This is an Open Letter from a Black Man to His Fellow Black People; it is meant to be Read by People of All Colors.
First off, Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die. Eleanor Bumpers did not deserve to die. Amadou Diallo did not deserve to die. Sean Bell did not deserve to die. Patrick Dorismond did not deserve to die. James Byrd, Jr. did not deserve to die. James Craig Anderson did not deserve to die. And there are others, so many others, who absolutely did not deserve to die simply because of the color of their skin. Let us honor them and commit ourselves to raising our collective game by changing the institutions and beliefs responsible for their deaths. The alternative is to surrender to hatred, mindless rage and senseless murder. But again, those are the things that people who give up tend to do, but we, as black people, have a history of not giving up.
Note: Updated on 7/21/2011.
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Chairman, this year announced with the GOP calls the "Path to Prosperity", a plan replete with significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan has projected $750 billion in cost savings should the initiative be adopted, but critics charge that the plan will only succeed in endangering the lives of America's elderly by reducing their healthcare coverage. Ryan's plan would change Medicare from a Federal system that pays the beneficiary directly to a system of state-level block grants controlled by state governors that pays private insurance providers directly. Given that each state will receive a grant under the plan, there exists the possibility that the seniors could face a lower quality of coverage due to several factors that include a lack of funds allocated to their state. Conversely, the reverse is true in that some states could be granted more money for Medicaid expenditures than could reasonably be expended. No matter what the future may or may not hold, the one sure thing is that Ryan failed to mention that any funding issues plaguing Medicare were themselves exacerbated by the actions of the very Republican party he is part of, the same Republican party that caved in to special interests in an orgy of greed and pandering on the morning of November 22, 2003.
Television was once the conveyor of virginal imagery, the bringer of the Norman Rockwell version of America as beamed to homes from coast-to-coast by the gods of television on a daily basis. During those days long past there was a security in television that’s all but extinct today. Censors and sponsors combined to make TV a sterile landscape devoid of most forms of offensive behavior, sexual innuendos and expressions of thought contrary to the perceived norms of American society. Those were the days when “men were men and women were women”, when homosexuality was ignored and heterosexuality was limited to platonic hugs and closed-mouth kisses. War was a bloodless display of valor and manliness according to shows such as “The Rat Patrol” and “Combat”, while the American West was a place of brave, noble men who tamed fierce savages and felled outlaws with equally bloodless gunshots as evidenced by shows such as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke”. Women were seen as aspirants to domestic perfection and personified by such fictional pre-Martha Stewart domestic divas as June Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver” and Margaret Anderson in “Father Knows Best”. As to displays or the mere mentioning of the sex act, it was avoided at all costs even if it meant depicting a bedroom as surreal as the one containing the separate beds of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy” or as unseen as Ralph and Alice Kramden’s bedroom on “The Honeymooners”. Such is how it was prior to January 29th, 1968 – the date of the Viet Cong’s bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War – as television was, to that date, used as the great sanitizer of American life. Afterwards, it was a whole new ballgame.
When I decided to address the subject of the media, I suddenly understood just what it was like to be a shark at sea with the smell of fresh blood in the water. In the eyes of this humble and loyal American, the media in general and the Fourth Estate in particular have done great harm to the nation through slanted presentations and socio-politically skewed reporting that have time and again altered the national fabric. Focusing exclusively on the media's impact from the popularization of television in the late 1940s to today, I unequivocally state my firm belief that the media's coverage and comments regarding certain major events coupled with its polymorphic allegations of societal norms consistently transgress into the forbidden, dangerous realm of shaping both national opinion and national policy.
Underpinning our American society is a document that is now over 220 years old, one that was fashioned by some of the finest minds of the 18th century. What those Colonial intellects created was the United States Constitution, the supreme law of the land since its adoption at the Philadelphia Convention on September 17, 1787. On that day, a combination of merchants, land and financial speculators, slave owners, farmers, public officials, retirees, scientists, physicians, and persons engaged in other pursuits successfully completed a wide-ranging legal document in culmination of an effort that began with altogether different aims. The assemblage originally gathered with the intent of amending the Articles of Confederation, the document that defined the American system of government in de facto manner since the Second Continental Congress adopted it on November 15, 1777, and which defined American law since its ratification on March 1, 1781. However, in the 10 years since the Articles of Confederation were created, serious flaws were seen in its design, and those flaws, highlighted by the collection of fliers now collectively known as the Federalist Papers, could only be surmounted by scrapping the Articles of Confederation entirely in favor of a different national document. 21st century America remains guided by that document, one forged by men and men alone in a far distant era that not only preceded the crucial turning point in American history that was the Civil War by eight decades, but the Industrial Revolution, women's liberation, the civil rights movement, gay rights, electric lights, space travel, automobiles, and telecommunications as well. Given this, I seriously question the continued viability of such a document.
Let’s talk about the past, present, and future of Africans in America. Africans came to America either in chains or of their own volition. They came from both scattered tribes and unified kingdoms. They spoke or clicked different languages, they were of wildly different cultures, tribes, and nations, and they wrote using various scripts such as Coptic, Ge’ez, and Vai, but in America they are currently referred to by the one-size-fits-all term of “African-Americans”. Pardon me, but that’s about as accurate as calling Americans of Italian, Irish, and German descent “European-Americans”. Oh, sure, they’re all descended from Europeans, but aren’t the Irish different from the Germans? And aren’t they both different from the Italians? If they’re so different, then how accurate would it be to omit their nationality when referring to their ancestries and heritage? Not very, in my opinion. And that's what this essay is about: accuracy as applied to African-Americans and our future in America.
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