- Thirty seven percent of African-Americans feel that "blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race" because of a widening class divide.
- "By a ratio of 2 to 1, blacks say that the values of poor and middle-class blacks have grown more dissimilar over the past decade. In contrast, most blacks say that the values of blacks and whites have grown more alike."
For instance, Gates draws a parallel between black property ownership and success.
People who own property feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society. They study, save, work, strive and vote. And people trapped in a culture of tenancy do not.
As an example, the author refers to his recent genealogical research into the families of 20 successful African Americans. In his work, he discovered that a majority of his successful subjects descended from former slaves who managed to acquire property by 1920. He references Oprah Winfrey's great-grandfather, Constantine:
Ten years after slavery ended, Constantine Winfrey, Oprah's great-grandfather, bartered eight bales of cleaned cotton (4,000 pounds) that he picked on his own time for 80 acres of prime bottomland in Mississippi. (He also learned to read and write while picking all that cotton.)
Those of you who read this blog know that this fact means a lot to me, as Constantine is my great-great-grandfather. I believe (still trying to find the documents to confirm it) that Constantine's land became part of his son Sanford's land, which became part of my grandfather Alonzo's nearly 200 acres that are still in the family today. Constantine's belief in education and ownership paved the way for my success, too.
Gates also expresses a belief that longtime readers of this blog know I am adamant about--the new fight for racial equality must include a strong focus on internal barriers to black success, not just external ones. He writes:
The sad truth is that the civil rights movement cannot be reborn until we identify the causes of black suffering, some of them self-inflicted. Why can't black leaders organize rallies around responsible sexuality, birth within marriage, parents reading to their children and students staying in school and doing homework? Imagine Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson distributing free copies of Virginia Hamilton's collection of folktales "The People Could Fly" or Dr. Seuss, and demanding that black parents sign pledges to read to their children. What would it take to make inner-city schools havens of learning?
Gates also writes about the importance of greater voter registration among blacks.
Politicians will not put forth programs aimed at the problems of poor blacks while their turnout remains so low.
So, here we have three solid areas for action to help achieve racial equality: 1) Encourage property ownership and make it easier, 2) Focus on internal barriers to success, 3) Encourage blacks to use their voices in the political process.
If you could write the script for a new civil rights movement--one that effectively addressed the needs of the black community today--what would the movement look like?
I will share my thoughts in a post later this week, but I want to hear from you.