Is The Black Community Black Enough – Getting Away With Wrong Doing

In the 1960’s Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson showed up where ever racial incidents occurred. Over the years, we have countless photographs that show them standing in the front row, mourning with a mother, praying with groups who suffered another injustice. They have spent their adult lives advancing black Americans.

Sixty years later in every area of American life, blacks have succeeded in making a lasting contribution in fields of academia, and medicine, cooperate life and politics, music and athletics; they have become famous writers, lawyers, and architects. We have had a black president. There are black senators, and congressman, an attorney general, a Director of Housing; the list goes on. The military is replete with black leadership at the highest levels.

Then what explains the presence of Al Sharpton sixty years later still preaching victimization? How do we understand our black city councilmen and others in the community still blaming the past for what’s wrong with today? The monument must come down because it keeps us captured in the past. Over and over we hear this victimization manta that ends with – therefore we deserve this! The Edgecombe side of Main Street has never had a hotel – therefore we deserve one. Al Sharpton said, We don’t owe America anything – America owes us.

The rhetoric of sixty years ago no longer states the case, now does it? The notion of oppression is not a valid argument when faced with the facts that blacks have been successful across the board in American life. The power struggle comes from those who have made a living off of telling other blacks they are victims of racism. In fact, you aren’t black enough if you dare to think otherwise. You are an Uncle Tom, if you dare think for yourself and accept that past injustices have run their course. There is nary a peep about Personal responsibility that is today’s admonition.  As long as some of our black leadership can preach ‘we are owed this or that’ and are believed, those black enough will keep covering for those whose misconduct they accept because they deserve what they have taken.

I have thrown caution to the wind here with this post. You can blame it on Al Sharpton during these last days of tragedy. Today’s world in which blacks live is a far cry from those who grew up when segregation, and its injustices flourished. To equate then with now, as if nothing has changed, is a great dishonoring of those who bore the burden of change. Today a black boy can grow up to be the President of the United States. Better check out who the victimizers are today. They are the ones whose anger and resentment pour down upon us with racial accusations declaring that white people are the cause of your troubles. Are you sure?

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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21 Responses to Is The Black Community Black Enough – Getting Away With Wrong Doing

  1. Monnie Taylor to Stepheny Houghtlin, let me start out by saying this (for the people that don’t get you and I and our interactions 😏) “I just love you and your writings!”. For the people in the back, “I LIKE STEPHENY, PEOPLE!” I do, however have a rebuttal of sorts. Warning: probably going to be a long post 😁
    When I think of Sharpton and Jackson, I think ‘old school’. I think of the era that my parents grew up in. I think of all the things they drilled into us and instilled in us during my childhood. I think of good music. Family. Community. Unity. The myths and the misconceptions, as well very value lessons. Many people in that time and in that space, had children and grandchildren that went on to advance (through the segregation, injustices and prejudices) via technology and social media and networking. Some of those older people lived vicariously through their children and grandchildren while retaining their old school thoughts and demeanor. They were people that were (and some still are) called upon to lead the fight against civil injustices, not always just for black people. They were and are looked upon for support when people don’t know what to do. They are a voice when others can’t be heard. They remember why they marched in Selma. They remember their marches with Dr. king. They were hosed and beaten speaking out for what they believed. I can imagine their flashbacks when they are called “colored” or “ni@@er”, words that don’t sting me the same way because they mean less to me. They see changes today just in being able to speak more freely but the message sounds almost the same as it has always has because not much else has changed. It is not a big deal that we have become successful doctors, lawyers, business owners, corporate board members, politicians or even presidents. With the exception of POTUS, we were already all of those things. We, like you, were those things in our own communities, neighborhoods and towns. To say we have advanced could be interpreted as an insult. To say we have finally been afforded access to be who were are, in the same space as whites and other races, would be more accurate. So should we expect more elevation from Sharpton and Jackson in this day and age? Should we expect their message to change although nothing else has? Should we expect them to trust and believe that should they ask nicely, equality will be granted. No, I don’t think so. They were fearful and distrusting because the country words and promises to the black race were so vastly different from it’s actions. No other race in this country has had to fight as hard as blacks have just to be treated equally. Those gentleman are “ole school” and have been doing what they do for all of their lives. It’s like telling a 80 year old klansman to change the way he thinks and rally for all black people. It’s not going to happen. It doesn’t make any of them bad people, it makes them ‘who they are and what the do’ and we acknowledge that they have learned what they lived. I do take some offense to those that think all black people play the victim. Some of us never have and never will be “victims”. Until all races are treated equally, we are however, targets. By the way, ‘victim’ is an acquired word that was kind of thrust upon us. We, as blacks, never considered ourselves victims. We are proud people that can hold their own. We can’t hide the fact that statistics prove the point that we could never fully get across. We as blacks have be treated unequally. We have been portrayed for a hundred years in a very negative light. That negativity of us has been learned by other races but lived by blacks. That mentality has been instilled for decades and as you know, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions. Be you black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or other, there are issues facing every race people. Always will be. Equality shouldn’t be one of them. This uprising is about something so much bigger than race, so much more than a few good men or a few bad men and how and what they speak on. Had it been about 30, 40, 50 + year olds saying and doing as Sharpton and Jackson, I would have to rethink my feelings on this. I feel like people born during those decades grew up while the country was evolving in many directions and very quickly. Those generations are the ones of change. The ones that can meet everybody in the middle if they choose to. I am a part of those generations. We had the best and worst of both worlds growing up. We got to see, as well as experience, more than our parents and grandparents did. Those older than 65 or 70, just got to live during the evolution of our country. We got to experience it. We experienced segregation. We experienced integration. We experienced cultural differences and we learned how to manage, and, or embrace them. We experienced working together, socializing together, partnering and raising families, together. We coexist and support each other through compromises. People born before the early 50’s may not understand that, and it’s ok. Rather than try to change who a person is, it’s more important to realize and recognize who they are. We don’t have to think alike and even agree on every subject. I will always listen to someone else’s point of view and give it serious consideration; meet them in the middle and accept them for who they are. Meet me in the middle and accept my differences. If you attempt to change who I am, then don’t ask me to accept who you are. Look at who Sharpton and Jackson is, and who they have always been, as well as the time and place they were born and grew up in. Then close your eyes and imagine as you walk with them through their experiences. Learn the hows, the whys and the whens and let’s meet in the middle.

