These are the cultural norms of African Americans…
The Extended Family
- Cousins, Aunts, Mother, Father, Uncle
- By blood relative and non-relatives… Play mom (Godmother, Godfather), play cousins, play nieces, play nephews, play grandmothers, play grandfathers)
- Involved in some type of church religious activity
High Value on Children
- Children come first
Respect for the Elderly
- Always respectful to adults and especially to the elderly
Flexible Family Roles
- Mother working and father taking care of kids
- For self and community
- Not doing something that you know you should not do. Knowing right from wrong
- To self, family, and community
- I keep the kids one day and you keep the kids the next.
Can you think of any examples of how these cultural values apply to you and your family?
Hill, Robert B. Ph. D 1999. The Strengths of African American Families- Twenty-five Years Later. University Press of America, Lanham, MD.
Sudarkasa, Niara. Ph. D “Interpreting the African Heritage in Afro-American Family Organization.” Pp 27-43 in Black Families, Ed. Harrielle, P. McAdoo, Newbury, Park, CA: Sage Publications, (1988).
Claim to Fame: an excerpt from the book Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now, written by Gary A. McAbee
An important idea that African Americans can use is the concept of making claims. Making a claim is another way of saying making a declaration about something. The degree to which we believe in the claims we make is the conviction that we have when we actually make the claim. It is also all about faith. More faith means that we can make more powerful claims. More powerful claims are destined to become reality if we believe that they will come true.
There are different types of claims we can make and different expectations that African Americans can have for each claim. The first type of claim is what we can speak into existence. When we speak it, it becomes ingrained in our thoughts and daily routines. The claim becomes a call-to-action. The call-to-action puts us to work on what we have spoken. It is just a matter of time before the work we put in will produce the results we want.
If you want more peace in your life, speak it into existence. Your actions will lead you to find peace. If you want more money, speak prosperity into existence. Your actions will lead to greater wealth. If you want love in your life, speak it into existence. Your actions will lead you to find a suitable mate. We must be aware that the claim must be supported by effort or it will not come to pass. Faith without works is dead.
Another method of claiming is to know your best friend: you. Based on what you know about yourself, you can figure out how to make the right claims based on your talents and abilities. The idea is to use your talents and put them toward a goal that is attainable. Many people shoot for the moon with a slingshot, then question why their expectations do not come true. Instead, we should learn how to match our skill sets with our desires and claim what we want based on accurate conclusions.
What is your claim to fame based on what you know about yourself? Do you handle crisis situations well? Your claim to fame could be helping others. Maybe it is the care and concern you show for others. Do you handle your business effectively? Your claim to fame could be running your own business. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can make your claims based on your potential to be successful.
An example of the concept of making your claim to fame is finding your passion. Another way to look at passion is identifying what you are good at doing. Is there anything that you wouldn’t mind doing for free as long as you do not need it for financial support? Your passion is something that you do that makes you feel alive and at your best. It does not have to be work-related or tied to a specific job. Passion makes us commit all of our energy to what we want to accomplish.
After African Americans identify their passion, we must claim it. Let the world know your talents and abilities. This is the reason why we are given our talents. It does no good if an African-American woman or man is blessed with unique abilities, but does not live up to their potential. As a race, we all suffer every time this occurs. We must build upon our talents to make a difference in our communities. It all starts with making a claim.
Those who do not excel when they know their passion are usually good at claiming failure instead of success. How many African Americans do you know who choose defeat before getting started? It is surprising how many people accept failure before making an attempt. Also, if they speak failure into existence, failure will be sure to arrive. The concept of claiming your fame works both ways.
The enemy of making a positive claim is fear. When fear is present, it prevents people from seeing positive outcomes. Instead, we close the door to success. There is a familiar story of a man who worked at the US patent office in the 1800s. He was confident that everything could possibly be created was already invented. He made a claim that humans could not invent any more things, so he quit working in the office. This man’s claim to fame was underestimating the power of human creativity, ingenuity, and imagination. His claim to fame is also having his story used as an example 150 years later!
The example leads us to an important part of the process. If we make the correct claim to fame and make it come to pass, we will be remembered for our accomplishments. The highest achievers in our race made their claim to fame. Benjamin Banneker’s claim to fame was mathematics and astronomy. Lorraine Hansberry’s claim to fame was writing plays and essays. Matthew Henson’s claim to fame was exploration. Madame CJ Walker’s claim to fame was invention.
Imagine what would have happened if these great African Americans would not have claimed their fame? What if they did not speak about their vision and goals until they became reality? Suppose they did not find their passion and pursue it until they realized their dreams. These people, along with countless other African Americans, claimed their fame. As a result, our race is better off because of their successes. Our world has reaped the benefits their achievements.
Just like we will be remembered for our achievements, we will also be remembered for our shortcomings if we do not live up to our potential. So once again, we end up back at the same starting point. Claim your fame and work to make it a reality. Claim positive results and positive results will come to pass. Find your passion and make it the driving force behind your success.
The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.
