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Your Voice Can Not be Silenced Until You Choose Not to Speak

August 7, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( The ongoing disconnect between the generations continues, but now, more than ever before, people of color need to keep the faith, bridge the generational divide and keep hope from dying on the vine.

Kansas City, MO – infoZine – I received an email from an activist who is thoroughly disenchanted with some of our self-proclaimed “leaders“. She is weary of ‘the Movement ‘ being coopted by folk with their eyes more on how they can enrich their wallets as “black leaders” than their duty to “the village” as elders.

Having dealt with the rough and tumble politics of the Deep South in a variety of incarnations, the former lawyer and legislator has earned her stripes as a revered elder, but, like many elders, she is sick and tired of being sick and tired. She’s tired of phony leaders taking advantage of their skin color and using their race to line their pockets and she’s tired of Generation X whining about not being “allowed” to lead.

The mantra over and over is: “when will the next generation take up the burden.”

On the other side of the coin, the Generation X’ers and Nexters are complaining that the Boomers won’t give up their seats in the front of the bus and let them take over. And, there’s the rub, folks. Boomers earned their stripes the hard way: protesting, getting arrested, getting shot at during school desegregation, fighting fearful parents and other scarified folk who wanted them to sit down and shut up before the white man got angry. They earned their bones thwarting alleged educators who thought their black students were too stupid to learn and battling employers who thought they were too dumb to do anything other than manual labor.

Unfortunately, in too many of the nation’s cities, keeping the faith is difficult because hope is already dead. In many of the nation’s ghettoes and reservations, generations of black folk and Native Americans remain locked out of the power structure, locked out of access to healthcare, locked out of access to healthy food, locked out of jobs, education and hope.

In the burned out, abandoned, hopeless parts of our nation’s ghettoes, millions of young black, brown and Native American men have given up entirely. They have long since succumbed to drugs, violence, crime, despair and suicide, plagued with ill health, obesity and diabetes in neighborhoods where liquor stores, fast food restaurants and convenience stores abound, but where full service grocery stores, fresh vegetables and healthy food are miles away. These are unsustainable conditions if African-Americans and people of color are to remain a viable entity in the nation’s social structure.

The nation has a problem when there are more black males behind bars than in college. When the nation spends more money locking up black, brown and red men than educating them, there is a problem. When the self-fulfilling prophecy of the black man as criminal generates police officers who are more familiar with DWB than DWE (driving while educated) we have a problem. When certain police departments can’t envision a black and white person driving in the same vehicle without being up to no good, we have a problem that is tearing our country apart and increasing the concept of “still separate, still unequal.” When it is easier to find a store selling greasy potato chips than fresh vegetables, yes, we have a problem.

It is hard to keep hoping when it seems that the enemies of hope and human rights are multiplying like fleas and investing our government, corporations, businesses and even our churches. It’s hard to keep on hoping and dreaming of better times when the mainstream media pounds us with a daily barrage of black violence, drug addiction, crime and poverty, despite the fact that more blacks are graduating college, moving up into managerial positions in corporations and earning more than their parents ever dreamed of..

Many people in this country are so sure that the majority of blacks are poor, that even middle class African-Americans often self-identify as being poor. We continue the slave thinking of identifying black folks, and, through extension, ourselves, as underdogs-outsiders standing outside the window, looking in at the rich folk inside, unable to partake of the nation’s bounty, even as hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal aliens arrive and grab their own share of the American Pie.

As the nation’s economy tumbles and fiscal uncertainty creeps through the country, it will be harder than ever for many Americans to maintain hope. It is in times such as these, that, historically nativism and bigotry rise up and show their ugly heads.

Blacks are no better or worse than anyone else, and we are, unfortunately, just as likely to jump on the scapegoat train and blame new immigrants for our own joblessness than any one else. The rising tensions between blacks and Hispanics gives proof to the power of scapegoating.

Those who are on the lower end of the economic totem pole guard their fragile economic security with the tenacity of a pit bull with an ingrown toenail. If history is anything to judge by, the more problems poor black and white workers have, the greater the possibility of a dangerous explosion in the cities, as native-born and immigrants collide.

And, while the nation’s many graying activists are getting weary, they are needed now, more than ever before. So, keep the faith, keep on advocating, protesting, writing letters to your local, state and federal representatives.

Your voice can not be silenced until you chose not to speak.

By Monica Davis

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