House and see their condition worsening and no one saying anything about it. They see this and can’t help but think “Dang, this must be as good as it’s gonna get.” Soon we see a worsening of the complacency and abysmal feeling of self-worth plaguing out community. We see out youth lose hope in the future. If you youtube interviews with Black youth after the assassination of Dr. King, you will hear the question “Do you think that there is a future for the Black man in America?” and the response of all the Black youth in the group was “No there ain’t no future.” I fear that this is the mentality soon to return if we do not regain our pride, regain our ability to criticize and demand the best of our elected officials, and restore our revolutionary mindset.
If his reelection is the reason for his silence and lack of aggression in what he believes in then I will have a close eye on him in his second term. However, I fear that with this NDAA, SOPA, and PIPA, he is laying the perfect foundation for the Republicans to destroy any hope we have. I again say this… I love President Obama, as a Black man and as a brother, however he should turn to Fela Kuti to see a true Black President.
I wonder how many are still reading…
From here, we need to resurrect the revolutionary spirit that characterized Black people the world over during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. We need to resurrect the teachings of Malcolm X and form a unified fight against the oppressive forces that hold us down in the US, in Latin America, in Africa, in Europe, and everywhere else. If Hurricane Katrina was any indication, if we don’t go to bat for our people, no one else will. We must resurrect Black pride, Black identity, and Black Power. We must turn our Blackness from what was made to be a handicap into a symbol of strength and self-pride. We must support our Black businesses and take back control over our media and our culture as a whole. We must return to the Black Panther instinct, because we’ve been backed down long enough. The time to strike back has long since arrived.
I close with this:
““Be proud of our heritage … We don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody told a lie one day… They made everything black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word ‘black.’ It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word ‘white’ — it’s always something pure. I wanna get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: Yes, I’m black; I’m proud of it. I’m black and beautiful.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By: Brandon B.