"We hate each other so much; honestly I hate black people, Walter. So do you…Walter, as much you and I hate black people, we cannot lose sight of who we are because all we have is each other in the end…”
—Shades of Gray: The Introduction of Walter Harrison
Racism is a terrible stain on the soul. Anyone who has been a victim of racism or racial discrimination is nodding their head right now. Not only is the perpetrator of racist acts an extremely pained and malicious individual, the victim of racism is also a damaged (perhaps permanently) person.
In the short history of the United States of America, African Americans have been the most visible victims of racism. I say visible because many Native Americans were killed upon Europe’s “discovery” of America. From slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for Civil Rights, black people have had to overcome a lot. It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in the short time that the government has made its official policy not to discriminate against minorities.
With that said, black people have not come through their journey through American history unscathed emotionally and psychologically. The stain of racism is still upon African Americans, and there are examples everywhere; racism stains our music, our literature and, more importantly, how we interact with each other and treat each other.
It was more than a little horrifying when I logged onto ESPN and read a short story about boxer Bernard Hopkins taking shots at NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, accusing McNabb of not being “black enough” and not being tough as himself, Terrell Owens and Michael Vick because of McNabb’s “privileged upbringing.”
Growing up with two parents in the home isn’t a privilege; it’s an entitlement. All parents should strive to raise their children within a stable family, in comfortable living conditions. Sadly, 70 percent of black children don’t enjoy those comforts. Donovan McNabb should not be thought of as necessarily privileged because his parents did the right thing.
African Americans like Bernard Hopkins, Michael Vick, T.O. or me, should not think of ourselves as especially tough because we may not have had both of our parents in the home. Growing up in underprivileged conditions is not a badge of honor to be on display to the rest of the world. The experience of growing up without a father, without a mother, with both parents, with money or as broke as a joke should be used to educate and nurture future generations.
As an African American, I believe we (black people) all should use our vast range of experiences and upbringing to come together and start to repair the damage those years of bondage and discrimination has caused.
The institution of slavery existed for many different reasons, but one factor was the usage of the divide-and-conquer tactic. There were many differences amongst slaves that were exploited by savvy slave masters and overseers. Differences such as hair texture, skin color, living conditions and job responsibilities were used to quell much of the unity the slaves should have enjoyed in their shared bondage.
Job responsibility on the plantation was what Bernard Hopkins was alluding to when he stated that “McNabb was the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field.” That McNabb would have been working in the house “very comfortably,” while his fellow slaves would have been working in the field under the hot, southern sun.
We may be far removed from the plantation physically, but some of us are still there mentally and psychologically. Why else would Mr. Hopkins continue to take cheap shots at McNabb through the media? His continued obsession over McNabb being a sellout is nothing but the musings of the modern-day slave. He continues to accuse McNabb of not being black enough, but what is “less black” than inspiring dissension amongst African Americans through the media? I’m sure his opinions were shared in front of people who look nothing like himself or McNabb.
Do you know what the slave masters and overseers did at night after a day full of forcing black slaves to work for no compensation, beating them and defiling black women?
Why? Because they didn’t have to worry about a challenge to their corruption while slaves were too busy worrying about who was a sellout and who wasn’t.
In the year 2011, we have the freedom our ancestors fought for and a black president. But it won’t produce the change Barack Obama spoke of if people like Bernard Hopkins foolishly continue to carry the legacy of slavery well into the 21st century.