(NNPA)—In a 1990 article written for Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, I offered the following suggestions on how to be a positive Black person in a society that too often rewards those who are negative. They, with a few small changes, are as follows:
1. Do reject the prevailing myth that we are a weak group of problem-burdened people who basically have nothing to offer the world. If that were so, then we wouldn’t still be around. No people who have survived the physical and psychological oppression we have, have been confronted with in this country can possibly be weak. Instead of holding conferences and meetings, which too often provide opportunities for weeping, wailing, moaning, groaning, and telling individual can-you-top-this horror stories, we should get together to document and analyze our strengths and to develop ways to build on them.
For instance, every year major articles are written and published focusing on the “pathology” of Black families. All this is given huge amounts of publicity in the press. Ignored is the equally, if not more important, fact that every summer thousands of African-American families gather together throughout the country for family reunions. What needs to be studied is how these families maintain their connections and then use that information to help build up families that are in trouble.
2. Don’t be convinced through Hollywood movies, television, radio, newspapers, textbooks, and conversations with duped African-Americans that people of European decent have some kind of divine right to rule the world. Their track record in dealing with people of color does not merit such adoration. People of European descent have not only killed more non-Europeans than any other group in the world, they have also killed more of their fellow Europeans than anyone else.
3. Do insist that our people pursue excellence and build institutions, not to prove something to others, but because our doing so is important to ourselves and to our people.
4. Do teach our children that to become involved with drugs and other destructive behavior that disrupts their communities is, in effect, to become active allies of those forces that want to destroy our communities.
5. Do teach our youngsters about being responsible to themselves, their families and their people. Older Black folks used to call those who accepted responsibility “race men” and “race women.” It was one of their highest compliments. On the other hand, one of the worse putdowns was to be called a “disgrace to the race.” These concepts need to be revived.
6. Don’t, as a self-respecting group, try to claim people who don’t want to be claimed. We are not so lacking of quality people that we have to claim those who insist that they are not Black but someone who just happens to be Black. They should be left alone to be whoever they want to be.
7. Don’t allow those entertainers who make bundles of money by being vulgar and sleazy pass off what they are doing as African-American culture. It is quintessential American culture to make a fast buck anyway one can, not African-American culture.
8. Don’t confuse a friendly relationship between an individual African-American and an individual White as a sign that White supremacy is on the decline and that group to group relationships are improving. The two are entirely different. Individual relationships are based on love and respect; group relationships are based on power and respect.
9. Don’t follow those who insist that middle- and upper-income African-Americans are in some kind of middle position between Whites and Blacks. Middle-and upper-income Jews in pre-Hitler Germany were probably the most assimilated minority group in Western European history. With their sophistication, money, education, professional achievements and staunch patriotism they thought they were safe from Hitler and his thugs. They were dead wrong. So are African-Americans who believe that these same attributes will protect them from both those who believe in White supremacy and those who benefit from it.
(A. Peter Bailey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)