Black people must not use their circumstances as excuses for failure. The eradication of negative stereotypes within the community must start with the individuals within it.
The black community has constantly overcome seemingly unbearable circumstances, from picking cotton as slaves in the 1800s to being drenched by high-pressure water hoses like dogs in the 1960s. The change the community is truly looking for, however, starts with the individuals within it.
Over the past month, University Star columnists have written about a variety of topics for Black History Month discussing issues ranging from hair to names to how the black community is misrepresented in American society. As positive as those discussions have been, blacks must not make excuses for themselves. Circumstances and skin color must not dictate where blacks choose to go in their lives.
Discussion of these issues is crucial, but that does not mean blacks should constantly complain or whine about others’ ignorance. Blacks have both a burden and responsibility to be better and do more in today’s society.
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and others did not fight only to have blacks wallow in self-pity. They wanted everyone to have a fair shake at life, regardless of race. In retrospect, I think men like King and Evers would be proud of what blacks have accomplished so far, but by the same token I think they would be disappointed about some of the issues going on in the community.
It is an honor and privilege to have witnessed the first black man elected president. But what good does it do if black people continue to kill each other in Chicago or Detroit? What good are all of our achievements when every day, more blacks find themselves in jail for robbing liquor stores or selling dope? What good are our successes when black fathers continue to adhere to all the negative stereotypes, failing to care for the kids they brought into the world?
Blacks have come a long way in conquering certain demons that have been haunting the community for generations, but change has to start with individuals. Whites, Hispanics, Asians and other races cannot take the black community seriously if we constantly deny accountability for our actions.
No more sagging pants, showing up late for work and selling crack just to drive a Rolls-Royce. Black men need to take care of their kids and hold jobs to become responsible fathers.
Individuals need to dream of being more than just ball players and singers. The world is still waiting on the cure for cancer and HIV—who is to say it will not be a black person who finds it?
I am not saying all black people fit the stereotypes and do not aspire to be more, but those who are looking for more in life should encourage others in the community to make individual changes. Black people who settle for less and use their circumstances as an excuse only get in the way of progress. Such defeatist attitudes within the community decay the foundation civil rights leaders worked hard to build.
It is time to change the stereotypes associated with the black community. Black people must strive to be and do more—a change that starts by looking in the mirror.