06 February 2007

I'm watching PBS, and being that it is once again Black History Month, they are airing a special about an inventor named Percy Lavon Julian.

The guests being interviewed all say that he never allowed anyone to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. It goes without saying that intestinal fortitude is admirable. However, when that particular sentiment is repeated often enough, the unspoken message becomes clear: racism cannot stop you from succeeding.

My response is that they are wrong.

People of African descent need to recognize that even when individuals fail to hurdle the obstacles placed in their path by bigoted people, that in no way negates the fact that racism in America was and continues to be an abominable and, too often, lethal practice--it does not nullify the deleterious effects those obstacles have on a human being.

If individuals that share my skin color and African ancestry do not transform into super-humans who traverse the perilous gauntlet of racism unscathed, we should not turn around and blame them for not somehow succeeding (financially or otherwise). At the same time, we should look critically at those who are considered a success after entering into unholy alliances with those who would do our ethnicity harm (read: Condoleeza "tha' Skeeza" Rice).

I celebrate Percy Julian, and all my brethren and sistren who came before me to make my path in this country of high ideals a little smoother. Yet, I empathize and identify with other brethren and sistren who found that they were too human to psychologically survive being bludgeoned by the cudgel of racism.

I do not blame those who succumb, I honor their fight.