I observed the revolution of Egypt with mixed emotions. The courage of such a resilient people willing to die for their freedom was enough to give me chills. Dismantling a 30-year regime in 18 days is history worth studying. Yet in my joy for the Egyptian people, I couldn’t help but feel sadness for Black, brown and poor people right here in America that desperately need a revolution.
The strides Blacks in this country have made since the Civil Right Movement are undeniable. But when I look around at our communities, accompanied with the daunting statistics of what is occurring here and abroad, it becomes apparent the ills plaguing our communities are unmatched in comparison to those of other racial groups.
By now you may be rolling your eyes thinking of all the ways Blacks inflict their own pain on themselves and each other. You’re thinking, ‘a revolution for what?’ Hear me out.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black males are incarcerated at rate more than six times higher than that of their white counterparts. For every 100,000 Black males, an estimated 4,777 are held in federal or state prison or a local jail. By contrast, for every 100,000 White males, only 727 are estimated to be incarcerated. The prison industrial complex is real. Once Black men become wardens of the state, inmates are fighting for basic human rights. It was not an accident that the mainstream media ignored the biggest prison protest in U.S. history back in December. By imprisoning massive numbers of Black men, you can bank on the family structure being completely dismantled.
Police brutality is also rampant in our communities. Men in blue uniforms are terrorizing our youth, women and children. “Serve and protect” is exactly what police are not doing. Piss poor training, racist mindsets and the fear of Black men has led to countless deaths and brutal beatings of unarmed citizens by the boys in blue. In 2010 alone there was Aiyana Jones, Oscar Grant, Delroy Henry, Chad Holley and Brandon Johnson, who were all unarmed and either severely beaten or killed. As if the tragedies of death aren’t enough, the cops who pull the trigger and beat Black men aimlessly, are rarely convicted. Oscar Grant’s murder was video taped and Officer Mehserle still walked away with a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Name the last unarmed White individual “mistakenly” killed by police. I’ll wait…
Justice seems to elude those with pigmented skin.
Unemployment in the recession has hurt the country as a whole. You don’t have to wonder who was hit hardest by unemployment. The unemployment rate for Blacks is 15.3 percent in comparison to the 8.0 percent for Whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report. These rates don’t take into consideration the underemployment Blacks have been victims of for decades. As my kindred sister once expressed, “If you hold multiple college degrees and still cannot find employment, how is your country any different than Egypt?”
For those blessed to have gainful employment, don’t worry, there’s still disparity. According to a recent wage gap research done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Black women earn 69% of what white males do in salary. White women earn around 81% of what white men do in salary. The gap in earnings was less between African American and white women. Black women earned a median amount of $585 per week, while white women earned $682. Black women earned approximately 85.8% of the salary of white women.”
There goes the “Blacks and Whites are on an equal playing field” theory.
I could go on and on with listing inequalities or disparities Blacks face in America. The point is not for us to take on a “woe is me” mentality. However, we must vigilantly reflect on our current circumstances. Too many of us are walking through life with our eyes closed.
By no means am I comparing our struggles with that of the Egyptian people. But oppression is oppression regardless of geographical location. I don’t think anyone can deny we are oppressed. We can look to the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Iran to understand wanting change does not come from being afraid to take to the streets for what we believe.
One of the reasons I presume revolution is not on the forefront of our minds is because not all of us are in agreement of the need for one. Black people seem to always be divided on the issues. Look no further than any popular Black news publication or blog where issues are addressed, and notice the comments are usually split 50/50. How can we create a movement for change when we don’t agree on the goal we’re fighting to reach? It’s not the disagreeing that is necessarily hurting us, but the unwillingness to disagree while still working together is.
I’m not 100 percent certain Blacks alone will revolt. And although Blacks have their own set of issues, poverty and class are just as important battles that need to be fought along with institutionalized racism. Just maybe if the working poor of all races joined forces to demand equitable wages and healthcare, Blacks would start seeing the change we need to rebuild collectively.
Racism is rearing its ugly head with President Obama in office. Our communities are plagued without a sign of change in sight. I wish we could realize the power we would have united. It’s never too late for our revolution to be televised too.
“If you aren’t ready to die for it, take the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary. – Malcolm X