Black History Month, Again?
It has become a placebo to satisfy our need to belong, when we should be learning history's lessons.
Moreover, we should recognize that sometimes we are enslaved not by the hands of others but by our own hands. As we address the external issues that confront our communities, we must also address the internal issues that affect our community.
Once we truly appreciate the struggles of preceding generations, we can begin to comprehend our own destiny and confront more effectively the vestiges of old and new racism, segregation and self-hate that buttress the statistics and labels that have come to define our community.
In the 46 years since the launch of Great Society programs to alleviate poverty and racism, the long odds faced by successive generations of black children have changed very little.
At some point -- and it had better be soon -- the black community must define its agenda and fundamentally realign its priorities. Otherwise, our stake in Dr. King's dream -- let alone the American dream -- will further erode to the point of eliminating any sense of ownership of our history, our culture or our future.
Diminished access to high-quality education, and fewer and fewer opportunities either to have a job or to own a business, are not the lessons or the legacy that black history offers us. Further still, the old approaches born out of a Great Society ideology of dependency and victimhood have left many in the black community lurching from one promise to the next that "this time" those promises will be fulfilled. Meanwhile, others move ahead of us in the line.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Black history teaches us that. Without a doubt, educational and economic upward mobility is the root source of empowerment, ownership and opportunity. You undermine this movement, and you guarantee preservation of the status quo. And as you and I know, America has never settled for the status quo.
Black History Month begs us to ask, "Why should we?"
Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007. He is currently a political analyst for MSNBC.