As Black History Month closes, and African Americans in the United States (US) have celebrated and reflected on their role in that nation’s shaping, it would be everyone’s hope that they also took a good honest self-inventory on how they have become a far cry from their forefathers and mothers.
By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
One cannot help but be engulfed with a deep sense of shame on how today’s African-Americans have turned into a huge embarrassment for the black race, as they have become a people without direction, morals, and a sense of determinations — unlike those of the earlier ages.
As a black person myself, but from the mother continent of Africa, I see today’s African-Americans as a bunch of cry-babies, who have an excuse for every type of demented behaviour that they exhibit — hiding behind their supposed repression by the white majority.
Granted, we all do acknowledge that African-Americans have, ever since being dragged to the New World as slaves and until today, have been receiving the short and dirty end of the stick, but that is not an excuse for who they have turned out to be.
Is being oppressed, or not seeing much prospects for acceptance or opportunities, a valid enough excuse not to attend school — yet those schools are there — or for drug abuse, violence and gangsterism, promiscuity, and generally living below one’s potential?
As much as I understand the “Black Lives Matter” mantra — considering that an African-American is indeed most likely to be shot by police than a white person — but, without honest reflection, this cause is a lost one.
Quite, frankly, African-Americans are victims of their own failure to rise above the segregation and oppression they have been subjected to over the past centuries.
If they believe that the violent repression that they have suffered has turned them into violent people, then they only have themselves to blame when every police officer is jittery, around them and has a finger ready on the trigger.
It is no secret that one is more likely to be robbed or killed by an African-American than a white person, and that so-called black neighbourhoods are the most dangerous in the US.
I am also sure that African-Americans themselves acknowledge this fact, and if asked, they would admit that it was safer to walk in a White neighbourhood, especially at night.
According to some research I did, African-American women felt safer dating or marrying a Caucasian man than a fellow “brother”, as they were less likely to be violent, or to be involved in some sort of crime — especially gangsterism and drugs.
African-American children were more likely to grow up being raised by a single mother, as their black fathers would be absent — either, having absconded their duties, in prison for crimes they committed, or dead — usually, due to a life of crime.
Despite schools — no matter how “substandard” they may be — being present within reasonable distances, African-American children are more likely to drop out, or generally be a nuisance and downright problematic, leading to a higher probability of failure.
African-American children would rather spend their time with pants pulled down acting all tough, and generally preparing themselves to be criminals and losers.
If African-Americans want their lot to change, they can not expect White people to do it for them — it never happened, it is not happening, and it will never happen.
Today, what is needed is not another civil rights activist like Martin Luther King Jr, or a militant as Malcolm X, or another Rosa Parks.
These great heroes did their part for a particular period, and a particular purpose, in African-Americans history.
However, today, the biggest struggle for US blacks is not slavery, or segregation — but, a serious need for mindset change amongst the African-American community itself. They need to make up their minds on what they really want to achieve as a community.
What do they truly want?
There is nothing that African-Americans have gone through that we in Africa have not — but, we largely reacted differently. We were similarly, enslaved through colonialism, and subjected to the same violent, and dehumanising oppression and deprivation of world class education, quality health, economic opportunities and empowerment, suffrage, and were generally relegated to the fringes of human society.
However, did that get us down?
Did that turn us into violent drug addicts, who waste their time in some pity party, whilst dropping out of school and choosing a life of crime?
Did that turn us into unreliable husbands and fathers, who would not be there for our families?
On the contrary, Africans were so hungry for education — as we knew it was the key out of poverty — that even during the colonial times, we would walk, if not run, over 20km each day to and fro school.
From as young as 12 years old, my mother would run behind her father — who would be riding a bicycle carrying her boarding school luggage — for nearly 15km from her rural village to the nearest train station.
Even today, as most parts of our continent are still grossly underdeveloped, pupils as young as 12 years have to travel each day more than 10km to school.
We know the education systems in most parts of Africa leave a lot to be desired — as there are no books, and pupils learn under trees — even in rain — there are no qualified teachers, and some even have to cross flooded rivers in times of rain — but, such has not deterred us to crave for education.
That is why a huge number of Africans are highly educated today — not only that, but also value the importance of hard work and perseverance.
No wonder, when these Africans come to the US, they take up high positions, whilst African-Americans will be acting all tough and cool on the streets, shooting cocaine and each other!
We also have had it tough from the days of white colonialism to today — when we still have to survive under the most unlivable and inhospitable conditions — but, we always manage to stay relatively morally upright, determined to succeed, and persevering.
Admittedly, Africa has its violent hotspots, however, these are largely geopolitical matters that we also seriously need to sort out ourselves — but, as communities, and individuals, we have managed to hold our own.
We understand how a vicious cycle of poverty, drugs, violence and crime would leave us in a trap — thus, we will do our best not involve ourselves in such.
Similarly, African-Americans need to know that the only key to their success and emancipation is with themselves.
It is not with some “Black Lives Matter” mantra — going around the streets demanding not to be shot by the police — but, for African-Americans to start by taking themselves seriously for a change.
Yes, clamouring for one’s human rights is very important — I should know, as a social justice activist — but, we do not hide our irresponsible behaviour, and lack of accountability under a shroud of activism.
We are very clear on what are our rights, and what are our responsibilities — these need to balance.
Start by choosing to have a sense of self-respect and value, embracing education, and choose a straight honest life free of gangsterism, drugs and violence.
Even if it may appear as if there are no career prospects for black people, no matter how educated, they should learn from us Africans — we have learnt to survive, without the need for crime.
We have become innovative in our self-empowerment ventures, in the midst of poverty and oppression, such that we manage to eke out a decent livelihood.
That is why, when we come to the US, we also manage to convert that business innovativeness, which we would have learnt in the midst of nothing, into very successful enterprises.
I do not have to rob my neighbour just because I am struggling.
Therefore, as African-Americans come out of Black History Month, it is time that they stopped blaming everyone around them for their own shameful behaviour, and acknowledged that the change they seek will largely come from themselves through a mindset change — and not from White House!