Freedom: Elusive, illusive for Blacks

Above my husband, who is white, participating in a peaceful demonstration in our city

Nearly two decades have passed since I ended my “career” as a Sunday Op Ed columnist for The (Stockton) Record, a Gannet-owned daily newspaper with a 60K circulation at the time. To illustrate the decline of daily newspapers, today’s Record circulation is a whopping 28K. In reviewing those 450 columns–written between 1991 and 2000, I’ve observed that much of their content continues relevant. Starting today, I’m re-printing some of my columns as suggested long ago by my editor, the late Richard Marsh. I will add notes in italic when needed to compare or expand upon certain points. The following is my very first column, published October 2, 1991:

It has often been brought home to me that each of us has a unique perspective because of being permanently locked inside our own vessels and forced to witness life from within its confines. Genetics significantly influence not only how we relate to life from inside this vessel, but how we’re seen by others.

As a Black woman who came of age in the searing 60s, I witnessed societal gains by my people that made us begin to feel good about ourselves. It is the losses, however, that continue to concern me and serve as convincing markers that those gains which so inspired us over the ensuing decades have not kept pace with those enjoyed by the superstructure that is our current world. The freedom that we so diligently labored for in those heated times remains as illusive today as it was in the days of my youth.

Freedom. From the time I began to get a sense of what being Black was about, I knew that I had an inner yearning to be free. The word “freedom” conjured up beautiful Technicolor images in my mind’s eye–images of birds in flight, of endless blue sky, golden meadows, valleys lush with verdant growth of evergreen and I, floating unencumbered through all of this loveliness, lovely and loved and protected.

While we have achieved some of the outer trappings that signify a free society, inside our skins the chains of racism continue to chafe our very souls. The specters resurrect each time we witness the vacant stare of a “cracked-up” brother or sister pushing a grocery cart laden with all of her/his worldly goods through the streets. And as long as this travesty exists, there can be no freedom. As long as there is one in chains–physical or emotional–we will all wear them.

Racial intolerance is being seen with increasing frequency in today’s “enlightened” society. Recently an acquaintance experienced a cross-burning on her front lawn in north Stockton. A similar incident of cross-burning occurred in Modesto. We suffer negative press in increasing numbers via the media–print and visual. When there are drug busts, the perpetrators are more often than not Black. Add theft, shootings, murders, gang wars and other violent acts of crime to this list. Strangely enough, Blacks seldom seen to commit “white-collar” crimes. Semantics–a powerful tool that when cleverly used by the media can wreak verbal havoc upon a gullible public.

The attitude of some of today’s youth frightens and deeply concerns those of us who have witnessed a great evolution of the racial state of being in America. As the mother of a 14-year-old girl, I am intimidated by certain messages being sent through much of the rap music that is so appealing to the young. While some are positive and caution youngsters against drugs and gangs, many seem to glamorize violence and sex.

As distasteful as it is for parents whose musical roots stem from another generation, it is imperative that we listen to and maintain some control over what our children are listening to. Ours is a drug culture, hard drugs, soft drugs–drugs. They are allowed to flow into our country in order to soothe, placate and render mindless those Blacks and other susceptible minorities.

This, coupled with muzzling certain potentially authentic leaders–educators, community activists, attorneys–while giving favorable press to certain others–self serving ministers, politicians, entertainers, sports figures (charismatic as some of them may be, they are the icons that white society uses to limit the movement/progress), is an effective means of stifling the movement and a major factor in today’s lack of progress toward racial parity. In a word divisiveness.

We are brutalized on every front while the carrots of liberty continue to be dangled in our faces–just outside of our collective reach. Those in the forefront of the struggle today basically agree on one thing: We as a people must bring about the changes, if changes are to come. We must examine and confront the issues of investing in our children, our families, our communities, our nation. We must continue the quest for freedom. We must VOTE!

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