black man life community

I Can’t Breathe – What being a Black Man has felt like Recently

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Life in America has been a whirlwind recently. With the killing of George Floyd on top of a pandemic and mass unemployment, anger has engulfed her people. I have been angry. At a lot and for a lot of reasons.

There is this story in the bible about a young ruler named Samson. He was born into a dysfunctional family amongst a dysfunctional people. And in addition to being denied what was his, he was surrounded by impotency. I have been angry, because I have been alarmed at the impotency of some within the black community.

On the flipped side of all the devastation in the country, there has also been never before seen abundance. As a black man who grew up hearing about and seeing how much greener the grass on the other side is, I have been totally engaged with doing whatever it is I have to do to get my grass as green as possible; And I know a lot of people who look like me who have always talked about striving for a better life, and achieving more for themselves.

So, at the sight of rain clouds/in the preparation of manna falling from heaven, one would assume that it would be lucrative to be prepared when the release finally comes. As a people I fear the justice we get will not fully be the justice we deserve. Not because it is not fully available to us (which it is not), but rather because some of us are not ready to act.

The black community has a chronic inability to attain or sustain. We lack drive, we lack motivation, we lack a connection with our truest desires, and as such we lack what truly matters, our humanity.

“Each one teach one”. It is as simple as that. Literally, the following is an excerpt on the origins of the concept:

It [each one teach one] is an African-American expression thought to have been brought to the United States during slavery, when enslaved people were denied education, including the right to learn to read. Many, if not most, enslaved people were kept in a state of ignorance about anything beyond their immediate circumstances, which were under control of owners, lawmakers and authorities.

Teaching slaves to read was an act of civil disobedience, as it was illegal many places in the United States. When an enslaved person learned or was taught to read, it became his or her duty to teach someone else, spawning the exhortation to “Each one teach one.” This recognized the duty owed by the beneficiary as a result of the courage and risk displayed by the teacher.

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    Samson matured into a mighty warrior and ruler, and as he grew up he uncovered the value of generosity (Judges 14:12-14). Each one teach one is rooted in the core value of generosity, and it has a genealogy in early African American tradition.

    Generosity is this: If I help someone then eventually that someone will help someone else. Generosity at the molecular level is how we create a legacy for ourselves.

    Samson understood the commodity that is the exchange of knowledge. Our enslaved ancestors understood the commodity that is the exchange of knowledge. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr who saw a promised land we have yet to reach understood the commodity that is the exchange of knowledge. I feel confident enough to say that as a community, we have cut off our own nose in spite of our face.

    The knowledge transfer divide is so deep, it is a chasm. This is where my anger, and the anger of other people who look like me come from. Each one has not been teaching one. And the one’s who have, have either been teaching the wrong thing the right way, or the right thing the wrong way. I am mad; black people are mad, because no matter how hard we work on our lawns the grass just does not seem to be getting any greener.

    How are we in a national pandemic that is not even America’s fault, and black people are the most impacted? Why is it that “essential worker” has become code for minority laborer? The black community has been playing at a disadvantage for far too long, and now that we have a chance to advance pass go, we’re finding out the banker does not have our $200, monopoly money or otherwise.

    America has indoctrinated us through over 400 years of slavery to, as Kanye put it: hate ourselves and love their wealth. Our youth and specifically our young black men have been taught that the only way to make it is to make it out. Which is fine and dandy, but if everyone is leaving, who is coming back and teaching?

    We have become a leaderless people because our leaders on all levels do not look like us nor do they specifically pass into law policies that benefit us. And as black people, we have to take ownness for some of this dysfunction ourselves. Positions of power are not about what office we hold, its about the proliferation of our generosity. Black people are not generous to themselves.

    In addition to not having immediate access to the right soil to help our grass grow, we will deliberately not use the right tools for the job, for fear they might actually work. This is also known as the crab in the bucket mentality, or “if I can’t have it, neither can you” mentality.

    The way we make it is together. We want to have the opportunity to live the same life as our white brothers and sisters, the life this country was built to accommodate. But for all of us that means not only do we have to reach forward, but we also have to be willing to reach back and pull someone else up.

    Divide and conquer is no longer a winning strategy. And we can no longer be visionless. The bible says that without vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). The black community’s greatest downfall in this season will be an essential uneducated decision being made. All of which will have proliferated from the knowledge chasm in the community.

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      This is not a bash on my people but rather a call for us to stay engaged and have an expectation. I have been on fire over the last week eager to do what I can. But now that the blaze has subsided, and I am not roaring with a mighty indignation I can see that the only way we as black people can effectively do our part is if we coalesce around each other. Right now, is when we must specialize in identifying and relying on each other’s strengths.

      Before we can require our oppressors to change, we must change. If we are seen not loving on or valuing each other in our own community, how can we expect someone from another community to give us our just portion.

      The road to freedom is a carpool lane.

      As human beings, our strength comes from our ability to make decisions. Recently, I have seen a lot of my people either afraid to make decisions, or void of any decision-making agency all together.

      When the riots and the looting are done, and black people are finally able to see the forest for the trees, I hope as a people we can acknowledge when we are being pacified and pandered to. We are an incredibly valuable people group in America, always have been, always will be, and its time for us to start building our own house. Defunding police departments will only be as effective as the plan my people have to use that money in our own community, if we even get any of that money.

      We are more than our buying power or our voting power. From now on we need to know what we want, the value in having it, and how we can give it to others. Forward is the only logical direction to go from here, and each one teaching one is the only way to get there.

      We can no longer be derelict on our duty to teach our own people. And we can no longer be timid in teaching our people in fear of being overshadowed. If we cannot get what we want today, we have to be willing and able to equip our successors to get it tomorrow.

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