Along the way there have always been obstacles put in our way for us to overcome. There have always been challenges for us to recognize and face. There have always been questions we needed to answer just to become qualified. I think we have overcome numerous obstacles, faced several challenges, and answered all of the questions correctly. Now we must take the next step by defining our true identity.
During our journey, we have been identified in many ways. We have been called many names. We have been given many titles. Our character and worth as a people has been defined for us, and often not in glorious terms. We have been told we are inferior, unworthy, incapable, unlovable, unredeemable, ungodly, unlawful, uneducated, unteachable, unreachable, lazy, and ugly.
Now I ask a simple question: Who said you are _______? Do you believe them?
If you believe them, then they have won. They have defined your character for you. I am here to refute everything they have said. I am here to break every stereotype they can find. I am here to correct every false opinion about us.
Now I ask a simple question: I say you are __________ . Do you believe me?
If you believe me, wake up and seize your victory. Use self-identification to define your true character. Live up to everything I am about to say. Break every stereotype about who you are. Correct every false opinion they have about you.
Who said you are inferior? I say you are superior!
Who said you are unworthy? I say you are worthy!
Who said you are incapable? I say you are capable!
Who said you are unlovable? I say you are lovable!
Who said you are unredeemable? I say you are redeemed!
Who said you are ungodly? I say you are God-fearing!
Who said you are unlawful? I say you are law-abiding!
Who said you are uneducated? I say you are educated!
Who said you are unteachable? I say you can be taught!
Who said you are unreachable? I say you are reachable!
Who said you are lazy? I say you are energized!
Who said you are ugly? I say you are beautiful!
Now that you have been correctly identified, rise up and find success! The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.
One house in a row of five houses is on fire. One of the houses that is not on fire is a blue house. The fire department is called to the neighborhood. They immediately rush to the house on fire and commence to their spray water. As they do this, are they saying the hell with the other houses that are not on fire? Ask yourself, are they neglecting the houses that are safe? Are they making a conscious decision to disregard the people in the blue house?
No, they are addressing the problem: one of the houses is on fire and we are here to address the problem. The house on fire is #BlackLivesMatter. The houses that are safe are #AllLivesMatter. The people in the blue house are #BlueLivesMatter (#CopsLivesMatter). In the case of the blue house, things appear to be normal, but maybe a closer inspection will uncover that their house needs attention too. But even in this case, is the blue house in more danger than the burning house?
I can’t understand why it is so hard to understand this. If you are reading this and you still don’t get it, let me try to explain it again because this issue is so important to me…
October will be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Does this mean in October we will say who cares about lung cancer awareness and those who suffer from that illness?
Save the rainforests and save the whales? So I guess the other forests and sea animals don’t matter.
A doctor is an eye surgeon. Does anyone have the right to tell her or make her also perform root canals?
Each one of these examples is utterly ridiculous. They are so ridiculous that they can be dismissed immediately. Yet when we discuss #BlackLivesMatter, critics can’t seem to comprehend that these examples are the “exact” same thing. Again, black lives matter DOES NOT MEAN we say who cares about white lives. Black lives matter DOES NOT MEAN other lives don’t matter. Black lives matter DOES NOT MEAN their cause can be told or forced to perform a different action, such as address the false narrative that is black-on-black crime.
Not clear enough yet? Let me politicize this for those who might choose to ignore or disregard those examples…
- For the military crowd:
Support our Troops in Afghanistan… does this mean forget about the ones in Iraq? How about the ones in South Korea?
For the gun control crowd:
We want to protect the rights of handgun owners, so the rights of shotgun owners do not matter.
For the support the veterans crowd:
Unfortunately, many of our veterans are suffering from combat-related illnesses. Should we concentrate on them, and let those veterans who are just homeless fend for themselves?
To be clear, I do not consider myself the smartest man in the room. I might think I say brilliant things, but never have I considered myself a genius. Honestly, I just consider myself an average person who has a pen, blog, and something to say. So I do not say this lightly…
…if, after all of these examples, you still do not understand #BlackLivesMatter, then something else must be going on. I have two potential explanations.
Explanation #1: There must be something more sinister that is directing your misunderstanding. If this is true, it is probably because of the inclusion of one small word. The inclusion of this word, dare I say, (Donald) trumps all ability to use reason to see what this issue is all about. The word is BLACK. Somehow this word, when it is used to discuss issues related to black people, is always perceived to be a threat (see Black History Month, Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, etc.). We are talking about a word! Can you imagine how some people feel when using this word is not enough, so we start marching in protests (aka #BlackLivesMatter) in cities across the country?
Explanation #2: There must be an intellectual gap that is directing your misunderstanding. This could be as simple as not understanding words or the analogies presented here. It could also be as simple as adding personal opinions and biases to this issue. Or it could be listening to those who are purposely and intentionally telling you not to use your ability reason and use common sense (this is called intellectual dishonesty). They tell you #BlackLivesMatter is a hate group, so you listen without investigating for yourself.
I will let you decide which explanation works for you if you choose not to understand. For some, nothing can convince them that #BlackLivesMatter does not mean “all lives” or “blue lives” do not matter. I guess we let those folks wear the shoes that fit them.
