The Mythical “New Black” and the painfully real “Old Black”

Since the advent of the mythical “New Black”, the black community has been divided on dozens of issues from politics and economics, to how our children should be raised.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, a year ago this week, Pharell Williams defined himself as “A New Black”. “The New Black dreams and realises that it’s not pigmentation: it’s a mentality and it’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re going to be on,” he continued to explain. This lead to a year-long social media firestorm about what it truly meant to be black in the twenty-first century, culminating in what was essentially disowning several black celebrities including Common, Pharell, Raven-Symone, and the latest addition, Kanye-West.

New Black has become synonymous in our community with words of contempt like “sell outs” and “uncle toms”. I’d like to propose we reclaim the phrase “New Black”.

The black community has been the champion of the minority struggle in America and abroad supporting oppressed peopled around the world (even as we are senselessly ignored, defamed and murdered). We have become a powerful force for change on the world stage, but on the home front, we have slipped into an internal conflict. A civil war would be an over exaggeration, but for those of you who are unfamiliar there are two current schools of thought:

The Miscalculating Old School, The Misguided “New Blacks” and the rest of us, The Mindful.

The Civil Rights Era Blacks are the generation of non-violence, the generation that changed the world, is the most prominent voice in America today — and that’s great. But honestly, those same voices of Cornell West, Tavis Smiley, and countless others are becoming a monotoned whine at the back of all discussions on race.

In comparison, the New Blacks, are that luke-warm moderate voice that in the words of Raven-Symoné, “is colorless” and believes in the words of Kanye West, “racism is a dated concept”. Yeah, because Baltimore burned because of a misunderstanding right?

If you always do what has always been done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got

I think it’s important to note that neither of these factions is the consensus that we need as a community. Living in the 21st century means that the old ways are not going to work anymore, and frankly this generation is tired of the bullshit. Marches are not solving anything, “peaceful” protests — though wonderfully thought out and a testament of our strength to be knocked down repeatedly and stand back up again— are accomplishing nothing except conveying the same dissatisfaction with the state of human rights that we have been screaming for the past 430 years. It seems to me, we need a change, or at the very least a tribal council to rethink our strategies.

A question for my people, who read this, is it time for a New-New Black? A generation of black people that are willing to take into consideration things like LGBTQ rights in our communities or how our families are raised — spankings or alternative discipline? A school of thought that thinks solving important issues like deciding how to better move our one trillion dollar annual buying power back into our communities? There is no doubt that we are powerful, but as the saying goes, “a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”.

“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”

Fam — I know this is only a beginning, but with all due respect — we need to get some clarity. I hate to phrase it this way, no amount of that “old-time religion”, peaceful protests or “we made it” talk is going to stop us from being murdered. Deliberate, well-planned action is necessary, and if it comes down to it, I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

If you don’t recognize the quote above and the one below, they are both from our great Matriarch Harriet Tubman. Now ask yourselves, have we come so far? If your answer is no, consider that it’s 2015 and we still have to convince white people that our lives matter. It’s nigh five months into the year and how many of our young have become hashtags and t-shirts? Too many.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

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