How 'Bout Some Walking Boots...

For That Journey To The Promised Land

Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday. There will be a lot said about what he did for black people in general and for America as a whole. Looking back into history is easy to see that black people have made great strides in America and America herself has made some moves toward reconciliation for her oppression of black people.

On April 3, 1968, Rev. King gave a speech where he told the congregation that he had seen the promised land. His comments were more of a premonition than they were a speech.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

The very next day he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of a Memphis hotel. That was 37 years ago. The question is have we reached the mountain top? Have we seen the promise land that Rev. King spoke of?

My guess would be that the answer to that question is dependent on who you ask. Many Americans will say yes, not only has black people reached the mountain top, they’ve gone into the valley of the promised land and made a space for themselves in America. They will note black progression in business, education, home ownership, jobs and general acceptance. Others will say no and they will point out the disparities in education, health care, poverty and crime.

There are many facts supporting each. My take is that in general, black people are on that mountain top. But as long as the disparities exist, we as a people cannot claim to have made it to the promised land.

When Rev. King was on Meet the Press in 1967, he said that it was unfair to ask a bootless man to pull himself up by the bootstraps. In 2005, many state that there is no reason for black disparity outside of the moral deficiencies of black people. In essence, we have been given our boots. Those with this world view do not look at the deficiencies within the structure of our society that hinder the progression of many blacks.

The educational system is a very flawed insomuch as those in poverty receive an education that is inadequate to those in affluent or middle class areas. Poverty is increasing while the government is cutting funding for anti-poverty programs and social nets that have kept many on the threshold from falling into poverty. The criminal justice system warehouses black men then return them to the streets with no opportunity to advance and many find themselves back behind bars.

Certainly, there are moral aspects to many problems within the black community. There is a mindset that celebrates thugism as though it were a revolutionary movement rather than a self-deprecating ideology. Many black children lack an intact family structure and many of single mothers lack the tools to prepare their children for success. So I am not saying that everything is the fault of “DA MAN”.

But I am saying that those that live in poverty and send their children to schools that are not prepared to educate them properly and must deal with a justice system that does not render justice fairly and must deal with a political structure that is not interested in supporting the few safety nets that are available are vulnerable members of our society. I would say that they have not seen the mountain top and they certainly do not know what the promised land looks like.

There is a lot of work left but I am hopeful for black people. Many of us have found a way to rise above our circumstances as that has always been the case with black people. However, as long as the disparities exist, then there is much work left. And those of us that are prepared to live lavishly in the promised land should not do so until we know that there is a clear path for others to follow. I know some will never make it due to their inaction or self-destructive ways, but many more can make it than are doing so now. It is not our job to carry them over the mountain top to the promised land, but we should find it in our hearts to at least give them a nice pair of boots for the journey.


19 Responses to How 'Bout Some Walking Boots...

  1. On A Day Of Reflection Says:
    First, I truly believe it is a hindrance to the Black community that any discussion about Black folks is always to the tune of: “What’s wrong with the Black community?” This is because “what’s wrong” in the Black community is the same as “what’s wrong” in any other community. That whole percentage of the population game throws off people’s understanding of the situation.

    Drugs? Take crack cocaine. In the 80’s laws were changed to put non-violent offenders in prison for many many years if caught with this substance. Yet, today, while Methamphetamine, or Meth, is out of control in the White community, the television stations/newspapers refuse to show all the dirty and toothless White people that could very easily be the face of this horrible addiction. The system’s solution: Keep me from buying more than one package of cold medicine when I walk in the drug store with a runny nose because I might just be using it for my secret Meth-lab.

    Education? When incompetent White kids get into Universities under Affirmative Action… YES… Affirmative Action. No one really cares. The real issue isn’t someone with lower test scores. Most people have no problem that their University lets in athletes, rich kids or rural White kids under various programs, the issue is always whether Black kids are getting in under the exact same kinds of exceptions. For most of America, lose your job to a White man, and it’s tough luck; lose your job to a Black person, and DAMN… that’s “discrimination.”

