I cannot grasp the life my parents experienced growing up in America. My parents who have been married for forty-eight years, were young adults during a period when American government legislated segregation.
Imagine that life. The American government legislated segregation. It was legal to create a society in which men and women on the basis of skin color were not allowed to congregate with one another. Segregated from making economic decisions. Segregated from making educational and voting decisions. Men and women were essentially forced to live in isolation of one another on the basis of numerous dubious justifications.
It was my parents generation who stood on the shoulders of the previous generation to actualize greater individual freedom. There were obviously many positive outcomes due to the marches, sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and assemblies on the streets of our nation’s capital.
This generation has some strong and broad shoulders. Shoulders framed under the stress and tension of shouts to “Turn back,” and “Wait a while!” Shoulders made strong due to great presses towards freedom.
So we stand on those shoulders today.
There are many who would have us to believe we are still existing within the environment of our parents. While America has issues, its blatant and unabashed flaunting of racism and segregation by force are not the prevailing obstacles of my life or your life. Our shoulders are not strengthened by the imagery of “Colored only,” the drenching torrent of water hoses, or escaping “sundown” communities. Those days are over. Unfortunately, we continue to believe this lie and being misled to participate in activities which strengthen paternalism and dependency.
We are exercising our shoulders despite the lies.
Our shoulders are being crafted by the hard work to extend the legacy of the previous generation. We have greater opportunities to choose what instruments and approaches to build our broad shoulders. At this period in our American life we have more entrepreneurs, millionaires, political leaders, judges at all levels, economic leaders, and community driven initiatives. We have produced as a culture a significant worldwide influence in the form of rap/hip hop. Who would have thought Ice-Cube would be the owner of a basketball league? Who would have imagined a homeless man, who captured the imagination of millions as a cross-dressing grandma would open an expansive movie studio in Georgia? Who would have thought a Black man would become President?
We stand on strong shoulders and we are exercising ours for the next generation.
Do problems exist? Of course there will be problems because with freedom comes an environment in which individual people make choices. The great news is we each have the opportunity to exercise our individual freedom to help others while not violating their own freedom. When we exercise our freedom to help others live free, our shoulders become broad and strong.
Which brings me back to the beginning.
My parents generation recognized America could not be truly free if a segment of its population could not fully exercise their opportunities to flourish as human beings. So those protests, marches, sit-ins, and fist raising was not only for the freedom of Black men and women but America.
These are the shoulders we stand on today. It is now our responsibility to broaden our shoulders so that the next generation can stand free and flourish as outstanding human beings.