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A dawn of a new era

7/16/2008, 4:51 a.m.
“I think I’ve said too...

A dawn of a new era

“I think I’ve said too much.”

For quite some time, the Banner’s editorial page has asserted that the civil rights era approach is no longer an effective strategy for advancing the interests of African Americans. Racial discrimination persists, but it is no longer sufficiently virulent to prevent black progress. What is needed now is a rededication to the old-fashioned values of self-discipline, hard work and thrift.

Nothing illustrates the conflicts of philosophies more poignantly than the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s rebuke of Sen. Barack Obama for his Father’s Day speech, in which the presidential candidate chided black men to be more involved in their children’s lives. Jackson criticized this speech as “talking down to black people.” Jackson apparently would have preferred a criticism of society for making it difficult for black men to assume their parental obligations.

Progress occurs only with the establishment of increasingly higher standards of performance. African Americans have overcome enormous obstacles to attain their present levels of achievement. This is no time to retard self-effort and blame others for the lack of success. African Americans need leaders who will preach honestly, even if the truth is at times uncomplimentary, and then encourage people to do better.

Jesse Jackson and other civil rights activists fought for black progress and won. The battle against white recalcitrants will continue, but the main focus of African Americans must now be on education and economic development. It is unseemly for the old guard to engage in a philosophical battle against the needed new ideas. It is time to move on.

Roxbury pride 

For several decades, Roxbury residents of the mid-20th century have would come with their families to an annual reunion in Franklin Park. People travel from all over the United States, and even abroad, to reminisce with their friends and neighbors about growing up in Roxbury as an African American.

Those were challenging times. Meaningful jobs for blacks were scarce. Racial discrimination in housing and education was common. Accounting for only about 5 percent of the population, blacks lacked the political clout to effect change. There was no affirmative action and little constitutional redress for racial grievances.

Despite these impediments, Roxbury thrived. People seemed to recognize a bond with one another. There was encouragement for those who were trying to get ahead and support for those experiencing difficulties. People respected their elders, and there was a code of respect for one another.

There were conflicts, of course. Young boys had gangs, which were really just neighborhood clubs. No one was armed. Disputes upon occasion led to fistfights, not armed attacks, and injuries were rarely serious enough to require medical attention. Adults would usually intervene to quell bad tempers.

People were not meticulous about locking their house doors. There was little concern about burglaries and robberies. Women could walk home alone at night without fear.

Roxbury was a nurturing community. Is it any wonder that those who came of age in this era are delighted to gather to keep those good memories alive? But this year, the spirit of reunion had to coalesce with the celebration of Juneteenth.

Some things naturally go together, like rice and beans or peanut butter and jelly. But the Roxbury Reunion and Juneteenth are not natural partners. There is a jubilant spirit in celebrating early life in Roxbury, something the revelers personally experienced. However, the end of slavery is quite an abstraction for African Americans because it was followed by Jim Crow, lynching and a century-long period of severe racial persecution.

Perhaps Juneteenth ought to be a time for white Americans to celebrate another step in their arduous road to spiritual attainment of this nation’s credo: “All men are created equal.”