There was a time, not too long ago, before the early 1960s there were all kinds of terms to describe people of African descent; most were derogatory words. The most accepted and commonly use was Negro. However, they call these people today other terms like African American, Black, Afro-American and these are the polite ones. Frankly, those terms were unheard of in the consciousness of the people called Negro. I am one who thinks the Negro was hoodwinked by the shame they called integration because we were never integrated into the broader society. But then that is what white folk do!
I remember a distinct conversation with a friend where we discussed descriptive terms for ourselves before the mid-sixties. To be clear, all of the terms before and now were assigned by other people to define and demean people of color as a way to say; these people are less than and not true citizens. The mere fact that most black people carry the name of the family of their ancestor’s white slave owners proves this to be true.
The term “black” was just coming into vogue when I was a young man, and most people of color didn’t like it a bit. In fact, they were so happy being called Negro that being called black was an insult and fighting words. Now, the word “Negro” (publications used a lowercase “n”) has almost become pejorative and today most people of color feel insulted when they are referred to as such. It tells you how demeaning it was then and how times has changed.
“When we were Negroes,” there were several things that were distinctly different concerning black life. First, there was a higher level of respect for our humanness and one another because it was a necessity to need each other because of segregation. It was in a perverted way a sense of unity among us. In my view integration robbed us of that unity.
So it got me to thinking. When we were Negroes in the 1950s, “only 9 percent of black families with children were headed by a single parent,” according to “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies” by Kay Hymowitz. “Black children had a 52 percent chance of living with both their biological parents until age 17. In 1959, “only 2 percent of black children were reared in households in which the mother never married.”
Now that we’re so called African Americans, according to Hymowitz, the odds of living with both parents has “dwindled to a mere 6 percent” by the mid-1980s and today the statistics are worse and much lower. For example, he says in Bibb County (GEORGIA); more than 70 percent of the births in the African American community are to single mothers.
When we were Negroes and still fighting in many parts of the country for the right to vote, we couldn’t wait for the polls to open. We knew our friends, family, and acquaintances died getting us the ballot. Can you remember Selma or when dogs and fire hoses were used to keep us away from the polls, but now that we’re African Americans, before President Obama, most didn’t bother to show up at the polls at all. Then as a result of over criminalizing the African American population, in many cases, the vote has been taken away completely.
During the era of being identified as Negro, black people had names like John, Joshua, Aaron, Paul, Esther, Melba, Cynthia, and Ida. Now that we are African Americans, our names are bastardized versions of alcohol from Chivas to Tequila to Chardonnay, and chances are the names of this era have more unusual spellings.
When we were Negroes, according to the Trust For America’s Health “F as in Fat,” report, “only four states had diabetes rates above 6 percent. … The hypertension rates in 37 states about 20 years ago were more than 20 percent.” Now that we’re African Americans that report shows, “every state has a hypertension rate of more than 20 percent, with nine more than 30 percent. Forty-three states have diabetes rates of more than 7 percent, and 32 have rates above 8 percent. Adult obesity rates for blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35 percent in 35 states and 30 percent in 42 states and Washington, D.C. [These are the most recent I could find, which may be higher]
When we were Negroes, the one-room church was the community center that all black people used. Now that we’re African Americans, our churches have to be lavish, and in many cases all the preacher want is your money, compared to back-in-the-day churches, community centers usually sit empty because the last thing the new church wants to do is invite in the community. Further, if you attend such a place the first thing you will see, more often than not, is an ATM in the lobby. In the churches of today, there is a very good chance the leader of the flock, almost assured has a criminal record. It is also a good chance that this leader prays on the congregation sexually or partakes in some sort of financial exploitation.
Back when we were Negroes, we didn’t have to be convinced that education was the key that opened the lock of success, but now that we’re African Americans, more than 50 percent of our children fail to graduate high school. The dropout rate is higher than during the time when schools were segregated.
Back when we were Negroes, the last thing a young woman wanted to look like was a harlot and a young man a thug, but now that we’re African Americans, many of our young girls dress like hoochie mamas and our young boys imitate penitentiary customs wearing their pants below the butt line. The incarceration rate of African American people has skyrocketed in comparison to the days of segregation. It has been said that there are currently more black males in prisons than there were in slavery.
Police brutality has always existed in the African American community. However, today laws have been passed to turn the other community into vigilantes through laws such as “Stop and Frisk” and “Stand your Ground”. These laws essentially say SHOOT TO KILL black men and young boys. These Nazi like tactics routinely occur with the police. Today, drugs have become an epidemic used to destroy black people and gang warfare further that effort.
Pride and strength were the foundations of these people called Negro; fortitude and courage made the race strong. Black people must recapture the pride and greatness of those whose shoulders we stand and relearn that the fights of others are not our battles. If I could reverse all of the above by trading the term “African American” for “Negro”, today I might choose Negro. Although, personally I prefer Black! Here’s a thought – let’s make Black the New Black to make our communities great by being concerned about black issues and yes, Black Lives Matter! So act like it does!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…