    The Black community has a lot to be grateful for. The Black community has been “given” nothing. And unlike all those immigrants (Black people/Native Americans are not immigrants) who come or came to America and tout the story of how they came here with nothing, Black people actually did come here with nothing, not even freedom. The Black people in this country have cast a large shadow across the whole world within the confines of the nation that abused them so terribly. That’s something the foreigners who come here do not understand; they had to leave their country for a better opportunity.

    Ultimately, the most important thing for the Black community to remember is that no one is coming to help us. We can’t complain about disparities in education to the public anymore, they don’t care. We can’t complain about disparities in the justice system anymore, no one cares that Black men are put to death for crimes that White men will get life for. We are wasting our time by complaining about anything really, people don’t care.

    The only solution is to rebuild and establish the proper tutoring centers and supplementary educational centers to teach the young. The Black community needs more relevant professionals to defend itself. Black people should adopt the same level of excellence they demand from their athletes and artists, which has made them some of the greatest in the world.

    They say Black kids do worse in Math and Science than their White and Asian peers. Their conclusion: “Duh… Blacks are dumb.” But the real conclusion should read more like this: Black kids need tutors in Math and Science, that’s it. That’s all.

    We’ve come a long way since 1614. And we should never forget Dr. King was only one of many. He is the icon of a struggle for peace, not the struggle itself. That struggle is greater than one man, greater than the Ghetto, greater than rural country Black folks, greater than the suburbs, greater than the people in prison, greater than Wall Street… because all are just pieces in this puzzle.

    God bless America, and may we all be blessed with the strength to make sure this nation lives up to its tremendous promise.
  2. Malik Says:
    "A nice pair of boots for the journey..." Good thoughts James.
  3. Anonymous Says:
    Great post! Its funny I was just reading Africans in America the companion book to the PBS Series and Israel on the Appomattox. Two books dealing with our struggles in America, one about how we get here and another of how we dealt with it in trying to carve out our own promised land. I agree with the previous post when he said “people don’t care” Blacks in America have always had a love hate relationship with America and I think it will continue long after you and I are put in the ground. Racism is just expressed in different ways today that’s all. So, no we have not gotten to the promised land. So to paraphrase Mollie Brown the struggle continues but to God give the glory. Also could you imagine if Africa was Mexico? Do you think we would allow 10% of the population to run around here illegal? Hell No! Do you think if 9-11was caused by Black folks we would be allowed to run around free and still go to the mosque and run back and forth overseas? Again I answer Hell No! So America is a great place to live but it has a long way to go with dealing with the race issue and I only mean Black and White. Because without our struggle no other minority group would have been able to gain anything in this country.
  4. Jaimie Says:
    Nice post and recognition of King's words.
  5. James Manning Says:
    There are some good points made. I think it is true to a point that they don't care about black people but we've forced them at least care about equality - and that's all that matters.

    As for other minorities, they've always benefited from the efforts of black people without having to sacrifice. Their story is a non-issue as far as I am concerned.
  6. Rell Says:

    just curious to see if you caught Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks" last night?
  7. Naro% Says:
    Any attempt to quantify the struggle will be met with a certain amount of subjectivity. The overall system can be summed up by the social elements of the struggle. When I say social I mean those "Civil Rights" we attained through the efforts of many like Dr. King. The right to be treated in a civilized manner, and not as a lesser being. The struggle was to be seen as men and women... The strides we have or have not made, are all complementary to this fact. In no way do I agree or even begin to identify with "all things are equal now" but where I do focus my drive, intent and purpose, is in superceeding the "Dream" and coming up like space shuttles baby, and bringing all my people along for the ride.

    James great post, this is how we will overcome...

    Communication, deliberation, emancipation, cuz until I see some fundamentally "Civil" things that expand upon the basic rights of humanity (thanks YT), we got a long march ahead...
  8. James Manning Says:

    i was watching 24. i've never seen the show. i need a dvr.
  9. Cynthia Says:
    I say Amen to both on a day of reflection and Naro%. My views more close resemble theirs.

    We have a long ways to go.
  10. nikki Says:
    amen, james...amen.

    there is a fundamental lack of empathy for folk who ain't benefitting from the 'freedom' black folk have right now. if you don't have yours, then it's because of some character flaw, not because the odds are stacked against you making it more difficult for you to obtain what is easier for others to obtain.

    and that ain't 'the man'. that's classism amongst black folk.
  11. Diane S. Says:
    Fabulous post, James, but also one of the rare occasions in which we disagree. I don't think anyone's made it to the mountain top (except to get the vision of the mountain top, which is what I think Dr. King was saying.).

