Let’s not lose sight of present while fussing over Black History Month
When Barack Obama won the United States presidential election in 2008, for the black Western experience it was monumental. Most of those born in the 1950s and earlier could not have imagined that such a phenomenon was possible in their lifetime. So the general statement “Look how far we’ve come” has some real quantifiable dynamics.
Yet his presidency is not the absolute measure of black progress, particularly when we look at the state of general society. OK, if you consider a people once in shackles then going through 100 years of Jim Crow legislation that deprived basic human rights, yes, there is measurable societal progress.
The thing of interest is the movements and attitudes that led to all these changes. Even a look at what was termed as the enemy over the years is interesting. In Bermuda, too, the generic term identified as the enemy was the slave master and then it became the oligarch or the “40 thieves”.
The heroes also were of interest, whether it was Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, William du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X or Stokely Carmichael. They each represented a different brand of solution, but they each seemed to have the same common enemy against whom they fought presumably for liberation.
The 1960s with the Woodstock era brought with it a fundamental shift in consciousness that powered a humanitarian wave that has been slowly but steadily at work. This wave has gotten us to the point where the goalposts have shifted. While the same problems exist, the question of who the enemy of progress is has become elusive.
When we look at the successes of the many liberation movements that have overthrown oligarchies and broken the backs of colonialism, the new problems that emerged became the very movements themselves, which were supposedly the instruments of change.
New government after new government became the new abusers of power and the cause for continued repression — a sad indictment, however, in the search for true liberation, vigilance is important.
At times it’s not as simple as identifying a person or group; at times it is an ideology or ideas that are not appropriate for progress, but in fact, are simply regressive. When power is involved, people can subscribe to ideas that are regressive because it gives them power. Today the question of who or where the enemy is is not as clear or black and white. The new board game requires insight.
The issue of transparency today is not simply a matter of having legislative rights such as public access to information. Transparency means also to give a full account of where leadership is heading.
Leadership is not a right; it is a responsibility granted systemically through a democratic process. This issue of responsible leadership is a universal idea and applies to any government.
While we are enjoying Black History Month, let’s not get lost in history to the extent we fail to be accountable to the age in which we live. Observe all of it and learn by being open to what the trends tell you. There is a saying: “Truth is sweet but the reality is bitter.”