Beyond Each Other: Declaring Freedom from the Black Collective

At one time the ideology existed that none of us are free until all of us are free

It was a watchword in the struggle for civil rights that helped to tie us all together as a family and as a community.

However, to our disadvantage as individuals, that same concept of “the black community” has now evolved an essence in and of itself; too often overshadowing many of the folk who comprise the community. Through narrowness of thought and sanctioning of conduct, the black community has come to reproach those members who dare stray from its ideological clutches.

The none-or-all ideology of freedom was valuable when black people were enslaved. Then, we needed to form and close ranks toward our collective great and noble destiny.

However, since emancipation, this notion has increasingly lost its meaning and become outdated. More appropriate to today’s social and economic conditions is the idea that none of us are free until we allow each of us the freedom to become. Free to conjoin, and free to deviate. A people can be free under no lesser circumstance.

An example of the use of outdated ideology is the argument that black persons who do not live within the confines of an area with a large black population or who do not share an economic status comparable to the majority of its inhabitants are not part of the community. This terribly racist notion is a dangerous parallel to the reported dissension between field Negroes and house Negroes during the era of slavery. It limits membership in good standing to arbitrary criteria that contribute to the circumscriptions that abound in many segments of black communities.

These arbitrary demarcations of community have led to confusion, insularism, and censure as the rest of the world becomes increasingly pluralistic.

The notion of a strong, tight-knit community whose members are connected was, at one time, functional for black people. But now that same notion serves to hamstring us as a group and as individuals. Nevertheless, many individuals, particularly those black persons who are upwardly mobile and progressive, feel put upon to reconcile a perceived need or pressure to connect.

What to do? What to do?

Well, that’s all the time we have for today. 

Until next time: 



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Dr. James Davison, Jr. is a licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on
several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, The
Ken Hamblin Show
, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and
C-SPAN’S Book TV. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books – Prisoners Of Our Past, Sweet Release, and the upcoming Paid In Full – related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.

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