“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.” — Rev. Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This quote is of the Dr. King, Jr. that I have come to love even more than the “I Have a Dream” M.L.K., Jr. It takes a mature person to take a step back and say, “Though my heart was in the right place, I was wrong.”
Segregation was a struggle because of a lack of equal resources combined with an abundance of white people who looked to stand in the way of our self-sufficiency. Integration, however, has been a struggle of epic proportion because many of those who would be our strongest leaders divested from our communities in hopes of separating themselves from the negative stigma America had placed on our communities. White America gave them jobs and titles and affirmative action on predominantly white college campuses and athletic scholarships and, before we knew it, our community was devoid of its greatest resource: leadership.
As they moved the Talented Tenth out, and subsequently their offsprings, we saw the illicit drug industry thrive, single-parent households increase, a spike in black-on-black crime, and the value of education decrease in more impoverished black communities. Miseducation and distractions in the form of substances and soulless entertainment had replaced much of the pride that once defined the exclusively black community. And, on the other side of town, those blacks who had “successfully” integrated themselves and their families into white society felt accomplished and that their mere existence (even if from a distance) serves as an example to those with whom they never come in contact. It is sad to feel uncomfortable walking into a community that is one you should be taking ownership of, only to realize that, in actuality, it is owned predominantly by WASPs, Jewish people, and Asians.
On this Dr. Martin Luther Luther King, Jr. Day of 2018, I charge you to embrace these next few years as a resurrected Harlem Renaissance. Creatives, create. Business leaders, develop. Educators, educate. Investors, invest. But do all of this in our communities.
And, lastly, put your money where your mouth is. This past weekend, I placed a decent amount of money into Mechanics & Farmers Bank, a black-owned bank out of Durham, NC. When I look to secure my home loan, I will be doing so with a black-owned bank. I work out at a black-owned gym (Prime Athletic Training & Fitness Institute). My tailor shop is a black-owned tailor shop (Levi’s Tailor Shop). My graphic designer is black (Charity Coleman). My photographer is black (Reko Daye). My financial advisor is black (George Acheampong). My go to artist is black (Tatiana Camice). Sadly, my grocer is not (though I hope to start growing my own vegetables next year) and my black dentist recently retired and sold her practice but I’ll be back in the market soon.
Self-preservation is not racist. I’m not saying we need to segregate again. I’m saying reinvest in the growth of your own communities. Ironically, for those who think it’s unsafe, we know for a fact that, where money flows, safety becomes a priority. We can no longer return to the times of an untainted Black Wall Street. What has been done is done. But we can take what we’ve learned in these decades since realizing the watered down version of Dr. King’s dream and use it to build our own communities back up and to fortify them.
Make a well-rounded community a priority.