Are We Truly Proud Of Our Black History?

It has been over 200 years since the world has seen the death knell of slavery. Today, America has a black president. African Americans have been to the farthest regions of the earth and even outer space. Surely, you will agree that the black race has come a long way. Surely, the achievements have reached immeasurable heights in all areas including politics, business, science and sports.

This February, being Black History Month therefore brings with it a lot to celebrate, indeed a lot of which to be proud.  Amidst the reflections and celebrations however, we must also pause to do some form of self-assessment. The progress of a people is not simply determined by its advancement and dominance, but in terms of its appreciation of its own unique culture, its own heritage and its own identity.

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What Black History Represents

Amidst the success of global business leaders who manage multinational corporations, politicians who hold distinctive political offices, the sportsmen and women who dazzle the world with stunning performances, have the achievements secured the black experience in and around the world? After all is said and done, after the story of black history, a story of monumental challenges, courage and triumph, has the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. or the visions of Marcus Garvey been fully achieved or realised?

Have we tapped into the vast reserve of our true potential?

I say no.

I say no, because, at this point in our history, amidst the success and triumph, many of us still suffer from a poor sense of identity, fuelled by an unfortunate self-induced mentality. Bob Marley termed it mental slavery, however, whatever you call it, the self-limiting inhibitions that we hold towards ourselves prevents us from realising our true potential.

Do not get me wrong, I am not implying that all our problems, such as the undeniable high crime rates, little access to education and broken homes in many black communities around the world is due to our enslaved mentality. That, would indeed be to some extent unfair as our social ineptitudes, while it should not be solely blamed on our dysfunctional past is indeed a construct of what our ancestors have been through, at least to some extent.

Mental Slavery

Black people today are largely disconnected from their past, both in terms of knowledge and respect. We have enslaved our own minds to follow the ideological indoctrination of other cultures, purposefully banishing our own heritage and writing off things uniquely ours as backward and uncivilised.

Does this mean that we should all go back to Africa and re-establish the great kingdoms of Mali and Ghana? No, that would be rather absurd. It however means we need to remove the limiting stereotypes associated with the colour of our skin or the texture of our hair or the sound of our voice.

I am sure you get the idea.

The worst part is, this stigma against all things black is not simply internally driven, it is driven and motivated by societies that purport white superiority or more precisely black inferiority if even in the subtlest of ways.

Skin Bleaching and Hair Processing

You may believe I am being exuberant, making a mountain out of a molehill issue. That is probably because the erosion of black pride is slow and subtle. It’s  played out in seemingly simply acts such as bleaching and hair processing.

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Let me pause to say, however, on the contrary to what many people would contend, I sincerely do not believe bleaching is a result of some frantic desire to remove the mark of the African race from oneself. Many black people do not have a problem with being of the black race, they simply desire lighter skin. The paradox here, however is that such individuals are thus associating lighter skin with beauty which has serious implications for black mentality

Think for a moment, what do you consider to be good hair? For some reason, hair processing does not get the same knack and snares as bleaching, possibly because the colour of your skin is more defining than the texture of your hair.

However, when young girls want to process their hair in order to get good hair; it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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Cultural Erosion

Possibly, the most damning aspect of a broken mentality comes from the shunning of black culture by many who profess to be black. The idea that Africans are barbaric and uncivilised people has certainly not helped either. Western media has surely failed to present a balanced story. The stories about the better half, about Africans who have succeeded in maintaining well-ordered societies with forms of political structures of much better quality than that of the western world.

When you hear Africa, what do you think? You may think hunger, suffering, broken villages, tribal wars, barbaric people. How sad!

You may feel agitated inside to believe that these seemingly unimportant mental constructs are unimportant. You think there are so MANY unsolved issues of far more importance to us. I ask you however, to consider that nothing worthwhile can be achieved without the right mentality and if by some act of faith such is achieved, that broken image of self-assurance that is so often lacking, will soon negate the positive effect of our own accomplishments.

I will agree, we are in a good place at this time and this February presents many triumphant feats by our own legends who execute dominance in their respective fields. The truth is, if we have achieved so much, rising from the ashes of a dark mentality, what an amazing impact we will be able to make as we move forward in mental and spiritual growth?

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As iron, sharpens iron, we must work together to ensure that each of us is a legend on some scale. We may not all be able to take political office or become the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but we may help in the advancement of our minds, of ourselves, of our family, of our neighbours and colleagues, and allow the positive effects to ripple through our communities. Be passionate about who you are, about your own people and of others, this way, we will be able to solve the most daunting problems that face us today and move forward in pride and unity. What will you do for your race?

By: Norvan Martin

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