    Stepheny Houghtlin
    Stepheny Houghtlin We should all be grateful for Monnie Taylor. I am! Here is another example of her strong, reasoned, voice. Her addition to any discussion here in Rocky Mount about our racial issues is necessary. As she states, her generation now is willing to meet in the middle bringing a historical perspective yet having benefited by the positive changes that have happened. Though her response is a long piece for the Main Street blog, I am going to cut and paste it so others might find it if they scroll down to the comment section. As long as voices like Monnie Taylors are involved in these discussions, I have confidence we can get somewhere. She is a treasure in the community that has something to say worth listening to.

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  2. Seth says:

    Stepheny –

    I am a white man living in Rocky Mount and I deeply disagree with your blog post. I don’t think online message boards are the best places for thoughtful discussions. As a white man who lives here I find it important to publicly state that myself as a white person, and many other white people here, disagree with the your opinions you wrote about.

    I’m not clear on your goal or purpose of your blog post.

    My purpose in this comment is to:
    -share my hopes/goals for our community
    -share the facts that I’ve been exposed to that make me disagree with your blog
    -offer an invitation to you for further conversation, now is a time, as important as ever, to listen & learn from people who we do not agree with

    My goal for Rocky Mount is to together create a community where everyone experiences good health, safety, connection, and self-determination for current and future generations.

    Your blog seems to ask “Why is anyone talking about the past? That was in the past, a long time ago, and this is now. The past doesn’t influence the present.”

    See this YouTube video “The Unequal Opportunity Race” (4 min) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX_Vzl-r8NY – which shows that structural discrimination of the past lives on today.

    See this YouTube video “Systemic Racism Explained” (4 min) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrHIQIO_bdQ&t=29s – that shows how historical policies that have since been corrected still cause harm today.

    A quick example for you.
    * Imagine the year is 1900. If you and I worked together equally and we earned $100. And then I stole that money from you.
    * And I invested the money I stole (5% return, avg. rate of return in stock market), and 60 years later, in 1960, my $100 had grown to about $1,900.
    * And now some laws change to limit intentional discrimination and racism. And in 1960 you get access to money for the first time, say $100.
    * Well, fast forward 60 more years to today, to 2020. Your $100 is worth $1,900. And the $1,900, I had to start with in 1960, has now grown to about $35,500.
    * My $100 that had 120 years to grow is worth 19 times (19x) more than the $100 you had 60 years to grow.

