What’s the formula for success in the United States?
Graduate from high school………………check
Graduate from college…………………….check
Marry, raise your children…………………check
Raise your children after a divorce…………check
Work at a career………………………………………..check
Stay with the same employer over 25 years……..check
Return to school for additional education………….check
What happens if you do all the right things, according to the American dream? Shouldn’t you be able to take a walk during your work break and head back to work after that exercise?
Not if you’re a nearly 60 year old black woman.
My sister has accomplished all of those things. And more.
She was taking a walk near her workplace in Omaha when a grocery store nearby was robbed by a black woman. You can already guess what happened next.
My sister was stopped, questioned, detained, put in a police car and taken back to the store. Thank goodness the clerk was honest and told the police that my sister was not the thief.
My sister, who couldn’t work the remainder of the day, went home and cried.
Some of us, ironically, satirically, laughingly, call traveling in these United States DWB (driving while black).
I see it as broader… as LWB (living while black).
I also call it a symptom of the deeply embedded racism that has permeated this country since the Reagan area began nearly 34 years ago, multi-national corporations have tightened their control over our politicians and the tea party and its vitrolic attempts to promote one group (primarily white males) to power have stripped our nation of its future as a spiritual, caring, country that welcomes all Americans. A scholar recently called it white rage….because things aren’t the way they used to be when nearly all white men were considered unquestionably right, especially as contrasted against people of color.
I’m angry, dismayed, disheartened and frustrated.
LWB denies us, black folks, the right to live our lives in dignity. It also challenges us/me to look at police not as law-enforcing but as life-endangering bullies.
I’ve mentioned in a radio spot how I’d taught my sons, especially, when they were young, to defer to the police. I’d taught them that they couldn’t be normal kids if the police were to drive by–or stop them–they were to be polite, not assert their rights [at least not at that time] and to “bow” to police authority or they could be wrongfully detained, jailed or–in the worst possible scenario–killed. My strategy worked–none of my now adult sons have been murdered by police like Michael Brown was or by vigilantes like Trayvon Martin was. My heart aches for their mothers, fathers, families and friends.
Now, I’m afraid that I must teach my 3 year old granddaughter the same cautions about the police that I’d taught my sons. She’s smart and polite and very independent. I must caution her that the police aren’t necessarily around to help her; that she must be cautious. And that she must maintain that caution throughout her life….
As a country, we have a long way to go to to fulfill the promise of the Statue of Liberty; a promise which welcomed voluntary immigrants to the United States and which has been forgotten in the current climate.
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!””
–Emily Lazarus http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/new-colossus
Beautiful words. Ignored in the current political and social environment in the United States.
So, what is the formula for success in the United States?
If you’re white, the sky’s the limit. If you’re black you want to try to make a difference for future generations. And formula for success is still under advisement.