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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Black news from Pasadena - Joe Hopkins editorialOne of the newspapers I read regularly is the Tri State Defender. It is a paper out of Memphis, Tennessee and covers Tennessee and Mississippi and, like The Journal, it is a weekly, owned by African Americans. It has been around for a long time. Historically, it was owned by the Sengstacke family who also started the well known Chicago Defender in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott who held a law degree from Kent College of Law.

The importance of the Chicago Defender in American history is that it was to a very large extent responsible for the migration of African Americans out of the South to Northern cities, as Blacks began to shake off the shackles and limitations of slavery and Jim Crow and seek a better life. Black field hands were recruited from the back breaking work of field labor and racism to go north to Chicago. Blacks caught reading the Defender could be arrested because the paper's recruitment for a better way of life in the North threatened to disrupt the economics of the South.

The basis of southern wealth was the cheap labor of recently freed slaves. The question for southern planters was what were they to do if the Blacks all left? The question for Blacks was why were they staying if there was a better life up north and the Black Press said there was? In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was killed in the city of Memphis while there to help the garbage workers get a fair wage and be treated with dignity. Today Memphis has a Black Mayor. What a difference a day can make.

On the other hand, this weekend I watched the premiere of a television show called, What would you do? The show set up demonstrations with actors playing parts in scenarios highlighting discrimination and crimes against people. The show asked the question, "What would you do if you saw someone being cheated, discriminated against, or mistreated in your presence?" One of the first scenarios was a white kid sawing the chain off of a bicycle locked on a public street. The bike was chained to a pole and was obviously being stolen. When asked if it was his bike by people passing by, the white kid admitted it was not. All of the passer's by just watched and went on by.

The second scene had a Black kid doing the same thing with the same bike at the same pole. Not only were the police called but a crowd gathered around to make sure the alleged Black thief wouldn't get away with it. Can you say "racial profiling?" To round out the scenario, the show put a young blonde white woman at the same pole trying to saw the bike off of the chained pole. She admitted that she was stealing the bike because she did not have a bike of her own. Not only were the cops not called a few men helped her cut the chain. Another scenario was set up in an upscale clothing store. There three young Black women came in to shop. They were ordered to leave because there was probably going to be trouble because "you people always cause trouble and steal." They were frisked. Their purses were confiscated and searched. Finally, one white couple objected and came to their aid.

These shows seem to raise the question of, "Have things changed, or do they show that the more things change, the more they stay the same?" On the same night I also watched the Anderson Cooper's CNN show, "AC 360", which aired a white Doctor in the U.S. Armed Forces refusing to go to Afghanistan as part of his tour of duty because he doesn't believe that President Barack Obama is an American citizen and he won't obey orders from a foreigner in the White House. He allegedly believes Obama is a foreigner. I don't think that he believes that at all. I think he just won't acknowledge that the President of the United States is Black. As a note: I don't believe that former Vice President Cheney was injured when he attended President Obama's inauguration in a wheel chair. I believe that he vowed to never stand in reverence of a Black President. How sad.

To young Black America, take a lesson. Things have changed, but not really. You still need to get an education and you still need a job. So get up out of the bed, pull your pants up, stop texting, and put that cell phone down or you might miss something. Plus it is disrespectful. (Maybe respect is a new concept in a selfish world.) The more things change, the more they stay the same, but with effort, you can make the most of change.


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