    This is just one small example of how past inequities and theft influence the present reality. Even if the present laws are better than the past laws.

    A very fair takeaway from the above story would be that to demonstrate my value of personal responsibility I should have to give you 50% of wealth, because I stole it from you to begin with.

    If you want actual numbers from the USA over the past 60 years, see this article, The black-white economic divide is as wide as i was in 1968, which shows how our history influences our current reality. The article says
    * In many ways, the gap between the finances of blacks and whites is still as wide in 2020 as it was in 1968, when a run of landmark civil rights legislation culminated in the Fair Housing Act in response to centuries of unequal treatment of African Americans in nearly every part of society and business.

    The reason people today in 2020 talk about slavery is because two of our original sins in America:
    1) the theft of land (from Native Americans) and
    2) the theft of labor (from African American slaves who were violently brought here against their will and under brutal violence)

    These sins have never been made right, we have not lived out our own personal responsibility as white people and as Americans to make amends to this horrible history. And this history lives on with us today. That is my we are talking about racism and slavery and the past. Because the past has never been corrected, let alone fully acknowledged.

    I would like to offer an invitation to you for further conversation, now is a time, as important as ever, to listen & learn from people who we do not agree with, so I would love to learn from you and your experiences to understand how you have formed the conclusions and options you have, and hopefully you might be open in learning from me.

    Your blog speaks of personal responsibility and I too share this value. I hope that all of us in America, and especially white people can do a much better job than any generation past in:
    -taking responsibility for the sins of our ancestors
    -acknowledging the pain, hurt and trauma people feel today from the injustice and inequities that are still with us
    -taking responsibility for making actual change in our policies and in our dollars to invest in people and communities and to remove the harm and oppression that is built into our systems and organizations

    Other actions I would recommend people take, especially white people:

    1) Attend a 2-day REI training in North Carolina, it reviews the history of race in our country. I’d love to know your reflections after attending a training. Here is a schedule: https://www.racialequityinstitute.com/new-events

    2) Read the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

    Again, I would like to offer an invitation to you for further conversation, please send me an email if you’re open to talking further.

    Thank you,
    Seth

    Like

    • Seth: Taking time to respond to my blog post is appreciated. I’m hoping people will scroll down to the comment section and read the various view points that have been added to my thoughts, which continue to evolve. It is a big job to help bring about the change we would all like. I’m glad you are on the case and part of the discussion. Hold the thought on having some Sweet Tea together to kick things around until being out and about is a good idea. Thanks again for taking the time to weigh in.

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  3. Claire Goebel says:

    Hi Stepheny, 
    I came across your blog from this post. We’ve never met, and the internet can be full of vitriol and disconnection, so I wanted to learn more about what else you write about and care about before responding. I felt unsure about responding here vs. just asking you to grab a coffee and chat if you were open to that. But I think that a public, well-read blog with comments enabled/pouring in is one that seeks engagement from readership — so here we go!

    Like you, I also moved to Rocky Mount from the Midwest. I am from Minneapolis and moved here a few years ago. I am also a white woman. I, too, love our city. I think that downtown is an awesome place not just for visiting – but to live in as well! My partner and I have a bungalow within the Rocky Mount downtown limits that was built in 1927. The house reminds me of pictures you’ve posted from some of our historic neighborhoods. It is a joy to be a part of my neighborhood and this community. 

    You are right to call upon the horrible injustices during the time of segregation in the Civil Rights Era. When we learn from Black elders in our community about the fear, trauma and violence their families faced during this time, it is tough to look at our current world and imagine that racism is still lurking in people and systems. Today, by far and large, it is common for well-meaning white people to see racism only in individual acts of unkindness — not in invisible systems conferring dominance on our group. The outcome of this thinking is like a metaphorical, invisible, protective golden cage that encloses us and shields us from hard truths. White people are, in general, unable to fully understand the deeply-rooted structures and systems that white people made (and uphold in everyday decisions, like voting, spending money, etc) and that continue to favor us. It’s the only way we’ve ever experienced the world, so how might we know better?    

