It's not easy to challenge racism or work for positive social change. Most of us are just trying to live and work regular lives. Being an activist or running for elected office is an impossible task for most people. Maybe black people are no different from anyone else in this regard. At the same time when you look at the black community blaming all the problems solely on racism or economic injustice doesn't make sense. Black people mess up like anyone else. We succeed or fail based on individualism as much as fighting against racism. There are things we must do as people beyond struggle. These things are moral and spiritual. Other issues can be addressed by black community groups and businesses. However this country has been and remains systemically racist. Furthermore working people live and labor in an unjust economy that mainly benefits wealthy elites and corporations. These things undermine black people regardless of other problems. Self help is no substitute for protest or politics.
Drugs, gun violence, fatherlessness, academic underachievement, and the decline of marriage undermine black life and community. All of these things are tied together, and they make it harder for us to access opportunity when it is available. Black people have always been deprived of rights and material benefits relative to whites in this society, but we didn't live like this. Crime despite racial stereotypes racist law enforcement didn't plague our neighborhoods. Two parent and strong extended family relationships provided love, discipline, and shelter amid poverty and crippling discrimination. We had each other if we had nothing else. Doing well in school and advancing to college was something everyone took pride in. Our schools were inadequate, but we made the most of things. The irony is not lost on black people that when so many things seemed to get better because of the Civil Rights Movement and a decline in blatant racism black community life declined. We lost the family. We started killing each other over drugs and turf. Oftentimes the violence doesn't have a reason. Too many of us don't succeed in school and it's not the education system - it's us. Contrary to widespread belief among whites blacks spend a lot of time talking about these problems rather than racism. There's nothing wrong with self criticism. Furthermore, we need to all be better people as parents, husbands, wives, lovers, students, and neighbors. Everything is not about racism or capitalist oppression. At the same time community self help and entrepreneurship are important too.
Black people have always done things to help themselves and start businesses. We have banded together despite have meager resources to solve problems and meet needs. While our efforts in this regard may not be covered by the mainstream press, black groups and civil society are doing everything possible to tackle problems faced by urban communities. The same thing is happening with black business. There are more black owned companies than ever. Black athletes and entertainers are not just playing sports, singing, or rapping. They are starting all kinds of companies and engaging in lots of business ventures. While most black businesses are small and have few full time employees others are large million and even billion dollar enterprises. We need to keep doing more self help and entrepreneurship on a bigger and more sophisticated level. No matter how bad things are they would be worse if black people themselves had not assumed individual and collective responsibility. Black people past or present have never waited on the government to help us. We need call out white people and certain blacks who say otherwise.
Self help and economic development are no substitute for protest or political engagement. We need to be in the streets and on social media fighting racism and economic injustice. We must demand changes that advance freedom and equality. From the nineteenth century abolitionist movement, to Civil Rights protests, the Black Power Revolution, and now the Black Lives Matter struggle against racist policing nothing has never changed for our good or this country's unless black people fought. Racism and discrimination never went away. They became more subtle and are persistent. Black people are not impoverished, underemployed, less wealthy, and underpaid compared to similar whites because of choices we make. Systemic racism is the problem. This impacts black politics. We must hold elected officials including blacks accountable for getting results. Also Black policy wonks and experts who research solutions to problems are more important than ever. Black activists and elected officials need to make sure these people are included at the highest levels of policy making. We need to stop listening to right leaning white people and blacks who say we have no right to demand anything from society or the democratic process. These blacks say "begging the white man" is undignified and useless. For them the solutions are self made. They emphasize cultural pride and awareness especially Black Nationalists focused on the African past. Others talk about restoring the two parent patriarchal family and starting businesses. Black conservatives claim government programs and protest politics have ruined black families, community life, and moral fiber. The call for moral rehabilitation and making our way in society built on less government. Whether it's Black Nationalist or Conservative both approaches discourage activist struggle and political engagement. If we follow their lead we will lose the gains we've made.
Our progress and wellbeing depend on self help along with protest and political engagement. We're not perfect people and neither is this country. When it comes to solving problems the choice is not either or. It is both. Right now there are people who want blacks to stop pushing. They are determined to hold on to what they have. Some are racist others are driven by greed and a lust for power. Black people have experienced so many political defeats and policy failures. For many self help works. It is something black people can control without whites. For other blacks making the best of things means being a better person and playing by existing rules. To them changing society is not possible or desirable. However history has shown no matter how good or accommodating black people are racism and economic inequality will deprive us of life, liberty, and happiness until we take a stand. No matter what happens blacks are better off because of politics and activist struggle rather than doing nothing at all.