Frank Robinson of Farragut shares his feelings, from firsthand experience, on Black History Month
These are extraordinary times, and we face extraordinary challenges. But our strength, as well as our convictions, have imposed upon each of us the role to be a leader in the cause of freedom.
What does it mean to be an American citizen and be Black? I cannot imagine that any question would be so vital to young Black Americans on the threshold of a new adventure in this or the coming decades, nor do I have any illusions that any one person can give them all the answers they seek.
Life is a mystery; we don’t have all the answers. We, as Americans, are part of a vast, powerful and dynamic nation — a great power whose responsibilities and influences are worldwide and frightening.
America speaks of inalienable rights, individual liberties and equality of man. These are essential virtues and, in my opinion, are virtues that we should fight to keep. The American citizen is at once the benefactor and protector of this great American legacy.
The privileges and rights for all Americans are written in the Constitution. Although the Constitution does not state that all men are created equal, it states that all men have certain rights, such as freedom of speech and religion as stated in the Bill of Rights; however, those rights did not apply to slaves.
After the Civil War, three important amendments were added to the Constitution. First, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery; second, the 14th Amendment stated that everyone born in the United States is a citizen (including former slaves); and third, the 15th Amendment stated that no citizen could be denied the right to vote on the basis of “race or color or previous condition of servitude.”
Every citizen of this nation has the right to the essential attributes of a free and dignified existence. As American citizens, we are entitled to negotiate the waters of the mainstream, but to say our course is free without barriers would be criminally misleading.
We must be realistic. The road we must travel is clear, though the prospects may not be pleasant. The democratic framework of our society is our great hope only if we are willing to work to overcome disadvantages.
When our forefathers and mothers were brought to America, they were stripped of everything — a calculated cruelty designed to crush their spirit. When slavery ended after more than 240 years and large-scale physical abuse was discontinued, it was supplemented by a different but equally damaging abuse (apartheid) for another 100-plus years.
We were forbidden to be African but not allowed to be American. We were totally disconnected from our African culture. I see America as a process of collision of three main cultures groups: European, Native American and African.
The result of that collision was the creation of a unique people — not European, not Native American and not African. We are an amalgamation of three different cultures.
An American people whose culture is defined only by our experiences in the United States of America.
Today’s leaders who despise other Americans because of a unique element of their identity are at a profound disadvantage when called upon to lock arms in brotherhood. We have suffered a crippling disadvantage because of our origin, but we are Americans in a democratic society-— a society that is very competitive.
The going is hard. To make it, we must have a firm resolve, persistence and tenacity. We can never give up; we can never be over-prepared. We must be strong competitors. We must adhere to the principle that anything less than full equality is not enough. America is our home and our inheritance, and we must accept our responsibility.
There will be mistakes, but that’s life. Keep our eyes on the prize.
Our scars are deep, but along with our scars we have a secret, our “genius” we survived.
We are bigger than any party; bigger than any amount of wealth; and praise that which has furthered interracial and interfaith brotherhood.
We must be too great to hate, too strong to be unjust and too Godly not to forgive.