    We have to stay curious and open. We have to keep talking to one another as white people and checking our assumptions. We have to do our homework on white supremacy. We have to keep listening to Black people and People of Color about their experiences with racial inequity. And when doing this listening, we have to remember that though empathy is a useful tool, it will still never be a proxy for a lived experience. We’ll never fully “get it.” But we have to keep trying. Of course, this is not a complete list, but in doing these things, we can move past the perimeters of this cage, seeing how it traps us in short sighted thinking, complicity in causing harm, and ignorance. We get to engage with a lifelong journey of learning, un-learning, and healing. I believe we can and must do this work. I believe we have so much to gain and offer from doing so. 

    To that end, I want to offer one way that systemic racism shows up here and now. In thinking about your interests, I felt that it might be neat to find an example around neighborhood development, given what your blog typically focuses on. 

    In Minneapolis, like your hometown of Evanston, our city was deliberately segregated by white people through policies like redlining. Inequities produced by those policies have lasting impacts today. In our hometowns, today, the neighborhoods that Black families were forced towards by redlining and restrictive covenants in the 1900s almost perfectly overlay neighborhoods that are home to the deepest inequities in education, jobs, and health. As you alluded to in your post, access to great education and a living wage are two key things that support some of the economic and social well being. Through policies established over 100 years ago, Black people in our hometowns to this day are systemically cut off from access to the resources our cities have to offer — and the impact of this carries through generations. Here is an article about how this takes place in Evanston – https://evanstonroundtable.com/MobileContent/City-News/City-News/Article/Exhibit-Shows-History-of-Segregation-and-Redlining-in-Evanston/15/26/16909 and one about how this takes place in Minneapolis: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/01/minneapolis-history-housing-discrimination-mapping-prejudice/604105/. 

    So to my earlier point, I want us as white people to keep challenging ourselves to reflect on the beliefs we hold to be true. I want to use your question frame for this inquiry. Are you really sure that we’ve fully and completely righted the wrongs of inequitable systems, structures and policies? That ways of designing neighborhoods (and systems and policies) that were constructed by white people — during a time when Black people were barred from voting, were being lynched (https://eji.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/02-07-20-lynching-in-america-county-supplement.pdf), were not allowed to use water fountains or schools that our white ancestors enjoyed, and certainly were not the president of the US  — do not have lasting impacts on generations of families, and remnants of mental models remaining in our systems today? How can we be sure? How will we know? 

    When confronted with hard truths about systemic racial inequity, sometimes we can reflexively disregard evidence or even deny it. It’s hard to sort through the compounded ways that some of the original sins of our country’s founding (enslavement of Black people and genocide against Indigenous people) show up today in our systems, mental models and interactions. It brings up really complex questions that don’t always have a simple, singular solution. But we can’t look the other way. And actively denying that systemic racism still exists — though hopefully not your intention — harms our community in impact. While we all experience this harm, it is especially sharp for many of our Black community members. Active denial of systemic racism today is itself a tool of racial domination — because by denying the unfairness, white people never have to confront that unfairness in taking steps towards justice and repair (again — when making choices on where to vote, spend/divest money, etc).

    Confronting how systemic racism plays out in the here and now can definitely bring up feelings of discomfort, confusion, defensiveness and pain for white people. But it can also lead to new, incredible ways of living our lives, being a part of our communities, and experiencing joy when learning through relationship.

    To that end, I’m joining up with a few white women (many of whom I also haven’t met before) for a book club where we will start to explore and talk about systemic racism and how it persists today. I have work to do. We all have work to do. You are so welcome to join us. My email is included through this post, so please reach out to me if you would like to be a part of this and I will send along information. Or if you just want to grab coffee first and discuss more, that works, too. 

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claire: Delighted to make a new instant friend. I appreciate your perspective added to the post. Meeting for Sweet Tea ASAP is in order. You must talk me through your thoughts left in this comment. Thank you for meeting me on Main Street and taking the time to add to the discussion. I hope others will find your contribution if they scroll down to the comment section.

      Like

  4. aegreen says:

    Hi Stephanie, thanks for all your work in advancing the preservation of Rocky Mount. I would, however, with all due respect suggest that you stick to that theme for this blog despite this city council (as frustrating as that is) and their misdeeds. There may be a place in the discussion of race in America for victimization and learned helplessness, for sure, but in the current climate right now it is more important for white Americans to listen and grieve with their black brothers and sisters. Here are some resources that have helped me listen:

    David French – American Racism: We Have So Very Far To Go (a conservative writer)
    https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/american-racism-weve-got-so-very

    13th – Documentary on Netflix (found it enlightening even if I don’t agree with all of it)

    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andy: I know you are right about sticking to the main purpose of the blog. I determine to stay away from the politics of Rocky Mount. Sooner or later those good intentions desert me an I am reeled in once again to have at it. As a political junkie, I teeter on the high wire feeling I am complicit if I don’t speak up. I will read the link you have included. Thank you! I can’t promise that I won’t give in again, but appreciate your word to the wise. Keep you eye on me in case I need you to holler, “Stepheny, there you go again!”

