Watching Selma and Wondering… Where Did We Go Wrong??
Written by Danny P Ocean on January 23, 2015
So last weekend I took the family to go check out Selma, and to my surprise the theatre was packed. This was a good thing, but surprising none the less. Usually African American historical movies lose steam after the first week. However, this film seems to be doing the opposite and is getting momentum as time progress. I can dig it. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it was a good movie that shows the sacrifices and struggles that African-Americans had to endure trying to secure the right to vote without facing the unnecessary obstacles. As I watched the film I began to view it through the lenses of a person in 2015, and I had to shake my head at the letdown. Somewhere along the way we dropped the ball. We took off the struggle with our dashikis and afros.
It is easy to say that today’s generation lacks the courage, organization, and character of people from the 50s and 60s. In fact that is a cop out. What has to be examined is where exactly did we make a wrong turn? Why does today’s protest come up short when compared to Selma, Vietnam, and Montgomery? We can blame the youth, the music, the schools, the community, and anything else but at some point we have to look into the mirror and ask why. Why did we let the children down? Why did we let the community down? How can we let them down after all that was built during the 60s?
I once recall reading about a discussion between that Dr. King and Harry Belafontae……
Martin Luther King Jr. talking to Harry Belafonte: “I said, ‘What’s the matter, Martin? You seem very agitated.’ He said, ‘Well, I am, because I’ve come upon a thought that I don’t know how to deal with at this moment.’ I said, ‘Well, what is it?’ He said, ‘We’ve fought long for integration. It looks like we’re gonna get it. I think we’ll get the laws,” he says. “But I’m afraid that I’ve come upon something that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m afraid that we’re integrating into a burning house.’”
We seemed to have become complacent once we reached the goal of being able to sit in any restaurant and live wherever we want to. The ones who made it out of the community adopted the attitude of “I made it, how come they can’t?” While the ones who were left behind began to feel abandoned with no hope or example on how to make it out.
When middle class Blacks ran out of the hood in the 70’s and 80’s, the community that was left behind suffered and never rebounded from that exodus. The financial base that was once prevalent in the community shrunk and over time basically disappeared. As we fought to spend our dollars and/or live outside of the Black community, small businesses began to close shop, neighborhoods became infested with poverty, and leaders headed to the hills. Many of the progresses that African Americans gained throughout the Civil Rights era, evaporated by Regan’s second term. We no longer had leaders to pass the knowledge down to the younger generation. In short, our parents failed us.
We (my generation) became obsessed with getting an education, and escaping the hood or at worse becoming better than our parents. That strategy worked for some of us, but the result appeared to have divided the masses. Instead of one main objective we have fractions within our community with many different agendas, and that is even more apparent when you view a film like Selma and look at our current movements.
When you look at protest/demonstrations in Ferguson and other places and hear the division from the arm chair activist as they say they should do this or shouldn’t do that, you know that Blacks in America are on different pages on how to address issues. However when you look at other communities when an issue arises they seem to be in cohesion on what should be done. Where did we go wrong?
It is time for some new leaders to step forward and advance the conditions that we face in our community. Not just the police violence, but educational conditions, economic conditions, and employment conditions. Hopefully the packed movie rooms at theaters across the country, and the protest will begin to reshape a generation of leaders. Maybe they can fill the void that was left by integration.