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I was asked recently by a mentor of mine to elaborate on some of my personal thoughts on race. Specifically, he wanted my reply to the question, “What exactly I feel as though I am owed by society due to the fact that I am bi-racial?” My response, “20 acres and half a mule…” But a far shorter answer devoid of humor would be “absolutely nothing”. That is when examining the issue of reparations up close, one discovers that the only individuals actually promised the Famous “40 acres and a mule” were those that fought in Grant’s Army during the Civil War. Unless you can trace your lineage back to those days, connecting with slave born families is near impossible. While I am of the few lucky individuals who is able to trace his lineage back to Grant’s Army and the ancestor who served therein, I would not seek claim on either the acreage or the animal. The reasoning behind this is quite simple from my perspective; first I did not fight in a war, secondly paying out this paltry sum to those deserving would lead to the many not receiving what their families might actually be owed from being enslaved. I do feel as though I as well as my compatriots in the racial struggle are indeed deserving of equality. I believe all peoples are owed that very same measure of respect.
Martin Luther King Jr. once uttered a sentiment I share when he said, “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ ”
When M.L.K (Martin Luther King Jr.) first stated these words during the March on Washington, much of America was unfairly regulated against peoples of color. Thankfully, much has changed since that elliptical day. The Civil Rights Act was passed despite record breaking filibuster attempt on behalf of the Democrat’s Sen. Robert Byrd; additionally our nation’s first President of color was elected. Obviously these factors and others being considered, African Americans as a people have gained some ground in the struggle for equality. However, there are still major differences between how races are perceived and how they are handled in our modern America. Schools that preside in areas of ethnic majority are vitally underfunded and mismanaged. The wealth gap that was first created by slavery has shifted greatly but by and large still affects the black community and benefits those initial companies that used slave labor in their onset some 150 years ago. In fact 1 in 30 African Americans are business owners and 1 in 100 is a millionaire, 25% of America’s buying power is controlled by blacks in regards to not just entertainment, but also sporting goods and beauty products and several other economic categories. One of the last great places of inequality in this America we now reside lies solely with the Justice Department.
Cases like Trayvon Martin and the Stand Your Ground law, as well as Stop and Frisk practices in New York have pushed the uneasy topic of race back into the spotlight. Black youths are murdered by Law Enforcement Officials at higher rates than any other group, representing a large percentage of the total officer involved shooting casualties that exist in the U.S. With facts like these to consider, it is no wonder many African American families give their young adult male children something they know as “THE TALK”.
“The Talk” for those of you unfamiliar with the term is an honest and long discussion parents must have with us so “We don’t act a fool in Public” (Quoting my mother), but speaking more precisely it is an operators code of conduct if you will for being young and black in America. That code of conduct list can contain items like “you are not treated equally to your white counterparts”, “Don’t use slang when speaking to police officers, and always be respectful”. More recently new items have been penciled in on the list expanding it in an era where most thought they would soon be able to retire it. Items like, don’t wear a hoodie at night due to what happened to Trayvon Martin, have now appeared in many African American families’ talk agenda.
This upcoming week my little brother, Taylor Howard will be receiving the first in what I am sure is a series of “The Talk”, we will be following this conversation along with him. Taylor is now 15 and approaching an age and size were he at least in the eyes of the public is considered an adult male. Because of this it is time for him to receive his version of “The Talk”. We will analyze the necessity of this speech and I will ask the question why I never received or was forced to listen to a talk in the same nature? I am half black/ half white and especially in my youth, was able to blend into different social and racial groups seemingly at will. I wonder if this could have been a factor in my own lack of preparation when I first encountered racial strife. Hopefully there will come a day in which “The Talk” is not only unnecessary, but also unheard of. But until that day folks, I hope logic will prevail.
*Pictures featured from Top to Bottom: President Barack Obama with family members from his father’s side, Trayvon Martin, Taylor Howard wearing a Powerfist Tee