John Legend recently stated at the 2015 Oscars that “more black men are in correctional control now than were enslaved in 1850.”
This quote got me to thinking about so much that has transpired in our society in the last 100 years. I recently wrote an article speaking about Modern Day Slavery and the effects that it has on society. When Legend made his speech, it brought up more feelings inside of me about the dark times that we currently live in.
In the Modern Day Slavery article, I spoke about how the government and the media (if the two can even be separated) control the way we think and operate in society. Making mental slaves out of us. Because of the lingering effects of slavery from the 1800’s and early 1900’s before it was abolished, many black men are still suffering significant residual effects of that damning phenomenon.
I recently had a conversation with my home-girl, Ray, and we discussed this topic. Why are so many black men incarcerated? The statement Legend made is so disturbing. More black men are incarcerated now than were in slavery. That’s insane and I still can’t completely wrap my mind around it. How is this even possible? It’s possible because many black men are still enslaved in the minds; within their own thoughts. It’s a shame.
There is a self-hatred that lingers in the mind of the black man, as well as a hate for society and the white man. Some of us are angry at what happened to us all those years ago. And the fact that racism still exists today makes it no better. “We” hate what society did to us and we feel like we’re owed something. We hate ourselves because we are at a socioeconomic disadvantage than our white counterparts. That self-loathing and hatred of the world is what keeps the black man a slave in their minds and, consequently, a slave in the correctional facilities across our great nation. *sighs*
Some of you who know me are aware of the fact that I am an educator. Over the past six months, since I’ve relocated to Los Angeles, I’ve been teaching inside of the jail systems here. So, this is personal to me. When Legend made that statement, I took it personal. Not in an offensive way, but moreso of me taking ownership of my responsibility to the incarcerated men who I work with each and every day.
This statement that has now made it’s way across the nation has reminded me and challenged me again of my duty to this world. Because I am one of the lucky ones who’ve had the opportunity to go to college and graduate and get a great job, it’s my duty to repay my community in whichever way I can. And I will do just that by showing up and being there for my students everyday and being a positive black role model in our communities. I have to be the example for young and older black men who’ve never been shown how to be a true leader. Who’ve never been take serious. Who’ve never been told that they are good enough. I have to be there to serve as a reminder of what an elevated mind and do.
And that brings me to the message of this article. I’m going to be very specific and speak directly to African Americans or “blacks” and minorities. E L E V A T E Y O U R M I N D. We can blame society for all of our problems, but what would that solve? I’m not denying that society plays a role in modern day slavery, but the reality is that we all have this thing called “choice”. Yes, this world is troubling, very troubling; but we have to choose to be good and do good. Even when it’s difficult and challenging. We are not going to be handed a good life, we have to take it. Do not be what society expects you to be. Be great! Be innovative. Be everything that God has called you to be.
Change starts in the mind. If we want to change these statistics and get our men and women out of the jails, we have to, as a community, come together and force this change. Change this culture of lack and oppression and begin to support and lift each other up. Be there for one another. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but it can start right now. As you read this, make up in your mind that you will change the way you view yourself and others around you; even strangers. We are all living in this world together. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to one another.
So, here are 5 helpful thoughts to assist you in making this transition.
1. Have no fear – nothing good ever comes from being afraid
2. Spread love – everyone needs it
3. Go out of your way to be good to someone – you’ll feel great about yourself each and every time
4. You are fearfully and wonderfully made – know your worth. Don’t accept any kind of treatment from anyone. You are worth more.
5. See yourself the way God see’s you – you’re perfect. Don’t conform or change anything about yourself. Never compare yourself anyone else. There is only one you, so that makes you unique.
I hope this message can be received with the love in which it was written. Thanks again, Fancy Friends. You guys rock! *winks*