Independence and Freedom


                                                                    Independence and Freedom

Little Rock 9

Recently, I came across a newspaper from another community.  In it I found that there was not one act of violence or crime reported, no discussion of poor academic achievement, inadequate housing, political unawareness or uncertainty.  There were at least three pages of fund raisers for children’s camps and programs with not a hint of a BBQ or cookout event.  Its features section highlighted the accomplishments of their people locally and abroad.  There was no effort to hide the fact that the newspaper promoted the history, culture, religion and heritage of its people.  Advertisements and financial support of the newspaper were widely evident throughout.

Examining this newspaper led to thoughts about that community and the issue of freedom.  It is doubtful that the community represented in the pages of that newspaper would surrender itself to outsiders.  They have a tight hold on what is important and their need for progress.  Unfortunately, the picture isn’t the same in communities of color.  In communities of color, the struggle continues to gather together and unite for our common good.

This is especially crucial during the Midterm Election year in the US Congress.  Do we throw away voting in the first African American President for a second term, to surrender that to a Congress that has  obstructed every project, program and initiative the President has sought to introduce for the benefit of all Americans?

The right to vote is central to freedom.  In communities of color, that right is being chipped away bit by bit.

Think of why individuals waited on long lines to vote for President Obama.  Although many believe the Black vote was about race.  Make no mistake, Herman Cain, a Black Republican, was not going to win the Presidency.   It was really about ideals and inequities.  The hope was to vote for a President that aligned with our values and beliefs.  A President who would work hard to promote and pass policies that would lift all sinking boats and move American economic and social progress forward.

It cost a lot to stand on those lines and cast that vote.  Some people lost wages from jobs that didn’t pay for missed time.  Some people sacrificed free time to register people to vote way in advance.  It cost precious gas to ferry friends and neighbors to the polls to cast their votes.

The vote is central to addressing the problems and inequities that continue to exist in society.  Let’s examine unemployment.  While the news that employment continues to improve monthly, with more jobs available and less people unemployed, the story is different in communities of color.  Our jobless rate is the highest in the nation.  Google recently disclosed its employment diversity record and it was not good.  Women make up 30% of its overall workforce.  Blacks and Hispanics comprise 2% and 3% of its workforce respectively.  Google received credit for disclosing such a poor record of diversity, but there is much that voters can say about companies which have such poor records of diversity.

Back in the day, they were called quotas.  A company had to meet a certain mandate of diversity in their workforce or suffer government sanctions.  A similar type of system where tax abatements and reduced research and development stipends can be implemented  to those companies which lack diversity.

Google gave as its reason for such poor record of diversity as the small percentage of computer science degrees earned by women and minorities.  However, its percentage of its non-technical workforce is just as low at 3% and 4% respectively for Blacks and Hispanics.

How many scholarly, intellectual and well-rounded individuals of color do you know that are currently unemployed, many for long periods of time.  In nearly every city, the numbers for unemployed people of color is greater than the national average.  It cannot be that everyone of those people are unqualified individuals.

What does education have to do with it?  Is it true that we aren’t getting the jobs because of the quality of education received?

This year we commemorated the 50th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education when separate and unequal education was legislatively eliminated.  These days, particularly in New York City, segregated schools are the norm. The price paid to integrate the schools was enormous.  It is most famously represented in a black and white video from the day the Black Students arrived at Little Rock High School.  They were taunted, spit at, screamed at and with all sorts of horror visited upon them by a white mob keen against integration.  “Segregation Now, Segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” was famously spoken by Governor George Wallace in his cry against integration.

It cost those young students a lot and today, what price residents willing to pay?

Freedom costs.  Freedom isn’t free.  It requires effort, time and sometimes money.  Here are some things we can do immediately that would have impact and not cost a great deal of effort or time.

1. Keep our children in school all the way through college.  Education is precious and is the right to all Americans.  There are ways to fund that a secondary education that will help make this a reality.

2. Vote! It bears repeating.  Vote in politicians who think, act and speak like us.  Vote them out when they don’t.  Just ask Eric Cantor, US Representative from Virginia.  When he failed to follow the party line and spent too much time advancing his own leadership, he found himself unemployed.  If our elected officials cannot deliver the goods: better schools, housing, jobs safety, businesses, they are walking the pavement!

3. Control everything within the fortress.  Why is only half of the police force that protect our community made up of its residents?  Why are so many businesses owned and operated by people who live outside of the community?  Why are we happy when Walgreens comes to the neighborhood, but don’t foster the Mom and Pops?

Finally, back to that newspaper.  There is no freedom until we learn the lesson that newspaper was trying to teach.  That you must constantly be alert and aware.   Be fearless in projecting your history and culture without regard about what others might think and say. Determine what the collective achievement and accomplishments will be in the future and strive for them.  §

Photo: ‘Little Rock Nine’, first African American students to integrate Little Rock High School being escorted in the school by the 101st Airborne Division (public domain)

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