Debunking Black Myths in the 21st Century
by Peggy Butler
Foreword: While standing in line at the supermarket, I spotted a magazine dangling carelessly from a grocery cart.
Red, with white and blue details, the coloring suggested it was one of those patriotic tabloids, so popular among right-wing conservatives.
As an avid reader, I was anxious to see what was inside. Bending over, I grabbed the magazine and opened it. The headline, "African-Americans Comprise 57% of All New HIV Infections," glared back at me.
Leafing through the publication, which contained page after page of anti-Black rhetoric, I was compelled to write the following editorial.
When you read anything with respect to African-Americans, it is generally negative. We are identified as the major consumers of drugs, primal carriers of the HIV virus, a mainstay of the welfare system, and the most barbaric group to inhabit the universe.
At times it appears that we are just rotating on our axis, and getting absolutely nowhere. If that statement is true, inevitably we will find ourselves devoid of all rights and privileges vital to the continuation of our existence.
From these negative experiences has come strength and courage of the highest caliber. Society depicts us as battered and despondent. But they are wrong in making those assumptions. We are not lost souls stumbling through life looking for an easy way out.
We can overcome our current problems through persistence, hard work and undaunted fortitude. Only when these solutions are undertaken will the task of prevailing over our problems be executed at greater speed.
In order to rectify injustices, both hereditary and self-imposed, we must become tired of the demeaning actions levied against us. We must become tired of hearing about the grim statistics regarding our social and economic status. We must become tired of the experts telling us who we are, what we are, and what we should be. As an African-American, I am constantly bombarded by negative messages from the media, politicians, and other sources, insinuating my chances of achieving equality with Whites on any level is almost zero. Enough is enough! It's time to set the record straight.
When we change the way we see ourselves, respect from other races will follow. When we come to grips with the reality of what is happening, we can take decisive steps to overcome all barriers relevant to our future.
We can overcome our educational dilemma by continually stressing that knowledge is the key ingredient to any successful juncture. We should encourage our youth to stay in school and stop adhering to the concept that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. That means Blacks must place more emphasis on education instead of athletics. In the Black community it should be pointed out that it is just as honorable to be a good student as it is to be a great football player. There is nothing more pathetic than a pro basketball player with an annual income of $2 million who cannot read. How nauseating.
We can overcome the stigma of being the "chief" users of illegal substances, by complaining when TV shows portray us as addicts and dealers.
The networks have a history of depicting minorities in this dual role. Don't the executives at ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC realize that according to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (1996) Whites use drugs in greater quantities than Blacks? But how many Whites do you see on the 6 o'clock news in handcuffs, being carted off to jail? As long as we allow this sort of behavior to go unchecked it will continue. If Blacks would write to the networks, demanding to see more positive portrayals, the current stereotypical garbage could be eliminated.
We can overcome the stigma of being erroneously portrayed as the prime recipients of welfare by counteraction. That means finding jobs, and stop prescribing to the theory that AFDC and Food Stamps are necessary for our survival. They are not. Although more Caucasians receive assistance than Blacks, this interesting tidbit is traditionally overlooked. Does this come as a surprise?
We can overcome other problems -- inadequate housing, teen pregnancy, high incarceration among Black men, and Black-on-Black violence -- by using every weapon at our disposal. To start with, we should become familiar with the complex mechanism of the judicial system. Similarly, we should make a genuine effort to show more kindness, patience and tolerance toward each other.
In observing our current situation I am convinced that the era of petty tactics is over. What we need now is ACTION, not comatose mish-mash. COURAGE, not cowardice. HELL-RAISING, not passiveness. When I say hell-raising, I am not implying that Blacks should commit acts of violence or mistreat their oppressors. However, I am suggesting that we create an atmosphere of CHANGE, using tact and diplomacy.
If we really want to end 500 years of bondage, we must recognize the problems and eliminate them by any means necessary. It is ridiculous for us to stand by quietly and wait for Caucasians to come to our rescue. No matter how much you sugar coat it, these are our problems, not theirs. And we are the only ones capable of solving them.
Over the centuries, Blacks have been described as rebellious, militant, and courageous. Whether that depiction is true is debatable. But one thing is certain: If we are going to raise hell, why not raise it in the right way, with the right people, at the right time. Only through boldness and perseverance will we finally overcome.
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