Friday, March 25, 2011

Identity Crisis...

While I was waxing nostalgic as I listening to some of the greatest music that this world has to offer: The 70's - Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, EWF, The Staple Singers, Mandrill, P Funk, Curtis Mayfield, Michael Henderson, Minnie Riperton, Heatwave, The Jacksons, Norman Connors, Chic, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and on and on and on, I had a sobering exchange with a female "friend", a sister, on Facebook. She posits herself as a member of the clergy and she had posted a picture of a very African-looking man that she was making fun of. She posted a caption that this was her "future husband - hahahaha". I privately mentioned that perhaps this wasn't the way that we Christians, especially those of us who purport to be called into ministry should be singling out another fellow human being. Her reply in short as she decided to "block" me: 'I was too serious and needed to recognize that GOD Has a sense of humor'. There the thought occurred to me -- what happened to pride that we used to have in our identity? What's happened when an ordinarily intelligent person considers prominent African features, GOD's Joke? Have we become like the sister in the Chris Rock documentary "Good Hair" who said that wearing her hair naturally had made her something of an outcast? No, this isn't a topic meant to create an ethnic divide but simply to try and reclaim something very useful...

Growing up in the 70's, I remember the zenith of black pride when we were willing to shake off the accepted standards of what was considered beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. We rejected the idea that natural hair and dark skin was unattractive and undesirable. To the contrary, we relished in black expression as defined by us. Some we borrowed from our African brothers and sisters like dashikis and wooden jewelry but others we originated or adopted such as blowout afros, hot pants, and platform shoes. The bottom line is that we took James Brown's seminal track, "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" as our national anthem. And it comes as no surprise that this represented the most progressive period of gains in civil rights, politics, and relations between ethnic groups. Our numbers grew in Congress, State houses, mayor-ships, and government positions in general more than at any time in the history of this country. The music of the time was also uniquely expressive of who we were as a people. We weren't rejecting anyone else's music forms, we were simply celebrating our us-ness! "Free Your Mind...", "That's the Way of The World", "Everyday People", "People Get Ready", "Respect" and "Respect Yourself", "Shining Star", "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black" and again the list goes on...

Fast-forward to the new millennium and we as black Americans have lost so much ground in spite of the more noteworthy gains. Sounds contradictory but here's the truth of the matter. Notwithstanding a black man in the White House, a governorship or two, and a relatively stagnant number of blacks in Congress; we have not only lost but continue to lose ground in so many areas. We have lost ground in Church membership while we've exploded the prison population. We have lost ground in owning businesses while we've exploded black-on-black crime statistics. We have lost ground in the number of black professionals and exploded the number of deaths due to gangs. We have lost ground in the number of black healthcare professionals while we've exploded the number of deaths due to HIVAIDS. We have lost ground in college presence while we've exploded the number of high school dropouts. We have lost ground in the number of nuclear families and exploded the number of teen pregnancies. We have simultaneously lost ground in corporate boardrooms, C-suite offices (CEO, COO, CFO, etc...), and MOST IMPORTANTLY in our homes and our communities. We used to have grass roots power that sprang from the embrace of our cultural differences...

What happened? Today, there's a sameness to our music, our styles, and our lack of passion for non-material things. That pride used to care - about and for each other. We loved our music and we loved ourselves -- and there's nothing wrong with that! Loving yourself doesn't mean hating anyone else. It doesn't mean disparaging anyone else, it just meant standing up for who and what you are. While we could once easily recognize the distinct sounds of both male and female vocalists along with the different rhythmic harmonics of the bands and even the regions of the country (Motown, Philly, Memphis, Chitlin' Circuit, LA, Chicago, DC, Texas, etc...); it's difficult to tell today's "artists" without a program. More disheartening still is the fact that the overall emphasis on cultural individuality has been so watered down that other ethnic cultures can rather easily replicate a passable facsimile (Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Michael Bolton, Christina Aguilera, Pussycat Dolls, etc...). Well, as I said earlier, this isn't about division. It's simply a suggestion that perhaps we need to reclaim that pride that led us out of 400 years of subjugation and third-class citizen status to claim our rights to be celebrated for our contributions and our place in the multicultural diaspora of this nation. Where we're headed doesn't appear to me to be where those who fought and bled and died for us would have dared to see us end up in their worst nightmare!

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Rod I totally agree with you! It's hard for me to understand why we still do this to each other! It puzzles me as to how we as a people have come so far on the backs of our ancestors, do so little with what we have! I am also glad you started this blog!!!