The Ascendancy of Black America (Part One of Four)

How far we’ve come from the days of our bondage. How far we’ve come from the days of our most brutal persecution. We were uprooted from our homeland only to watch our families torn asunder, beneath the lash of petty southern tyrants and more broadly speaking an economic system and a system of government which, however conflictingly, allowed for the institutionalized dehumanization of an entire race of people by which it’s preferred subjects were enriched and empowered. How far we’ve come from those days, and the days of Jim Crow and the century of only slightly less insidious persecution that followed. How far we’ve come. Yet it is worth asking where we have come to, and even more so, where we are going.

In the Old Testament the Lord through Moses, in revealing the ten commandments to the Israelites, commanded them to remember the blessing of their liberation, saying: “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm…” (Deuteronomy 15:15). For black Christians, we have an advantage (one for which we should really be thankful) in understanding and relating to the liberation of God’s people in the Bible because for us the memory of slavery in our blood and in our culture is sharper and more immediate than it can be for our European brothers and sisters. The humility that the Bible stresses that God’s spiritual children must have can only come through the purifying agony of degradation and pain. (What was Christ trying to show in his death on the cross?) All people suffer of course, but ours in America has been a culture of suffering and in as much as we have suffered patiently we have seen miracles, for God has delivered us by a mighty hand and that more than once. Whether you believe in God or not however, you must surely see how vast seas were parted in both the material and political circumstances leading up to the ending of slavery, and then the ending of segregation. Moreover, and more importantly, great waters were parted in the consciences of our oppressors as well as those many whites Americans who were just indifferent to our struggle in both the 1860′s and the 1960′s. Through all these times our people as a whole did not have power in this society. (In the four hundred and fifty plus years since the slave trade began to when we achieved real equality under the law with the Civil Rights Act we went from none to not much.) Because of this, our power in these times of powerlessness could only come from man’s true source of power and that lies in humility, righteousness, and the simple indomitable resolve that comes from knowing one’s cause is just.

This is our history as African-Americans. It is one that is moving and proud, inspiring to us and people of all colors in this country and around the globe. But a triumphal past does necessarily lead to a glorious future and this brings me to the point of these four articles of which this is the first. We, as African-Americans have reached a critical point in our history, one which demands that a collective decision be made in the hearts and minds of our people. In the age of Colin Powell, Kobe Bryant, Oprah Winfrey and, most tellingly, Barack Obama, we can no longer think that we, for all the myriad and considerable disadvantages we still labor under, have no power in this society. We are African-Americans, yes, but we the children of slaves are Americans every bit as much as the children of slave owners. As such we have as great a stake in the success of this nation as the white majority that has had the lion share of the governing power for all of its history. We have as much a claim on America as any of the descendants of Quakers and Pilgrims who once in a spirit of great faith and courage set out for the promise of a new world which fate would destine us to share. What we must understand, then, is that we also have an equal obligation as they to lead it. Marcus Garvey once said, “Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm.” That is precisely where we are today…

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