I was listening to the rebroadcast of Rev. Al Sharpton’s show Keeping it Real. That show is regularly broadcast on WVON 1690AM every weekday from noon until 3 p.m. His topic for Black History Month was for callers to answer this question: “What event in Black History in America has done the most to hurt or set back black people?”
The majority of callers blamed the usual suspects-integration, welfare, rap music, lack of fathers in the home, drugs, etc. Since it was a rebroadcast, I wasn’t able to call in. But if I had, my nominee would have been the overwhelming number of black folks who love to embrace statements like this: “It ain’t gonna happen” or its cousin “I don’t care.”
Embracing the negative belief syndrome, I believe, is one of the main reasons for many of the overwhelming problems that continue to afflict the black community today. Instead of looking at an obstacle and figuring out how to overcome it, far too many people in our community resign themselves to accepting the obstacle. Those same folks also instill in many young people the “we can’t do nothing about it syndrome,” which leads to the continual perpetuation of the negative belief syndrome.
If you’re not old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement in its heyday, it had a theme song, “We Shall Overcome.” One of the passages from that song was “Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.” In a time when people were fighting Jim Crow laws, in a country that embraced segregation as a natural fact, we weren’t running around singing, “Oh deep in my heart, I know it can’t happen, we will remain the same forever.”
I can’t point to a specific moment when black folks began to embrace negative speech. But for some reason, 40 years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, we have far too many black people whose entire view of this world is negative. It’s very frustrating when the only words out of some people’s mouths involve rejecting any notion or information that can directly affect their condition. To believe in-or hope for-a change is beyond their capacity and grasp.
Just think. Two years ago if I wrote that a black man would be the leading contender in the 2008 presidential race, I would have been told, “It ain’t gonna happen.” In truth, you don’t even have to go back two years. Just go back two months to the beginning of this year and many people never imagined that Senator Barack Obama would have been able to pull from the back of the pack to the front.
Just after Christmas, I was at a luncheon and had the opportunity to ask people who they would vote for in the upcoming primary. I had young black men tell me they were going to vote for Hillary because “a black man just can’t get ahead in this world.” Weeks later, the Iowa caucuses happened. In a state known more for its fields of corn than its black population, Sen. Obama pulled off what many predicted could never happen. He won!
Today we look at Sen. Obama’s commanding lead for the Democratic nomination as a living testimony to the title of his book The Audacity of Hope. Obama’s campaign is a lesson in not allowing negativity to prevent progress. The Hillary Clinton campaign had put out an ad saying, in essence, that at 3 a.m. when the phone rings at the White House, don’t you want a president who has experience answering that call? Well, Barack Obama’s campaign immediately took part of the same commercial but turned it around on the Clinton campaign by asking an even better question-don’t you want someone who has good judgment answering the call?
No matter what happens with Obama’s campaign, we all should learn from it. The glass is not half empty; it is half full. And lemons can become lemonade.