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R2K - Reconstruction 2000
Marilyn Shaw
On Community Watch

By Marilyn Shaw

I received a telephone call from a friend one morning that was so moving and thought provoking, that I would be remiss if I didn't share it with others.

I had been in my office just long enough to pour a cup of green tea, open my newspaper and find a talk radio program that chimed with my mood, when I received a call from a friend. As was customary, we mowed over some current events and exchanging ideas, but there was something different in his voice this morning. There was distress in his voice and the source of his pain was clear. The conversation was about us, Black folks.

Why are we so SOS (stuck on stupid)? he asked. He went on to paint an experience of his, wherein he met with an local grass root group to assist them in finding ways to make the group more cohesive and powerful. He said that he explained that in order for his plan to be successful, it required the pooling of the group's resources and their commitment to solidarity. To his chagrin, the Q & A portion of the presentation seemed to serve as a portal to which individuals could parlay their own agendas. Bickering broke out and in the midst of hurling epithets, he calmly tucked his well-written plan under his arm and carted his optimism out the room.

My friend's sentiment is shared by a multitude of our people. There is a consensus that we do not pool our resources together and are not in solidarity. Indeed, we are in a crisis state. However, through the murky waters of this despair, there is a quickening in some of us. It is an awakening that clearly says that it is time for us to exorcise the spirit of individualism and divisiveness and time for us to garner our talents, gifts and resources and work together as one unit.

As we approach the new millennium, the so-called mainstream America is becoming less sensitive to the plight of our people. Whether the once felt sensitivity for our concerns was genuine or disingenuous, there was a time went at least the thought was entertained. Recently, our needs have taken a backseat to a growing contingency of individuals, companies and organizations who feel that their way of life is being threatened and that it must be preserved at any cost. That very drive for preservation has thwarted our advancements in some areas and has completely annihilated them in others.

Once regarded as a shameful stain on the annals of America, racism is en vogue, again. Not since Reconstruction have we experienced such a flurry of bigoted remarks and racist policies directed towards us. The difference between now and then is the coding of the language. The language used in this new Eurocentricity offers subtle encryptions as in the phrases American values and War on Drugs. In other areas, the language is clearly pronounced as in South Central Los Angeles, a code that describes where folks live. By far, one of the most destructive coding of language appears in political referendums, such as Proposition 209. The passage of this proposition was tantamount to this state placing a George Wallace in the pathway of every institution of higher learning. Its effects are perpetual in that it sets a tone for the rest of the nation and has a chilling effect on those individuals who qualify to enter these institutions without an aiding hand.

I'm saddened when I think of how so many of our people died in our liberation struggle, just to have so many of accomplishments pulled right from underneath our feet. Although statistics tell us that we have far more middle class blacks today than 15, 20, 30 years ago, a lot of us are yearning for the "good OLE' days. Perhaps what we really are longing for are those times when we worked together to resolve the problems of our community. Perhaps what we are forgetting is that we were forced to do so. We had no other place to go.

As we approach the new millennium, we have no place to go. As such, we must move past the peculiar, residual effects of slavery and embrace the gifts and ideas of our own visionaries. We need to cease in our envy and strife towards each other and stop sitting on our hands when we can assist that brother or sister in placing that final brick and mortar to complete that monument they're trying to build.

Perhaps we should create our own think tanks and have all our own brilliant minds "talk it over." In these endeavors, we can exchange ideas on how we can own a basketball and football team instead of being just players, or how we can own our tennis shoe companies, instead of being just spokespersons. I am sure that the Y2K crisis with the computers is a legitimate concern of this country, but our primary concern should be R2K, Reconstruction 2000. Only this time, it will be our own reconstruction of our destiny, not on the destiny of those who seek to further divide and destroy us. If we come together as a brilliant collective, our survival is promised in the new millennium.

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