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Self-improvement is key to our survival

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By: William Monroe Trotter II

If you thought I was about deliver a retelling of our being brought here in 1419 as slaves, you will be disappointed. Neither am I about to speak of the successes and failures of Reconstruction. Even though the Jim Crow period is peculiarly similar to this current period, those incidents are not why you are being tapped on your shoulder for understanding.

Allow me to deal with this moment of decision, as bombarding episodes of truth and reality converge before our eyes. A French West Indian psychiatrist gives us valuable direction. Franz Fanon warns: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted.

It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” Fanon viewed this shrinking esteem of those unable to recover from the crushing weight infused by a sense of inferiority.

We must believe in ourselves again. Many act like they have bought into notion of our inferiority. After slavery, Reconstruction scared the pants off the power structure. Equality was and is still a contentious issue. During the Jim Crow Period (1877 – 1964), Jim Crow laws and Jim Crow state constitutional provisions mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains between white and black people. The U.S. military was already segregated. President Woodrow Wilson initiated the segregation of federal workplaces in 1913.

Not until the Brown vs Board Of Education case in May of 1954, did the doctrine of “separate but equal” become unconstitutional. It was from the same highest federal court in the US that made the 1954 declaration, that earlier ruled in Dred Scott.

Don’t forget in 1857, Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, with a tenure running from 1836 to 1864, ruled that the United States Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for people of African descent, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free.

I suggest we look at it like Marcus Garvey viewed our situation. Remember, in 1920 Marcus Garvey established the Negro Factories Corporation which included a chain of grocery stores, restaurants, a publishing house, and numerous shops which provided scores of jobs to black Americans. Garvey’s words were clear, “If we as a people realized the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.” He felt self-improvement was key to our survival. The improvement necessary required our building a robust economy. The most germane concepts of his movement were the concepts of self-help and unity. I agree. A sense of hope requires our steadfast pursuit of a fruitful future for ourselves and those that come after us.

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