Although the study of history is sufficient to reward all research, African-Americans would be wise to write their history in advance. That is, we must create self-fulfilling prophecies.
Digging deep enough, one can find a relatively complete and reliable account of African-American history. Moreover, there are more than a sufficient number of assessments of our current status. But where are we going? What do we want to achieve? What are our goals for the 21st Century?
Many in our modern civilization may find it adequate to "make it up as it goes along." A people plagued by the enormity of problems that are faced by African-Americans, however, cannot settle for a haphazard unearthing of solutions. We must use our knowledge of history and of the present day to formulate solutions that we can forecast. This is history on a planned basis, so that we achieve our goals during the 21st Century. Procrastination may result in the non-existence of African-Americans as we know ourselves today by the end of the century.
You will note the conspicuous absence of a goal statement for African-Americans. That is because there is confusion about what we really want.
Surely, African-Americans are not monolithic. However, most of us that were around in the 1960s opted for desegregation. The de facto outcome of that decision was to agree to full integration. As a starting point, let us all agree that full integration into American society is what we desire (dissenters are free to challenge). Having said that, what does it mean and what must we do to achieve this outcome? Let us establish definitions, goals, and timetables.
In simple terms, to be fully integrated into American society means having the relative wealth, education and political power possessed by the representative American. In other words, we need to establish a goal that the per capita income of every African-American is no less than the per capita income of the average American. To help achieve this, let's set a goal that every African-American reach no less than the same educational attainment of the average American. Finally, let us agree that we will become as familiar with, and participate in, the political process to an extent equal or greater than that of the average American. What is the timetable for all of this? How about one generation - by 2020?
It has been said that if you were in the "wish-granting" business, your customers would only constitute about 25% of the world's population because 75% of the population does not know what it wants. Are African-Americans among the 75%? I have found that my life is more ordered and successful when I write down what I want to achieve and work toward those goals. African-Americans may benefit from this strategy if we make definitive decisions about what we really want and establish a timetable for achieving our goals. We may even pleasantly surprise ourselves by over-achieving.
Let us look forward to the 21st Century as a time when we agree
on our goals, establish timetables, and achieve everything we
wish for. The power of this strategy is such that, just one-quarter
of the way through this century, all African-Americans could be
fully integrated into American society and could be looked upon
with respect in this country and around the world.
(Dr. B.B. Robinson is a member of the National Advisory Council
of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and an economist.
He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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