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Why Are Black People Killing Themselves?
By Eric L. Wattree Sr. (Columnist)
Published December 18, 2008

For all who might have missed it, I'd like to call attention to Larry Aubry's excellent article, "Black on Black Violence: Part Pained Indifference," that appeared in the Dec. 4 edition of the Los Angeles Sentinel. In his article Aubry discusses Black people's tendency to simply stand by as a small segment of the community embarks upon a course of Black annihilation. He very correctly points out that "Black-on-Black violence is a manifestation of race-based poverty, frustration and self-hate, spawned and nurtured by official neglect and the complicit indifference of Blacks themselves." In other words, our children are dying as a direct result of the apathy attendant to a lack of self-respect.

But wait a minute, how can that be? Aren't we the people who claim to be "Black and proud?"

Yes, we're the very ones–but that's nothing but lip service. Due to centuries of having to survive on vapors and dreams, we've become specialists in embracing style over substance, and delusion over reality. Thus, we've been coming up with slogans, nursery rhymes, and completely meaningless axioms for years, in an attempt to compensate for our lack of action–it's a cognitive device designed to hold on to our self-esteem.

But the national joke is this–we're the only ones who take the farce seriously. Everyone else in the world knows our dreadlocks, swagger, and raised fists for exactly what they are–an attempt to create an image of who we would like to be, rather than who we, in fact, are. Everyone knows that if we were truly the proud people that we represent ourselves to be, we'd die before we'd allow what's going on in our community. So the fact is, we're not only killing ourselves, but we're looking like fools in the process.

You see, all the swagger notwithstanding, it doesn't take much insight for the world to recognize that a truly proud people would never allow themselves to be so totally overwhelmed by circumstance. What kind of pride would allow one's children to be abandoned, under-educated, drugged, and killed in the street with impunity? And what kind of pride would allow us to watch our daughters be seduced by a lifestyle that degrades, disrespect, and abuses them, then have us idolize and enrich the very people who brought that lifestyle into our homes? So, Black pride? I don't think so. What we're dealing with in the Black community isn't even remotely related to pride, it's more like cultural malfeasance–and if we allow it to continue, we're not going to survive.

The Black community has simply got to face the reality of our shortcomings. Then we need to take the time to reassess our cultural mores. We've got to recognize that if we truly want our children to take pride who they are, we must begin to embrace knowledge, and make excellence a priority. Our young people are not going to obtain a thirst for knowledge through osmosis, it has to be bred into them–and that can't happen as long as we continue to rewards materialism over character. So if we ever truly want to become the proud people that we profess ourselves to be, we're going to have to set aside our worship of materialism as a primary value, and begin to impress the importance of knowledge, character, and dignity upon our young people.

We've got to help our young people to see that the heroes in our community aren't the ones driving around in flashy cars, and wearing fancy clothes, the community's true heroes are standing at bus stops in work clothes trying to feed their families. They also have to understand that having a good jump shot is only means to an end, and not an end in itself. We've got to raise our young men to recognize that manhood is not about having the courage to rob and steal, but having the courage to face a bill collector, and not about being tough enough to beat a man to death, but being loving enough to raise a little girl. As long as we're failing to relate those values, we'll never be able to take pride in our community.

But one of the reasons we can't coalesce around these kind of values is that we have competing interests in the community. Most responsible Black people whose interests lie directly within the community understand the importance of eradicating drugs and violence from our midst, getting young men off our corners, and urging deadbeat dads to support their kids. But these values are in direct conflict with the interests of those Blacks who'd rather remain mad at the White man than see the Black community prosper. They can't have that, because if we change our ways and begin to prosper, that means we could have done it before, and perhaps our condition isn't all the White man's fault.

In addition, many of these people have a professional stake in seeing the Black community remain stagnant and disaffected. Some of these people make a living through protest. You know the ones I'm talking about–some of our so-called "civil rights leaders", politicians, and a few professionals who benefit directly from our support, or indirectly by riding the coattails of the disaffected Black populous to gain professional advantage.

What makes this situation particularly unconscionable is the fact that while these people will criticize any attempt to speak out against negative conditions in the community as "blaming the victim," they've moved their families out of the community, and thus, the immediate dangers that failure to address these issues bring into our lives.

We don't hear a word from these people regarding the work that needs to be done our community, but mark my word, as soon as Barack Obama takes the oath of office you're going to hear them screaming at the top of their lungs that if Barack was truly a Black man, he swing the doors of the treasury open to the Black community. They know damn well he can't do that, but they need something to protest to justify their existence. You see, with these people, it's not about actually improving the Black community, it's about giving themselves a reason for being. I call it, "Protest, Inc."

So what we've got to keep in mind is that these very same people have been protesting and complaining for the past forty years (every since Martin Luther King was killed) and they haven't brought one constructive thing into the community in all that time. The Black community is essentially in the same condition that MLK left us in 1968. But of course, Protest, Inc. is going to claim that it is only due to their selfless efforts that Barack Obama's presidency was made possible. But that's also a lie. Barack Obama is not president because of them–he's president in spite of them.

Eric L. Wattree


Categories: Beneath the Spin

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