Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pay It Forward

The other day, I found myself attempting to explain to a coworker the duty African Americans feel to their community. While explaining this, I noticed that this goes back to earlier in African American history with the notion of "each one teach one." During the era of slavery, when African Americans lacked access to higher education, it became the duty of those with that access to share their learnings with those without. The Wikipedia definition for those who don't believe me:
This phrase originated in the United States during slavery, when Africans and African Americans were denied education, including learning to read. Many, if not most slaves were kept in a state of ignorance about anything beyond their immediate circumstances which were under control of owners, the law makers and the authorities. When a slave learned or was taught to read, it became their duty to teach someone else, spawning the phrase "Each one teach one." via
In todays time, we are all under the impression that everyone has equal access. However, I believe the above still holds true (in some capacity) and there are people who fall victim to their environments and get stuck in a cycle due to a lack of knowledge based on their circumstance. This is not to say, that everyone is at that high of a disadvantage. Sometimes, it could be something as small as a smaller black business being a tad less business savvy or some recent college graduate that doesn't have the network needed to make it to the next level.

Instinctually, I've always felt it was my duty to reach back and help people in whatever capacity I could. This should not be misconstrued to mean that people should not work to advance themselves. But, I can honestly say if it weren't for other minorities in my life reaching back to help me, I would not have been afforded nearly as many opprtunities as I have.

Basically, this goes back to the media and the notion of perception. Pictures are either painted of black people needing handouts or of black people making it by overcoming all barriers and "making it out". The perception is that people make it on their own and that we shouldn't need other people to acheive our successes.

What happens is the crabs in a bucket mentality of people fighting to make it out of a situation by fighting against one another. Some people seemingly lack the understanding of the community effort it takes to make it.

I say all of this to say. We live in a time, where my generation (20s and under), believe that race is no longer a factor. We are misled by that fact that we aren't oppressed and have access to education to mean that we also able to make it without assistance or mentorship. I'm constantly baffled by the lack of initiative by older black professionals to lend guidance. It's as though people believe that you can ignore or neglect your community and live this newfound "American Dream." I don't know what makes me different, but until the majority of African Americans are where they need to be in society, I will forever feel an obligation to my community.

We live in such a fast paced society. It amazes me that monumental things that occur in history can be forgotten over the course of a few years. However, you can not convince me (even with the election of a black President) that a nation that was segregated one generation ago (in my Mom's lifetime!) has fully transitioned and that all people are afforded the same opportunities. No, not without the power of community.

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