What Do Blacks Want?

In the wake of so much media publicity documenting the daily moves of protesting Black activists , such as “Black Lives Matter”, I’ve begun inwardly searching for answers to the recurring, thematic questions that are raised by constant voices of disgruntled Black marchers and spokespersons: “How long?”, “When?” “Who cares?” “Am I not a man?” –questions that beg to be answered in the overarching question: “Just what do Blacks want?” It is the low, whispered question heard among the rhetorically “others”, who dare not speak too loudly in this current racial climate. Because I, too, am a Black American, I listen and wait for answers to questions posed by my people today–as I have for nearly 80 years.

As if in a dream, one word recently came to me that I believe sums up what we, who are black in this country want; not wealth, not social status, not even freedom–those are too easily obtained. What I think we want is DIGNITY. Now, there’s a word! It’s one that too few people speak , let alone understand its meaning. Our Black ancestors did. They understood, oh too well, how it felt to live in a world where one’s dignity was subject to be trampled in the mud, abused in uncompromising pursuit of lust, and all-too-often  strung by a rope to a tree. So what is it that we’ve lost and can’t find? In the Oxford Dictionary, “dignity” is defined as a state of being worthy of honor or respect;  worthiness, respectability, high regard, being treated with due respect.

One would think that dignity was a birthright. In many places, for millions of people, it is. Dignity is a by-product of position, wealth, and power for many. Those attributes are sparse among American Blacks. What’s left is to impose dignity on oneself–like taking a “selfie.” In the absence of a sense of worthiness and respectability that a fair society might generously bestow, Black Americans must rely on themselves, and upon the elements of good in their environments to extract a”self-worth”–a sense of “self- worthiness” and “self-respect” that is earned by hard work, stridently carved character, and that may be perceived only in the narrowest of bandwidths. “Dignity” is not easily garnered, but once acquired, it is a treasured state.

There are those who say, and rightly so, that  acquiring “dignity” is  an inside job; nothing more, nothing less. I believe this, also. It is what we say to ourselves that matter most in the end. The orders we give to ourselves that direct our behavior and our innermost drives determine just how “worthy” we feel about ourselves. This is what Black Americans must understand and embrace if we are to stop looking outward for the validation that we want–as the old Black  spiritual said: “The world didn’t give it to you, and the world can’t take it away!”

This is not about “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” On the contrary, it is about “Starting where you are, with what you’ve got–making something of it–and never being ‘satisfied'”. Those are the immortal words of one Dr. George Washington Carver that speak to the issue of “dignity” among our people. We must re-visit them now, and often, and take them to heart if we are ever to get what we really want and long for–“DIGNITY.” We have only to claim it!


8 Responses to “What Do Blacks Want?”

  1. Ernie McCray Says:

    Well said, Shirley. One should always claim what’s rightfully his or hers. Thats hard for somebody who can’t connect with such a way of thinking but that doesn’t alter the reality that the choice is the person’s if dignity is to be had. Timely piece.

  2. Rosetta Says:

    Could not have been said any better. Rosetta

    • Shirley Robinson Sprinkles Says:

      Rosie, we “Dunbar kids” of long ago learned this the hard way–but never forgot it! Thanks for the response. Pass it on. . .

  3. Gloria Says:

    I miss your writings, Dr. Sprinkles. They always left me in deep thought, as did this one. Thank you!

    • Shirley Robinson Sprinkles Says:

      Thanks, Gloria. I am getting back into the “groove”. Several things are now off my plate. I expect to spend more time with writing than I have in a couple of years. Stay tuned!

  4. Carol Wright Says:

    Amen my sista! Very well said. Miss you at book club…hope to see you more in 2016. Be Blessed.

    • Shirley Robinson Sprinkles Says:

      Thanks, Carol. Tell other Book Club members about this article. I hope to get back to you guys soon–I miss you, too!

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