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Black Self-EsteemNow that we have--or will have, in January, 2009--a Black president,...

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billardis | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2008 at 6:15 AM via web

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Black Self-Esteem

Now that we have--or will have, in January, 2009--a Black president, we should put this topic on the table as a high priority. The history of the U.S. is littered with ugliness regarding African American people: slavery, lynching, rape and casual murder. Generations of these factors have driven the self-esteem of many Black people to the ground. One in nine young Black men between 18 and 34 in America are in prison, a terrible statistic. These men represent resources for the health and growth of the U.S. that are being wasted. This pattern is reversible.

The Crips cofounder and gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams wrote about this situation plainly and eloquently in Blue Rage, Black Redemption, his autobiography. He also wrote a series of children's books called collectively the STW Street Peace Series. You can learn more about this extraordinarily valuable series of 8 books at www.stwlegacy.net and at www.tookie.com.

Stan's books are textbooks for this topic. The kids books especially should be required reading for young people of every race, for they are primers designed to help elementary school kids avoid the early lure of gang life and it destructive behaviors. 

After thousands of people fought long and hard to save Stan's life, he was executed by the State of California on December 13, 2005 for crimes of which he was innocent.

Bill Long
Damamli Publishing Company
Pleasant Hill, CA
staff@damamli.com
925-705-1612

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 6, 2008 at 7:13 AM (Answer #2)

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What about the many fine examples of black men and women in this country that don't flit around murder, drugs, rape, and the like?  Look at Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Phyllis Wheatley, Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, and the list goes on and on. 

These people refused to murder, sell drugs, drop out of school, and depend on social services for survival. 

Yes, slavery was and is a horrible thing.  When will we quit saying, "Poor me.  My ancestors were slaves.  You owe me" and take responsibility for the here and now?

The history of black America isn't the only blight on our country.  What about American Indians?  The treatment of the Irish, the Chinese, the Latin Americans?  What about the abomination of internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII?  How about unequal pay for equal work done by American women?

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billardis | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2008 at 7:27 AM (Answer #3)

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What about the many fine examples of black men and women in this country that don't flit around murder, drugs, rape, and the like?  Look at Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Phyllis Wheatley, Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, and the list goes on and on. 

These people refused to murder, sell drugs, drop out of school, and depend on social services for survival. 

Yes, slavery was and is a horrible thing.  When will we quit saying, "Poor me.  My ancestors were slaves.  You owe me" and take responsibility for the here and now?

The history of black America isn't the only blight on our country.  What about American Indians?  The treatment of the Irish, the Chinese, the Latin Americans?  What about the abomination of internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII?  How about unequal pay for equal work done by American women?

Amy, this is not about 'you owe me'. It is that we need as a country to publicly acknowledge the damage done by slavery and work with kids at a very young age to guide them away from romantizing gang life as presented to them to often by BET and other sources. Racism still lives on, subtly and overtly.

Of course there are many blights extant in our nation. This is only one. 

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 6, 2008 at 8:29 AM (Answer #4)

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I think that public admission has been made.  Several times.  We can't seem to get past it.  Instead of going all the way back to slavery days, why don't we deal with the issues of drop outs, teen pregnancy, drug use, abuse, and single parents?  All of this can't possibly go back to slavery days...these people weren't alive then.  It's an excuse that is repeatedly made.  A cop-out.

There is another issue, and I am glad that Mr. Obama has been elected for this reason:  his election and future presidency takes away the excuse of not getting up and getting things done in one's life.  Never again can anyone in this country claim that America is only free for white people and that only white people can rise above and succeed.  There are countless stories of young black and Latin American people coming from nothing and making something of themselves.  Movies are made about it all the time--take the movie Stand and Deliver, for example.  All kids can succeed, it just boils down to how badly do they want to? 

Until all students learn that education is valuable and that they must first respect themselves before others do, this will not happen.  Easy money is too alluring--crime draws them like flies to honey simply because it's quick and easy.  Anything worth having is worth working for...we are not doing a good job of instilling this in our kids.  Our welfare system cripples these young people. Their parents are on it, their grandparents were on it, and why shouldn't they also be taken care of by the government?  The fact that none of our young people feel that they should have to work for anything boggles the mind.  One exit poll in Florida had a young black woman stating that she voted for Obama because "he's going to pay my mortgage and my taxes."  I fear she is in for a surprise.  Even Oprah tells people who write her letters that she's not paying their bills for them.

Where do we draw the line and quit holding hands and spoon-feeding?  When do we expect our youth--of all colors, genders, religions, and sexual preferences--to start taking care of themselves? 

Educated blacks agree--Bill Cosby has said it many times--but what do they get for their hard work (aside from the cars, homes, and the ability to pay their own bills)? They are turned on by other black people and called disparaging names for giving up on "their own".    

 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 6, 2008 at 8:54 AM (Answer #5)

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The lack of respect for education is the real problem for all races. When young people see athletes, music entertainers, actors, etc., make it big without a diploma or college degree, they think they can do the same. What they fail to see is the hard work and effort those people put in to getting where they are. I can't tell you how many boys have said to me that they don't need to do well in English; they're going to play in the NFL! I've even been reprimanded by the principal of my school for disparaging athletes--all because I told them that every high school in every town in every state has a star athlete. Out of those thousands of stars, only a few get into the good universities, and fewer still get drafted into the NFL.

But how many billions of dollars do we throw at education every year, and what difference has any of it made? Until we really get serious about overhauling our whole education system to really get rid of corruption and mishandling of funds and really do have equal education for all, the problem will remain the same. If young black and white people can't get the jobs that pay more than minimum wage, we'll continue to have the "you owe me" attitudes.

We also need to overhaul our welfare system. I teach in a low-income, majority white community. In the past year, I have heard of at least 4 students who have been told by their parents that as soon as they turn 18 and the government checks stop coming, they are on their own. One girl's mother even encouraged her to get pregnant so that she (the mother, not the girl) could get welfare money.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted November 8, 2008 at 10:44 PM (Answer #6)

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I think Senator Obama's presidency will definitely bring to the forefront many racial issues that need to be addressed. I also believe that our welfare stystem MUST be overhauled.  It is enabling, in my opinion, and has not served its true purpose and intent.  I agree with amy-lepore that we must get past the "owe me" mentality of many people.  This, to me, is a scapegoat for bad behavior, screwing up our lives and the lives of others, etc.  

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