By Dr. Rev. Demetrius Russell, Sr.
The past few weeks have been challenging for me on a personal level. While I desired to spend time assisting pastors on how to approach and to serve during COVID-19 deaths, my attention was altered. As we have witnessed racial unrest, and mistreatment of people of African descent continues. Whether we like it or not, these are issues that must be approached. We must take the time to develop thoughts and plans to tackle embedded racist ideology that serves as the infrastructure of this country. Along with that, comes various challenges.
One of the most disappointing challenges that we continue to face are people’s attempts to justify racists actions. It is usually carried out by asking two questions. I am sure you are able to recite these questions with me: “What about Black on Black Crime?” and “What about the percentage of single mothers who are Black?”
These two questions are frustrating. Certain groups of people approach these questions as the elephant in the room that no one wants to deal with. When these ideas are brought up, there are deeper issues that need to be approached. The ignored issues have not been written in white-washed history textbooks. In addition, they are ignored by detractors who state that slavery ended when the Civil War ended. Or, they say “get over it... You have a month and a day celebrating Dr. Martin King, Jr.”
Though these may be problems, one must ask the question, what is its origin? While taking enough courses to have minored in African and African American Studies at Berea College, my beloved alma mater, I learned and was reminded that many of the problems still plaguing communities of African descent holds roots in the 17th century when Africans were enslaved and brought to what we know as the Americas.
For at least two hundred plus years, enslaved Africans were forced to neglect the holy institution of the family, expected to reproduce without carrying out parental responsibilities, and to deal with being separated when attempting to being responsible parents. Men were broken into submission, thus leading to a fear of raising their own children. Women took the responsibility of encouraging male sons to be obedient because of fear of being sold away or killed. They were trying to protect males of all ages while the gate remained open and no one protected them. Many were raped, beaten and forced to birth children that looked like their master. Ultimately the family unit was dismantled.
After slavery, more specifically, African people in America were hunted and killed without consequences. Photos were taken and turned into post cards celebrating these events. Then, there was the subconscious hatred of African features. If you are a product of 400 plus years of being told that you are trash, you cannot have families, hearing that your color makes you inferior, guess what happens? The people group hearing this will start believing this demonic rhetoric. Rhetoric that actually speaks of the people that spew it.
So when I hear that “blacks are killing blacks” I respond with why? Could it be that there is loss of life because we have been made to believe that our lives do not matter? Perhaps that’s why the movement and slogan, “Black Lives Matter” makes many uneasy. When I hear that blacks just reproduce and men are failures as fathers, of course I respond with what about me and others? The real question is, “what do you expect when our existence in this country, as a people, was centered on reproducing for product production?” Who we have become, in part, is due to the struggle of our people. Who we can become, will have to be due to our continued resilience as a people.
So, when people respond with disparities, remind them of the history of African Americans in this country. Remind them that our plight is not on us and ask them what are they willing to do, in partnership to help right the wrongs.
If this does not work, we have to make every effort to invest in our youth and those adults who desire to run for political offices. It is not enough to encourage them, but we must teach them our history. Let them know that after Reconstruction, former enslaved and free African males voted in record numbers. Tell them that many political offices, especially in the south were held by African American men. Tell them that we have led the charge in many movements that shaped this country. It does not have to stop now. Actually, it should continue even more.
So, we cannot be afraid to talk about these issues. Embrace them by stating facts. Do not buy into this propaganda that is being infiltrated by hate groups. We know who we are as people of African heritage! Embrace it! Live it! Continue to positively impact our communities.