Blacks Hampered by the Past, Afraid of the Future

by Peggy Butler

You who sit in your houses at night. You who are independently wealthy, with a steady job---all you who are enclosed by four walls--- you have no idea of what goes on with African-Americans who are hampered by the past, and afraid of the future. Hereafter referred to as AARBPAF. And there are many of them-all across the country, in small towns, major cities, everywhere you look, there they are. If you were out for a night on the town, you could easily identify them, by their gaunt faces, bristling with uncertainty. And that look of despair that follows them like a shadow.

Staring at them, you wonder, how they got that way. However, if you have never encountered an AARBPAF, you might be mystified, the way millions of people are. But not I. Read on.

The daring attempt by African-Americans to break the viscous cycle of fear, failure and frustration keeps us traumatized by the past, defeated by the present and frightened of the future.

Our chains of pettiness, bickering and self-loathing shackle us. No longer can we point an accusatory finger at others, denouncing them for obstructing our progress. It is not Caucasians, Asians, and other ethnic groups that bind us to our disarray. Like it or not, we have evolved to become our own worst enemy. As a race we have discredited, disregarded and disrespected each other to the point where it has become customary. Our minds are still transfixed by the slave mentality. We are still bowing, skinning and grinning, believing every thing that emanates from "Mr. Charlie's" mouth. Since we lack confidence in ourselves and in each other, we don't believe anything until someone in white flesh validates its truth or duplicity. This form of behavior can be traced to the period when Whites imposed hate onto the psyche of Blacks, causing great confusion, and further enslaving Blacks to Whites.

Still Not Free After All These Years

One hundred and thirty six years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slavery unconstitutional; we are still not free. As much as we hate to admit it, many Blacks are still holding out their hands, begging and groveling, asking others for the chance to prove themselves. We try to make those who find Blacks intolerable, more loving and lenient. We try to join their clubs, on whose doors hang the sign "YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE." We try to impose ourselves on others, while denying our Black brothers and sisters a friendly hello from our sneering lips.

Our past binds us with its whips and brutality. It keeps us from accomplishing our goals, living out our fantasies, and making our dreams a reality. Our past steps forward at the actual moment of victory, and convinces us we are inadequate and inferior. Because of our history, our heart and mind are scarred by abrasions of complacency and cowardice. We look to the present, embellished in richness, but can't imagine ourselves fitting in. The United States is among the wealthiest countries in the world. Foreigners emigrate from other countries and become instant millionaires. We've been in this country for centuries, and have very little to show for it. Although unemployment is at a historic low, African-Americans remain at the bottom of the economic plateau. Sadly, many of us are convinced we don't have the skills or resources to accumulate massive wealth. So we keep playing the role of the beleaguered beggar. How absurd!

Take Action Now

We can no longer afford to sit back and wait for others to properly instruct us on how to secure a piece of the success pie. We must become convinced that our minds are just as good as other races, and we can achieve what our minds conceive.

We look to the future and quiver uncontrollably, when recalling rights ascertained in the Civil Rights era, now lost forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave Southern Blacks the right to vote. Yet we refuse to exercise that right. During an election year, the NAACP and other organizations initiate registration drives to encourage voter participation. Under no circumstances, should we be sweet-talked or coerced into voting, we should do so willingly.

We complain about the lack of educational opportunities. Yet, when Black students attend public schools and colleges, accusations are made that the courses are too hard, or racially biased. In view of this perception, some Black leaders want to eliminate the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), based on the observation the test is racist, sexist and elitist. Other Blacks suggest reducing the minimum a student can score on the SAT, and making it even lower. This attitude says to parents, teachers and students, "You were right, Blacks are academically inferior to Whites".

By lowering the scores it sends out the message that the only way Blacks can pass a test is to drastically reduce the score. This is a negative practice, educators concerned about the future of Black collegians argue should be eliminated. They maintain when it comes to education in the 21st century, there is absolutely no reason why the majority of Black students cannot pass the SAT and other admission tests.

Where Are We Headed?

Do we really want to be successful? Do we really want to stop ridiculing each other? Do we really want to stop killing each other? What kind of future can we expect, if we are still enslaved by the "woe is me" mentality.

As we enter the new millennium, one question looms on the horizon. Will the 21st century find African-Americans prosperous, content, and confident? Or will we still be singing the same old songs we have sung for centuries: "If Only, " One Day," And "Yea, But I'm Black." It's time to dump those tunes; they've been around too long for comfort. It's time to put on a new CD, one of Power and Prosperity? Are you ready? I am and so are you.

Blacks Hampered by the Past, Afraid of the Future by Peggy Butler

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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