The Black American State of the Union Address
By Gartrelle W. Sexton, Esq.
In honor of Black History Month, I want to address my fellow Black Americans about the state of our union. Now many of you are probably saying, “What union? I don’t see any unity.” You know what? You’re right, there is no real unity among our people and I honestly don’t think there ever will be. Wow, I have no hope for our people huh? Well let me break it down for you.
One thing that our people fail to realize is that amongst ourselves, we are Americans before we are Black. We were born here and raised on American values. We think like Americans. Black, Brown, White, whatever. It is who we are. We are Americans first and foremost. Our Blackness is secondary. Black people in America are not a monolith (go look it up). We are a diverse group of people who will never truly unite in this country because we DON’T all share the same values, morals, and backgrounds. Our unique experience in this country has taken our people down every life path imaginable. Our only true common bond is the continent from which we originated. Even our ancestors’ years of oppression as slaves in this country was a varied experience to say the least.
America is a country built on distinctions of economic class, not race. The economic classism that America was built upon has not escaped the attitudes of Blacks in America since end of slavery days. The work of great Civil Rights leaders such as the late Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King has allowed for Blacks to achieve even greater levels of economic prosperity since the 1960’s. And therein lies the dilemma. The economic gap in wealth among Blacks grew even greater. The social divide widened. The attitudes, the priorities, the values among our people continued to change and became more assorted.
So often I hear Black people say, “Who are our leaders?” or “Who is going to be the next leader of Black people?” My answer is you can’t have a leader of a people who don’t share a common goal or a common ideology. Black people don’t all share the same views on religion, politics, economics, education, etc. There can be no one leader for all Black people. Remember, Dr. King didn’t have the support of ALL Black people when he led the Civil Rights movement. That’s the beauty of Black people. Not only do we come in all shades and colors, but we also carry different perspectives and ideas about every thing under the sun.
Remember, we are AMERICANS above all else, and unfortunately while our Constitution says that this nation was built on noble principles, the reality is that this country was founded on classism and capitalism. And as Americans, Black people are a part of the machine. We are the rich, we are the poor. We are the middle class, we are the working class. Quite often our socio-economic status in America helps to shape our attitudes and actions.
So what needs to be done to help the segment of Black America that suffers from poor education, poor health conditions, and a lack of economic empowerment? How does the segment of Black America that is in the higher socio-economic class help the rest of the Black population? Maybe first I should ask, “Why should they?” “Do they owe Black people anything?” Before any of these questions can be answered, there has to be a major cultural shift in the thinking of all Black people. We have to un-train our minds of the “American way of thinking.” We have to rid ourselves of the classism and elitism. We have to rid ourselves of the resentment against those who are trying to educate us about better ways of living, spending, and investing. We all need to refocus about the things that we deem important. Whether that be moving to the suburbs and buying a Benz, or buying our children video games and expensive shoes before we buy them a book. You see in America, the rich try to distance themselves from the poor, while through the acquisition of material things; the poor try their best to at least appear to have some wealth.
So how do we make that cultural shift? I wish I knew, I’m just your average American.