Moving Beyond the Harlems in Our Minds
We stand at the headwaters of a momentous time in our nation’s history. But not all African-Americans are availing themselves of this modern-day New Deal. Many still identify much too strongly with the long-standing constrictions of the past.
So we stand here
On the edge of hell
And look out on the world
What we’re gonna do
In the face of what
~ Langston Hughes
Dear Black People,
So, here we are; standing at the headwaters of a momentous time in our nation’s history. At no other juncture has such an air of acceptance and inclusion been so prevalent. In every viable and imaginable sphere of human endeavor, the influence of diverse groups of people is visible. Diversity is the word and spirit of the day, and is being played out throughout the entire fabric of American life. Unprecedented growth, limitless advancement, and expanding social opportunities exist for all Americans. The African-American middle class–a major beneficiary of these opportunities–has been expanding for decades, and continues to do so at a feverish pace. From economic advancements to Academy Awards; and from social improvements to presidential politics, advancing African-Americans are increasingly seen as significant and integral contributors to the vibrancy of diversity in our nation.
But not all African-Americans are availing themselves of this modern-day New Deal. Many still identify much too strongly with the long-standing constrictions of the past. Moreover, many African-Americans hesitate, delay, or even refuse to grasp the brass rings of their present and future. With almost a sense of entitlement, they cite the deficits of the American Dream. They point out the system’s imperfections rather than hailing its improvements. And, firmly entombed in the past, they stand as perpetual critics of the body and soul of our nation.
Psychological Slavery in the ‘Hood
Such self-defeated souls can be found in legion numbers along the streets and boulevards of predominantly African-American neighborhoods and cities. Insisting that our nation holds no place for them, they remain comfortably poor; trapped psychologically both by an affinity to those around them and, as well, by an unfortunate over-familiarity with their physical surrounds. To wit: they remain trapped in the ‘Hood.
Pulling no punches, the revealing question for each of us as individuals to answer is this:
“For what earthly reason would people want to stay comfortably poor in the ‘Hood?”
After all, there is little that is redeeming about the ‘Hood. Although one might find some sense of acceptance and love there, it remains nonetheless an unlikely place to foster, for the majority of us, strength of character, cultivation of purposeful resolve, and expansion of self.
Now, before you leap angrily and without hesitation to the defense of the ‘Hood and its denizens, please pause to answer these few questions:
1. Why am I so fiercely defending the same place that I know, in my heart, holds physical as well as psychological dangers for me, my children, and my family?
2. Why am I so afraid to consider that the notion of an African-American family-at-large (one that traditionally penalizes divergence) serves to constrict individual movement forward?
3. And lastly, how does remaining in the ‘Hood (physically, mentally, spiritually, or socially) continue the journey that my people began when they left the plantations on which they were enslaved?
To use lack of finances is really a very weak excuse. Come on. In your heart, you know that it is so much more than finances that keeps folks living generation after generation after generation in such places.
Psychological Freedom Awaits
Let’s awaken from our slumber. Let’s take stock of ourselves. And, let’s turn away from blaming others, and take a look in the mirror.
THE ‘HOOD IS NOT A HOMELAND!
IT IS A GHETTO; pure and simple. A place where dreams, aspirations, and potentials are too frequently crushed and pulverized to add fuel to embers of rationalization, motivational lethargy, and intergenerational indifference.
The world in which we live is so much larger than the confines of our ‘Hoods. It is our imperative, as African-American individuals and inheritors of The Struggle, to assert our individuality beyond the African-American family-at-large. It is our duty to aspire to join the world, and to embrace wholeheartedly the freedom and inclusion that our forebears have already purchased. The more we do so, the more we will succeed.
We must move out and beyond the ‘Hood. No matter our shared color, our shared ethnicity, or even our shared blood relation, we must move out and beyond those persons who insist upon protecting the place of the ‘Hood in our psyches.
Admonitions such as “Keep it real”, “Be down”, and “Stay Black” serve to restrict our movement forward as individuals. At minimum, they serve as regulators to which we must grant deference at some level.
We must move out and beyond the ‘hoods of our homes; out and beyond the ‘hoods of our souls; and out and beyond the ‘hoods of our minds.
We must move out and beyond!
Well, that’s all the time we have for today. We’ll pick up again next week.
BE WELL, AND KEEP STRETCHING!
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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, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and C-SPAN. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books – Prisoners Of Our Past and Sweet Release, and the upcoming Paid In Full – related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.