Reality Check - The Black Middle Class must wake up and smell the collard greens
By A. Peter Bailey
Trice Edney Wire
Make no mistake about it. Seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin is dead because of his race. In this white supremacist country it has always been considered much less of a crime to kill a black man than to kill a white one. And this is the case whether the killer of that black male is a white supremacist or a self destructive black thug created by a white supremacist society. It is important to realize that not all people with white supremacist attitudes are white. There can be and are blacks with a white supremacist attitude.
It is for certain that these kind of killings will continue unless the larger black community, especially its middle class segment, cease being so complacent and begin to organize to protect its male children from both the White supremacists and their Black imitators.
If we as a people were taking care of business the way we should, George Zimmerman would have been afraid to shoot Trayvon Martin down the way he did. What the black middle class needs to do is best expressed in the following statements from brilliant, thought-provoking journalist and author Lerone Bennett, Jr. Wrote Bennett in his book The Challenge of Blackness:
"The black middle class can no longer avoid its destiny. The black middle class can no longer avoid the necessity of redefining itself in terms of the needs of black people. It is necessary now for the black middle class to become the servant of the black community and not the mediator of the white community. The dangers of the hour require the black middle class to become a transmission belt moving, goods, services and skills from the white community to the black community.
This redefinition, in turn requires a reevaluation of all duties and obligations in terms of the fundamental value of black liberation. And this means, on the individual level, that black professionals must recognize that they are black first and that their first duty is to black constituencies. Let us speak openly. It is the duty of black teachers to protect black children from educational genocide. It is the duty of black social workers to protect ADC mothers. It is the duty of all black people to represent black people and not the white structures which employ them.
This is, I suppose, a radical idea. But we are in a radical situation. And that situation requires us to transform ourselves and all the institutions of America. It would help enormously, in this connection, if we could develop a new concept of levels of involvement and engagement. In my opinion, it is not necessary for all black people to do the same thing. But it is necessary for all black people to do something. It is equally important for the black community to judge individuals on the basis of their contributions. Some men can write, some can fix cars, some can cook, some can raise hell: all – the writer, the mechanic, the cook, the hellraiser – are valuable because their skills are complementary and not contradictory."
Another very perceptive observation from Bennett is we must remember "that all people do not dominate for the fun of it, that the function of prejudice is to defend interests (social, economic, political and psychological interests) and that appeals to the fair play of prejudiced people are prayers said to the wind....Communities will change discriminatory patterns if they are forced to make clear-cut choices between bias and another highly cherished value - - economic gain, education or civic peace."
There are some Black middle class people who are already doing what Bennett advocates, but not nearly enough. Too many are living in fantasy land. The latter must remember that the White supremacist haters and their Black thug imitators don't make distinctions.
Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, is currently editor of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches.
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