      Like

  5. J-NRH says:

    You have no right to say any of this. Your opinion was skewed from birth… and you’re not even doing the work to learn about what is going on. Do your research before you fly off the handle and next time, if you understood,, you’d never even think to post something like this. Your words are a disgrace. Broaden your prospective or you’ll get left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry you feel this way about the blog post. A life time of living, studying, reading, and political experience, wasn’t even necessary to know when wrong is wrong, and the Rocky Mount councilman involved in wrong doing continue on. Why? The blog post is an attempt to discuss that. I appreciate that you took time to read the post and leave your comment. Don’t give up on me!

      Like

  6. M. Boyd says:

    The ‘recipe’ is missing a few key ingredients that make the product fall.
    Methinks you have a limit to your humanity.

    Like

  7. Rodd says:

    Discrimination and oppression are in the minds of the beholders.

    As the insanity and irresponsibility of riots and protests fan the flames of hate in this country—one must wonder why?

    I seriously doubt that any of those looters, police haters and WHITE haters who scream racism understand the long journey taken by respectful and intelligent individuals of all races that made a difference in the world.

    The actions of these destructive and ignorant protesters cast a dark, dark shadow over equality.

    Thus, you who protest, destroy, steal and disrupt our lives are not equal by your own actions splashed across the media platforms for all to see and shake our heads at your stupidity.

    All you have gained is further marginalization by those of us who may have cared and no longer do.

    Get a life that matters—that is not black, white, tan, pink or purple.

    A life of hard work, intelligence, respect, and consideration.

    Then you may join us at the table of life.

    Like

  8. Diane Parker Bone says:

    Thank you Stepheny. Well done.

    Like

  9. howiebob says:

    Blacks in this country have made tremendous strides within the past 20 years. I see it around me every day. The Sharpton’s of the Black community know it , but if they preach this truth, they lose power which equals money. Remember yhe old adage….Follow the money.

    Like

  10. patsypridgen says:

    Very brave, Stepheny. Hope you’re spared the “white privilege” label I was tagged with earlier this week because I dared to question why wedding venues haven’t been granted the 50 percent seating capacity that restaurants are operating under. There are plenty of people who want to shame us for being white and working hard all our lives to achieve the American dream.

    Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Stepheny!! Great article!! Very true
    so glad you put it out there! Thank you!

    Like

  12. John says:

    The only thing any American can expect from their country is a platform for opportunity. The history of the world is scattered with oppression of one form or another but none of those oppressed people had there leadership try and keep them ignorant and oppressed as the black community leaders have for there own personal gain. This is why we are still fighting racism in America not because of white acceptance but the fear of black leadership losing there base to well educated and free thinking constituents that can disseminate between good leadership and corrupt carpetbaggers that plaque the black community!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. frogjuice13@gmail.com says:

    Shazam! Stepheney tells it like it is again – on the nosey! 😎

    >

    Like

  14. Randy Adcox says:

    Well stated Stepheny! The narrative of the “oppressed” in this country has long lost its validity, and is easily debunked with minimal effort. Yes, racism exists (among BOTH races), but it’s no longer a valid argument for failing to “succeed” in this country. For those willing to put forth the effort, this country STILL offers the best opportunities in the world for achieving “success” in any realm. Those who constantly play the “victim” card are doing nothing to further or advance the plight of Black America, and are sending a false and misleading message to our young people
    .
    The recipe for achieving success in this country is the same today as it was 50 years ago; stay in school until you graduate, pursue higher education if your desired profession requires it, and be willing to WORK for what you want. It may not be *easy*, but there are young people of color achieving the American dream every day in this country, because they were willing to put forth the effort required to achieve it!

    Like

  15. william okeeffe says:

    well said. Be careful what you say about Mr Sharpton though (actor Hartley Sawyer has been fired from The CW’s popular superhero series The Flash for tweet about Al Sharpton from 2012.)

    Like

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