As we celebrate Black History Month, there is much to be proud of, but there is much to remember and improve on. In the area of pride, we have come from being occupants of the slave cabin to occupy the White House. In the area of needing improvement, we need to learn the benefits of ownership to be truly free.
I recently had a conversation with a business owner who told me a story of how Black business people in a particular area were about to lose their location to new owners of their building. This sad story follows over thirty years of developing the area. The new owners of the property now want to do something else with it and, at the end of the day, it's theirs to decide.
I remember an article in an old magazine, "Emerge" (March 1995), which talked about shoplifting Black dollars by foreign born merchants in Black communities. That story is still relevant. We as a people have talked a good game about ownership but have not practiced it. We talk Black but rent White. Likewise, we have talked about unity while choosing to spend our construction and other dollars with Whites, even when there is a Black choice.
Another note about Black History is the lack of endowment money for Black Colleges and Universities. In another "Emerge" article (September 1998). Historically, Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) were called, "Historically Broke Colleges and Universities". We have to learn to put something back for the future and give something back for later generations. If we fail to catch those two lessons, we will repeat it over and over, and later generations will have to learn the same lessons.
The war on drugs is a war on Black America. When will we learn that lesson? Who gets arrested the most, and who gets sentenced to the longest terms? Where were the most police resources set up? Why do you carry drugs in the car when you know that DWB (Driving While Black) is still a pattern and practice of police departments? Now marijuana is legal in two states, with more to come. To light up your marijuana, just pay your state taxes.
Being gay and practicing homosexuality is now legal. How much time have "gay brothers" done for practicing homosexuality under anti-sodomy laws? One religion says it's OK to be gay but be celibate. As for marriage what does a bi-sexual do? What if they marry both sexes? Will this violate laws preventing multiple marriages?
Now that the world has changed, we must find new ways to manage and succeed. That charge comes from parents. As I look around, I find that Jewish parents teach their children their business acumen, and Chinese parents teach their children something that allows them to excel in academia. A book by Amy Chua entitled, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", sets out the rules for success in academia and in life. Where is the book for this period in Black life to address our seeming loss for which way to go when it comes to parenting our children?
Amy Chua says that if your child is not excelling in school then the parents are not doing their job. They spend part of each day drilling their children in academic activities as opposed to playing sports like most American parents do. Hence, the soccer mom. The rules are (1) school work always comes first; (2) an A minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you never compliment your child in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.
In addition to these seven rules, which I copied right out of the book, there were ten things that Amy Chua never allowed her children to do. Never: (1) attend a sleepover; (2) have a playdate; (3) be in a school play; (4) complain about not being in a school play; (5) watch tv or play computer games; (6) choose their own extracurricular activities; (7) get any grade lower than an A; (8) not be the number one student in every subject, except gym and drama; (9) play an instrument other than piano and violin; (10) not play the piano or violin.
The book is a virtual how-to-parent for successful children. It is not a love story or a how to have fun. It is about developing skills for life. Unlike American parenting skills which concentrate on respecting and nurturing your child as an individual, Amy Chua believes in the Chinese way of arming your children with good skills and great strong work habits and strong self-confidence.
Black History has had to contend with changing targets. Once we achieve one target, we must add new targets and skills and keep on climbing. Amy Chua's book "Tiger Mother" is filled with stories about new skills needed in this era. We have elected a Black President whose mother exercised Tiger Mother parenting skills and died early having armed her son with survival skills. It is in my mind much like Robert Kiyosaki's book, "Rich Dad Poor Dad", teaches us new skills about what to do with money once it is gained.
The history of Black America has been one of achievement and accomplishment and contribution to the world society. Let us never forget that just as there are many who want to help us as we rise, there are others who, out of pure racial hatred, would have us back in slavery. Our job is to be ever vigilant and resist anything that even looks like it would push us back, even one step.
Celebrate Black History Month!