By the way, because I just mentioned shoes, does it mean I am anti-work boots?
Let me know what you think! I welcome your opinions and encourage meaningful dialogue…
Once again we have a police shooting in which a black person has lost their life at the hands of the police. Introducing Alton Sterling, the latest in a long line of black people whose deadly encounters with the police were recorded and shared. In my opinion, the cell phones today that capture these events and equivalent to the television feeds of the past that captured dogs and water hoses turned on black people during the Civil Rights Movement. These shocking images led to action. These recorded incidents captured today open up the possibility to analyze and debate exactly what happened. They also allow us to add what we see to what is reported to form our own conclusion. In this case I have a few issues that need to be addressed…
- Would community-based policing help?
Community-based policing revolves around the idea that the police become a part of the communities they patrol by getting to know people. If Alton Sterling was frequently at the spot where the incident occurred, community-based policing would have allowed the cops who patrol the area to know him and his reason for being there. It looks like Alton Sterling was a seller, and his product was probably copied CDs. To be clear, selling this is illegal. But, does it rank up there with selling drugs or committing more serious crimes? Of course not! Apparently the store owner had no problem with him being there, so maybe this is one where the police give this man a citation as needed. Maybe this would have prevented the incident. Cops who knew the neighborhood would have had knowledge that Alton Sterling was not out to do anything more sinister.
2. Are cops trained to de-escalate situations?
The next issue I am looking at is the idea of de-escalating a confrontation as opposed to escalating a confrontation. Obviously, police officers should be trained to de-escalate situations. It appears to me that in these controversial police shootings, the officers escalate the conflict more often than not. You can look at the Sandra Bland and Eric Garner arrest videos as proof of the police escalating confrontations. In this case, you can clearly hear the audio of the police dropping f-bombs while trying to subdue Alton Sterling. One draws his weapon at close range and says,”(if) you #@&$ ing move I swear to God”. To me, this is escalation. Do they teach this behavior and language at the academy as a part of making an arrest or de-escalating a tense situation? I seriously doubt it. If Sterling’s reaction was fear or to fight thanks to their escalation of the incident, then the resulting gunshots and their justification come as no surprise to me
3. Guns… to carry or not to carry?
I am amazed at how many times these situations include the “I thought he had a gun” or “he was reaching for my gun” defense. Once again, this defense turned justification for using deadly force against a person of color is a part of the story. I am confused about the right to bear arms that so many people either defend or reject. If Alton Sterling had a gun, and Louisiana is an open-carry state, doesn’t he have the right to bear arms? Is his right to bear arms automatically viewed as a threat because of his skin color? If so we must ask who is really allowed to openly carry guns in Louisiana. Just so we all know this is not a one-off incident, remember that John Crawford and Tamir Rice were both killed by police for holding (toy) guns in Ohio, which is an open-carry state like Louisiana.
*As a side note, actor and activist Wendell Pierce made a salient point about gun rights: if black men bought guns and openly carried them in states where it is legal, the (open-carry) gun laws would be changed overnight.
4. How do police officers discern who is a potential threat?
The main problem I have with many cops is discernment. To me, some cops can’t tell the difference between a black person who is menacing, and one who is not. In fact, the black person who is not menacing may even seem to be threatening when in reality they are fearful of an escalating confrontation with police. In this situation, some cops would assume the same level of risk or danger. This threat is far too often met with deadly force. I have been around black people all my life. I can clearly discern who is a threat and who is not. Sandra Bland was not a threat. Eric Garner was not a threat. Walter Scott was not a threat. Akai Gurley might have been a threat, but he was killed before the officer could have possibly identified the threat he was facing.
I am saying sometimes the police should use deadly force against people who present a deadly threat. But, do all of these cases represent confrontations with angry black men and women who need to be subdued with deadly force? To be fair, Trayvon Martin and Eric Brown represented a threat. The level of that threat is still up for debate. But what if both men, and countless others, were misidentified or driven to raise their level of hostility or fear in the midst of being in a life-or-death situation against the police? No one is suggesting police officers have an easy task when assessing the level of threat they face on a daily basis. However, in light of so many incidents, any reasonable person might want to at least ask if there is a better way for police to handle this part of their job.
As a closing thought, once again I look back on my past run-ins with police officers and thank God that none of them escalated into a confrontation. The point I want to clearly make is that any or all of those events could have resulted in a conflict. If the conflict was been handled by a cop who could not discern the threat level I was presenting, dare I say I might not be alive to write this post. What if the cop mistakenly thought something I had resembled a gun? Remember back then people were not able to pull out phones and record these situations.
My frustration lies with a possibility that many people on the other side of this issue may never understand. Unfortunately, it is because they do not have the ability (or the willingness) to use empathy and walk in my shoes for two seconds. If they did, they would realize I am alive while black…
I am John Crawford. I am Eric Garner. I am Sandra Bland. I am Tamir Rice. I am Akai Gurley.
As of yesterday, I am also Alton Sterling.