Ada Fisher: Race still matters when you’re not white

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I’m sure that the death of more young black males will occur at the hands of the police, but racism may not be the total story. As I watched a couple of businesses burning in Ferguson, Mo., I couldn’t help but reflect on the Black Panther Movement, the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King beating and now the unfortunate death of Michael Brown. What did those riots accomplish in the long run?

One of the major problems is young black males are often perceived as scary — not just by the police, but by their own communities, often terrorized by their underclass culture imbued with a sense of hopelessness.

The irony is that we — as a people often brought to these lands for cheap labor, discouraged from becoming educated and increasingly isolated from a strong family structure — are showing no value to a larger technologically based society. The Occupy Wall Street crowd is showing some of the same but on a different plane. We can now produce less with fewer people. Will people of color be obsolete except for cheap labor or a source of employment for our new overseers, the welfare system?

We have given our power to others rather than remember that dues have to be paid every day. James Brown’s mantras are lost and should be readopted, i.e., “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself).”

“Say It Loud, We’re Black and We’re Proud” has wilted into a pathetic discourse. Too many pander to victimization, acting as if we say it loud, we’re black and can’t help it. Respect for self must resonate to our very core, for a proud people keeps themselves in check, informed and on point.

As Malcolm X noted in a different sense now, “Our chickens have come home to roost,” and we haven’t prepared ourselves for the fast pace of change in society. We the people do have a voice, and the ability to positively act isn’t being valued.

A second problem is that the jobs too many youth of color (as well as white youth) aim to do involve entertainment such as music and sports. It saddens me to see the number of kids and gang members who buy sports jerseys for colleges that they aren’t likely to attend. A young black male has a better shot at becoming a physician than making it to the NBA or NFL. Yet tens of thousands of our kids aim to be professional athletes and have built a culture of casualness toward academics and technology while dressed in sports paraphernalia. Where are our doctors? Who will be our next Nobel scientists?

Thirdly, too many of our young and old, regardless of color, misperceive the value of their talents. Coming from a time when folks had to have two or three jobs just to make it, Obamacare has triggered a resurgence of this because anything over 29.5 hours means companies would have to pay benefits.

Finally, for me the cultural institutions vital for our growth, safety and security have become dysfunctional. Churches are glorifying ministers instead of G-d. Families are being deserted by men as heads and primary supporters. Children and adults lack civility, often showing crude and disrespectful behavior as they are left to raise themselves from the bowels of drug dens. Small businesses have disappeared and when present are owned by folks who don’t look like us, identify with us or recycle money in our communities. Public housing facilities designed to accommodate us are perceived as “Negro Removal” projects. And our historically black colleges and universities falter from lack of capital in our endowments, financing for students and leadership which can adequately manage the funds on hand and in demand.

Are we as black people becoming an unnecessary inconvenience? Illegal immigration, leadership which promotes everyone’s benefit from gains largely achieved by us, the elimination of help from the defunct Regional Minority Small Business Assistance and changes in educational assistance are pushing blacks to the back of the bus again.

We need to get off the bus and become the entrepreneurs who brought the nation Garrett Morgan’s fire extinguisher, Hugh Cale’s vision for Elizabeth City State University, Reginald Lewis’ Beatrice Foods or Black Wall Street in Durham, Atlanta, Roseboro, Okla., and elsewhere. We need to buy black as a nation, from Glory foods to Black Enterprises magazine to Steps by Stephens and other options, to economically stimulate communities of color.

It’s been over 60 years since the 1954 desegregation decision of Brown vs. the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education ruling stating separate-but-equal wasn’t  fair. How long is long enough to rectify the ills of the past?  The courts are gradually eroding the validity of the issue of race. Those living in this skin of high melanin content best learn that there will be no rescuer for us but us, and it is time to rise up and take responsibility for our own lives.

We may be entering an emerging war of brown versus black, rather than deal with the issue of automatically granted unearned white privilege which still values some over others.

Dr. Ada M. Fisher lives in  Salisbury. Contact her at P. O. BOX 777; Salisbury, N.C. 28145 or