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Being Black in the 21st Century

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

 

In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to address the question – what does it mean to be black in America today? The 20th century was filled with extraordinary black leaders, marches on Washington, desegregation, and at the dawn of the 21st century we elected a black President.

What’s more, most black people no longer have to think race first, human being second. Yes, we still tend to congregate amongst ourselves but so do Latinos, Italians, Greeks and many other ethnic groups. In my opinion, that’s normal and not a sign that we have not, for lack of a better word, evolved.

No, the main “problem” facing black people in 2011 is a lack of identity. For centuries we were defined by others and defined ourselves by what was done to us. We were enslaved, we were treated like chattel, we had our rights stripped from us, we had few opportunities for advancement, etc.

In 2011, that’s simply no longer true. So who are we? Think about it, if your entire existence has always been defined and controlled by another group, what happens when that group no longer pulls the purse strings?

What happens when you actually win your freedom?

Maybe that’s the wrong question. Perhaps the problem is as a society we want to lump all black people together. We’re not all the same, some of us can’t dance, play basketball, and leaving her nameless some black people I know even like Country music. Perhaps a result of freedom is the loss of collective identity. Is that so bad?

It isn’t in my opinion. Instead, it means we’ve come to a place where we do not need to define ourselves by our race. We can define ourselves by our actions and as Dr. King opined, the content of our character. And that was the point of freedom.

So this Black History Month, I’m celebrating the fact that I am free to write this piece without fear of bodily harm and also encouraged to know that my kids will be free to be whatever they want to be.

I’ll trade pre-1960s collective thought for 21st century freedom any day.
 

 

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