When I was younger, my friends and I used to talk a lot about our future and some of the things we wanted to accomplish in life.
At the end of our conversation, someone would always jokingly end the discussion with the statement, “but it’s HARD out here for a Black man!”
I was blessed to be born during an extraordinary time in our nation’s history. The 1950s and 1960s were pivotal years for Black Americans and our fight for the most basic of human rights.
I had a front-row seat during the civil rights movement. I saw the rise of civil rights superstars like Martin, Rosa, Malcolm, and Jesse.
I rejoiced with pride in the accomplishments of figures like Colin Powell, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.
I remember quite vividly the signs posted over water fountains and hanging on restroom doors that said, “Whites Only.”
I saw a president get assassinated and a civil rights icon get murdered.
I watched as the riots ensued; our city engulfed in the flames of protest.
Tanks parked outside my home, and military soldiers patrolling my neighborhood day and night.
I saw the ugliness of desegregation in our schools and society unfold before my very eyes.
I saw young Black children brave the insults of white hatred just so they could enjoy the benefits of a quality education without discrimination.
I worked 10 hours a day on weekends picking cotton when I was 10 years old, making only 10 cents a day.
I remember my mom having to work as a maid for a white family on the weekends to help put food on our table.
I remember as a 12-year-old taking the 8 Chelsea (public transportation) Downtown so that I could participate in the protest marches led by Dr. King on behalf of Memphis sanitation workers.
For some reason, I was determined to be a part of that demonstration.
My proudest moment as an African American, however, was witnessing the inauguration of the nation’s first Black President, Barack Obama.
I was so incredibly proud!
I have seen so much during my years on this earth. The civil rights era was a challenging time for African Americans (pre and post). It has not been easy.
Our leaders and communities were strong. We worked together because we had a common agenda that was important to us all.
But not today.
We seem to have fallen off the proverbial “mountain top.”
There is no common agenda.
I feel our children today have no idea what we, as Black people, have been through. And there are people out there who want to make sure it stays that way.
People like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, the nation’s poster child of racial insensitivity, have no interest whatsoever in the health and wellbeing of the Black community.
Under his leadership, his state has banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and continues to champion new laws that put guardrails on lessons about racism and racial oppression.
Teachers who violate these new laws could not only lose their licenses but face felony charges as well.
Gov. DeSantis refers to systemic racism as “a bunch of horse manure.”
His administration also is making plans to remove and reform education programs that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at state universities.
It is widely anticipated that DeSantis will challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president. He seems to believe that attacking issues in education that Blacks care deeply about will appeal to the staunch conservative wing of his party. He may be right.
By the way, DeSantis is far more dangerous to American democracy than Donald Trump could ever be. Keep that in mind as we approach another election year.
African Americans have a rich and inspiring history. The heroes and sheroes of the Black community were brave, bold beacons of light for all.
There are those like DeSantis who want to dull that light and make their work and contributions seem insignificant.
Life is unquestionably hard for Black Americans, and there is no reason to believe it will get easier anytime soon.
But we have so much to be proud of. Our history is our strength. We must never forget from whence we came.
It is the key to determining our future destinations.
I would be remiss if I did not extend my sincere condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols. I still pray for his family. The community’s response to his tragic and untimely death has been commendable. And I still cannot get that video out of my head.
But, again, as I said at the beginning, it is hard out here for a Black man.
Enjoy your day.
(Follow me, TSD’s education columnist, on Twitter @curtisweathers. Email me at [email protected].)