In this article -- Was Integration a Good Thing For Black People? Probably Not -- by Dr. Boyce Watkins, he argues that the leaderrs of the Civil Rights movement did not properly neotiate the terms of integration. I disagree. The recipients of the benefits of integration dropped the ball, and lost our focus on the key factors that Dr. Watkins identifies. These are not new. We need to return to the core values that spawned the movement toward integration.
All the things that Dr. Watkins says we must do --
- Maintain a disciplined household, where education was the highest priority and protecting the family unit was paramount.
- As a community, teach our children entrepreneurship as an important part of their long-term economic survival.
- Embrace educational excellence as if our lives depended on it, but ensure that our children are taught black history and family values that they are not getting in class.
- Target our spending to black-owned businesses whenever we can, and embrace the importance of saving, investing and ownership.
- Ownership, wealth-building and self-sufficiency should be part of the consistent black national discourse...
All these things were taught to Dr. King, and to many of us growing up in the years of segregation leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. We were demanding the right to exercise these values everywhere in this society, with equality and human dignity. The question is how did so many of us lose these values?
It is sad that people like Dr. Watkins have to travel to Atlanta and sit on the family porch of Dr. King to see the dramatic decline in the values in our community today. Dr. King and the leaders of the movement did not negotiate away our position in an integrated society. We need to ask why "our best, brightest and strongest are in no position to help those of us who are struggling."
Yes, many of us earn more money than we could have in a segregated society and are given opportunities that are more consistent with our chosen skill sets. The generations that reaped the material fruits of Dr. King's efforts abdicated their responsibilities to our community and families. There was no failure of negotiations. We allowed our families to disintegrate. We failed to maintain a focus on economic principles and family values that helped us to survive oppressive post-slavery early days of Jim Crow oppression.
We can return to the strong values that brought us through the dark days, but we must stop blaming others. We must go and sit with our elders -- grandparents and relatives who remember our strong values -- and lean on their wisdom to return to a foundation of family values and community excellence. It must be restated: Those of us who were at the point of the spear during the movement toward integration had no interest in giving up the education of our children to someone else or just to live next door to someone white. We wanted integration on respectable terms.
We must ask, "How did we give away the high moral ground that we occupied in the early days of integration?"
The answer to our situation is not that integration is bad. Our response to the opportunities presented by integration has failed those who are spiraling into a state of permanent underclass.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS