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Triumph through turmoil

Slavery still haunts African Americans

Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 2/22/2018, midnight
Black culture reigns supreme! Hip-hop and rap, the dance music with origins in the..

Black culture reigns supreme! Hip-hop and rap, the dance music with origins in the South Bronx (or Jamaica, depending on who you talk to) has expanded into a global phenomenon. Youngsters in such diverse climates as Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, New Zealand and Scandinavia have found its infectious beats the perfect vehicle to give voice to their frustrations, about consciousness-raising in politics, poverty and so on.

This past week was a time of rejoicing for peoples of African descent, as the cinematic juggernaut that is “The Black Panther” became a success on a global scale, and smashed box office records on virtually every continent. Set in a futuristic (and fictional) African kingdom with a largely Black cast, it dominated ticket sales in Korea to the tune of $25.3 million (no small feat in light of the well documented friction between African American and Korean communities stateside).

Regardless, these triumphs in the arts (along with the accolades earned in the athletic arena), along with the dust still settling from the administration of the first Black President do not diminish the on-going problems that plague the African American community. In the United States, the neighborhoods that spawned these triumphs still suffer from the malaise of crime and imprisonment, drug use, poverty and unemployment, and family disintegration. That these social ills show no signs of abating, and we come to close of the first two decades of the millennium merit a period of contemplation and reflection is in order as we near the end of Black History Month.

Taking Ownership (or blaming the victims)

“We got to look ourselves in the mirror. There’s a reason [law enforcement] racially profile us at times. Sometimes it’s wrong, but sometimes it’s right. So to … sit there and act like we all hold no responsibility for some of this stuff is disingenuous.”

—Retired NBA star Charles Barkley

One troubling side effect of attaining the mantle of success for a person of color is the expectation of becoming a spokesperson for the entire race, regardless of the arena used to reach these achievements. So it is with that considerable segment of the Black population that becomes prominent via their physical accomplishments. These accolades, while impressive, are not necessarily indicative of spirituality, thoughtfulness, or reflection. Yet and still, all opinions are valid.

Barkley is not alone in his sentiments (although it is ironic that he has publicly said that sports figure should not role models), as fellow retired hoopster Karl Malone agrees with his assessment.

“I echo his sentiments exactly. We need to look in our mirror ourselves, stop waiting on someone to come march on our behalf, take ownership in ourself, make our community better, and stop looking for a handout,” he said.

“Stop using that excuse about race,” he continued.

“I am sick and tired that every time you turn around, that’s what we dangle.”

In some circles this is known as “victim blaming,” akin to holding the casualties of criminal injury responsible by virtue of the choices they make prior to the unfortunate deeds. This is especially applicable to victims of rape and sexual assault, who may be scapegoated because of the locales they frequent, their provocative manner of dress, or even the behavior exhibited.  Perhaps the most prominent proponent of this mindset is former Sheriff of Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) David A. Clarke.