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The politics of knowing whether we’ve gained what we need

As African-Americans, we want and need to be respected just as we are — especially when we act respectfully. We neither want nor rightly expect microaggressions in everyday life, and […]


As African-Americans, we want and need to be respected just as we are — especially when we act respectfully. We neither want nor rightly expect microaggressions in everyday life, and we do expect justice in life: Punishment for bad actions, compliments, or at least acknowledgement, when we conduct ourselves well.

Yes, we think the society that has treated us badly, in whole and in part, owes us an apology and some form of compensation for the unjust enrichment we’ve created for others, and the atrocities we’ve endured in the process.

We expect and still work hard to achieve a better environment through the country’s education system, the social-economic system, and especially through the political system.

At 38.9 million in 2010 (13%), and 46.9 million (13.69%) in 2022, we know we do not have the numbers to force the larger society to practice more ubuntu than racism, but we remain active, ambitious, and stubborn in our pursuit of being regularly respected in this country.

We also remain resolute in our intentions not to be disrespected nor disparaged by other ethnic groups who happen to be in pursuit of the same goals for themselves.

For 2020-2022, we have made important strides forward, while we have simultaneously held ourselves back.

We have an increasing Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) speaking consistently for us in the national legislative arena; we have an African-American woman as Vice President of the U.S.A. (and the continuing presence of a still-very popular former POTUS) who frequently speak for us; an incoming first-ever Black male Speaker of the House; and various elected Black politicians over a large part of the U.S. ; and President Biden’s agenda still boosts some important goals which, if achieved, will benefit Black folks greatly.

It is now undisputed that politically, African-Americans make a distinctive difference and must be acknowledged.

We have a steadily increasing body of Black intellectuals as teachers, writers and artists, who are providing the manuscripts of knowledge and creativity that testify to Black genius.

We also have a repetitiously failed strategy of popularizing the word nigger in an effort to deplete its sting. We have instead created a new, more modern mass usage of that poison word that has metastasized in its negativity.  We must hold ourselves and our youth accountable for that, and not succumb to fear of self.

We have achieved more Black American holidays (Juneteenth, etc.) and success in movie-making, but we have not yet achieved the reparations that are due. We have earned political respect in the political game of thrones that is the U.S.A. (congratulations, again, to Mayor-elect Karen Bass), but we are still facing gerrymanders we cannot control.

We have thousands more college graduates, lawyers, thespians and musical performers, but the police still focus on us as the first suspects.

In spite of continued redlining and real estate discrimination, we have many more property and home-owners, co-existing with wildly increasing numbers of the unhoused and a viable solution not yet visible. We protest at the mere hint of unfairness, but not always with a clear understanding of the issues involved and the cost of the available solutions.

‘Stony the road we trod’ looking at this new year, 2023, from the perspective of the one just past, we must remember the rest of the words:

“Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears have been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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