Things Black People Should be Upset About!!

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A righteously upset and young Agyei Tyehimba leading a protest at Syracuse University. 1989

I have never been one to take violation well nor to turn cheeks or love those that spitefully use me. With no disrespect to anyone’s religious system, such behavior simply does not compute to me; Somehow I didn’t get the memo suggesting that I should NEVER allow myself to become upset. To the contrary, I believe there exist some incidents/situations/acts so vile. egregious and reprehensible  that it is our responsibility to become upset by them. This rings particularly true for a historically oppressed people whose official citizenship status was violently debated a mere 3 decades ago.

Naturally corporations, and their spokespersons/defenders (politicians and government officials) work hard and spend vast amounts of money to maintain an ignorant and indifferent citizenry. In their ideal world, we would all walk around buying and using their overpriced products and services and singing “Hakuna Matata” while viewing any number of shamefully idiotic “reality” shows and experiencing increased violence, poverty, propaganda, zenophobia, militarism and imperialism without protest. Ooops, the  world I just described is the real world that currently exists!

Not all of us accept such patronizing bullshit. I for one find myself seething with righteous indignation about a number of things and I pray this article will inspire some of you to become equally incensed with me so that we can improve our collective condition.

I can already hear some spiritual gurus and yoga practitioners counseling me that ANY expression of anger is negative. I agree that we should avoid immature expressions of anger just as we should not become angry over everything. The anger I hope to instigate here is “ righteous anger, the type we feel toward wickedness and injustice for example. In Biblical terms, this is the anger referred to in Psalms 7:11; in historical terms, I’m referring to the same anger felt by Gandhi, DR. King, Socrates, Malcolm X and every person of conscience who struggles to make life better for humanity. Perhaps if more of us and our “leadership”,  righteously angry enough, we would have a national movement addressing social injustice right now.

But sadly this is not the current state of affairs. Most of us are not sufficiently angry enough to challenge our oppression, lulled to sleep as we are by the distractions of pleasure, comfort, and indifference. Allow me then to arouse your righteous anger and inspire you to action by revealing things we should  be angry about.

  1. The fact that Black people have the same chance of receiving an excellent public school education as Bill Gates has of dying broke. Did you realize that we pay for public education from our taxes and then often have to pay a private school tuition for our children because their public schools are so bad? How unjust is that? And did I mention that 25 of these 50 states have graduation rates for Black boys that are below the national average? My home state of New York has the lowest Black male high school graduation rate in the country with only 25?% of young brothers graduating from high school. As a former schoolteacher I can assure you that the majority of our children that do graduate and do so on time, are disturbingly unprepared for college and the working world. In fact, despite tons of school reforms and reports, our children typically perform way behind other groups in math, reading and writing. At the same time, an increasing number of our school children find themselves suspended, expelled and introduced to some level of the criminal justice system – a phenomenon referred to as the “school to prison pipeline.”. This is not just  matter of low-performing schools, Too many of our ill-prepared students who desire a college education but don’t have the academic preparation are forced to attend community colleges and training programs that overcharge them and still don’t adequately prepare them to work! The only way to describe this segregated and chronically failing system is “criminal!” his If there ever was an issue we should be outraged over, it’s this!
  2. Black people are the most negatively stereotyped/perceived group in this country! In fact, an entire mythology exists with Black people occupying the lowest rung, and much of this nonsense finds promotion among Black people! I’ve heard it all, from “Latino men are more publicly affectionate to women than Black men,” to “white girls are more supportive and less confrontational than Black  girls.” Absolutely stereotypical nonsense, but widely accepted as truth by many. Black people STILL are victimized by the most vicious and ongoing set of rumor and innuendo imaginable – and to a large degree, we cloud our own minds with such distortions of truth: (Black women are goldiggers, whores, uneducated welfare cheats,or too loud, Black men are liars, cheats, gangbanger, jailbirds,violent and deadbeat dads).Certainly our families, relationships, businesses and organizations suffer if WE believe the worse things about ourselves, and allow others to believe the same, right?
  3. According to a report issued by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a Black person is attacked or killed every 36 hours by white police officers or self-appointed white vigilantes in American cities. This reality repeatedly occurs despite massive protest, media coverage and “police sensitivity training.” Despite all the “progress” we’ve made, our lives are not weighed equally with others, and as incident after incident shows us, cops can kill us with impunity.
  4. Although we represent about 15% of America’s population,Blacks represent more than 60% of the prison population. According to professor Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, incarceration is a successful form of re-enslavement and the  exploitation of Black labor. In fact, she notes that more Black men are currently incarcerated than were enslaved in the year 1850! Interestingly, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution allows for this dynamic by justifying the enslavement of convicted criminals!
  5. Despite all this talk about America being “post racial,” one’s probability of incarceration, poverty, educational attainment, professional development/advancement, and physical and mental health, are too closely aligned  to one’s racial classification. Thus, racism is alive more than ever and causes us great suffering in more ways than we can imagine!
  6. Corporate control and the illusion of choice. As I indicated in another article, six corporations control 90% of the newspapers, magazines, television/ radio stations and  consequently, 90% OF most of our news, information, and perspectives. The same monopoly control exists over our food, water, and the American political party structure. Mega-corps like Kraft, Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsico, P&G, Mars, Kellogg  and Johnson&Johnson make just about everything we eat and drink. Any concentration of power in so few hands obviously invites corruption and conflicts of interests.  Making matters worse, the only people corporations are legally responsible to are their shareholders. So long as their priority is to produce profits for investors, ethical, environmental, and social concerns  take on little significance.Equally frustrating is the fact that this means the concept of consumer “choice” is a cruel joke. And where one has little choice, one has little power. These corporations are led by CEO’s who live above the law, are never punished for their crimes, and avoid paying taxes . They sell us tainted food, medicine and other products without regard for our health while spending considerable sums of money brainwashing us to believe we need such items. These often insensitive, callous and greedy people select our political candidates, create laws protecting their rights, decide what information and entertainment we receive and get away with egregious negligence and abuse we cannot imagine.

I Truly hope I’ve inspired some righteous anger and outrage among you, and that this anger will inspire you to  get involved to do something and become a change agent in your city, school, neighborhood, job or organization. And don’t feel bad about being angry with oppression, ignorance, poverty, or injustice, feel bad about making peace with such things. By the way, your opinions are important; what are your thoughts about this subject? What things would you add to or take off the list?

______________________________

Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

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