    I think we changed some signs (White's Only), made a few significant changes (Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965), but mostly I think we just slapped on a new coat of paint and we're all in the same old room.

    @ on a day of reflection,

    We are wasting our time by complaining about anything really, people don’t care.

    Man, I care. That may just make me another lily white liberal who you've had all you can stand of, but I'm here. I care. I care because, like you, I insist that this nation live up to its promise. I refuse to accept nothing less.

    But I'm with you on black community based initiatives. That's part of what was so cool about the Panthers back in the day. They organized, fed people, helped kids with their homework. They became the safety net because there was no safety net.

    One of my heros, Bob Moses (former mover and shaker in the SNCC) now teaches high school calculus in Mississippi. The man has a Ph.D. He could be working in a University. But he's doing what he's always done, doing the work that needs to be done, avoiding the spot light, taking the next step in a journey of 10,000 miles.

    @ anonymous, the day America declares war on the religion of Islam is the day I completely give up on America and disclaim my citizenship. I think all this anti-muslim sentiment has opened the floodgates for the resurfacing of virulent racism in America. A racism that's always been there, but was submerged until 9/11 when it became "fashionable" to hate Arabs.

    Once it's fashionable to hate one group of people, all groups of people are fair game. We've got to see people as people, as individuals, wrapping a whole group of people up and tying them down with a bow is the very essence of prejudice.

    @ James,

    As for other minorities, they've always benefited from the efforts of black people without having to sacrifice. Their story is a non-issue as far as I am concerned.

    James, I fairly beg you to do some research on Caesar Chavez (not the boxer) and "La Raza". Also Russell Means and the American Indian Movement. This is a war that has been and is being fought on many fronts.

    @ Nikki, Amen, and Amen. There is a huge element of fundamental classism within American Consciousness, and racism only serves to dillute the issue. It keeps all the "have nots" from joining together and confronting the "haves". It divides us. It keeps us nicely under the thumb of the "haves". Racism is their best asset. Let's kill it.
  12. Anonymous Says:
    Diane S.
    I have to take exception to your post addressed to me.
    @ anonymous, the day America declares war on the religion of Islam is the day I completely give up on America and disclaim my citizenship. I think all this anti-muslim sentiment has opened the floodgates for the resurfacing of virulent racism in America. A racism that's always been there, but was submerged until 9/11 when it became "fashionable" to hate Arabs.

    I never said I hated arabs, but only pointing out how certain other minorities have gotten away with things that would never be allowed by Black Folks! Let me clue you on certain things most arabs and Mexicans have no love for Black people. The only times we are brothers are when they are catching hell. Why do we as Black people always fall for that mess?
  13. Anonymous Says:
    One more thing, Diane why haven’t you given up your citizenship with concern for Black People? America can be accused by some of declaring war on Black folks, but that is not enough for you, but if war is declared on islam you are leaving. Another self hating black person.
  14. Diane S. Says:
    @ anonymous

    Okay, point well taken. Had the terrorist been black, all hell would have broken loose. I didn't realize that was the point you were making, and I apologize for misconstruing your comments.

    Regarding the hostility among different racial groups, I believe this hostility is largely fostered by an affluent white ruling class which has a vested interest in keeping any alliances from forming. Though I understand your cynicism, it disheartens me. (And yes, I recognize that as a white woman what disheartens me is irrelevant.)

    As for why haven't I disavowed my citizenship in America because of her racism, it's because there are just enough Americans working against racism to keep me believing in the dream, and I can only help the dream if I am here and fighting for it.

    "Another self hating black person."

    Man, that went right over my head. I have no idea what you are trying to convey to me with that remark. Would you forgive my ignorance and explain?
  15. Anonymous Says:
    Diane S.
    My mistake I asssumed you where black and yes I know what happens when you assume:)
  16. Diane S. Says:
    No apologie necessary, but the explanation was most helpful!

    Diane S.
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  19. walking Says:
    A pair of walking boots' definitely the best foot wear when going on a trek or a hike. It's heavy duty and very comfortable for your toes.