Granville T. Woods, Thomas L. Jennings, Mark E. Dean, Charles Richard Drew, Jan Ernst, Mary Kenner, Alice Parker, and sisters Ruane and Sheila Lynn Jeter. Any idea what those people have in common? How about if I say Benjamin Solomon Carson? Still nothing? They are all black individuals that were imperative in leading the lifestyle we lead now. I was thinking, why is it that our youth knows who Lil’ Wayne is but don't have a clue what Jan Ernst did for this world? Without each of them, our world would not be so easy. The device that you are reading this piece on you can thank Mark E. Dean for. He was the mastermind behind the color computer monitor and holds several patents for the systems we use today. Thank Jan Ernst for the kicks you have on your feet and Ruane Jeter for your toast in the morning. Why is it that our youth know who Danielle Bregoli is but have no clue that Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent?
Those people struggled. Those people came from nothing and fought through the adversity and the oppression to do what they were destined to do. Sojourner Truth didn’t allow someone to tell her no. When her son was sold into slavery, she took the slave owner to court and won her son’s freedom. They made it because they believed in themselves and didn’t listen to what other people thought they should do. They knew oppression. A black, successful slave was unheard of as even their intellectual property belonged to their owners, but the above list contains several of them. When did it become fashionable to do the bare minimum? When did our idol worship shift from Harriet Tubman to Beyonce? That is what I found, mind you, when I looked for “influential black women in history.” Google spit out images of Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tyra Banks. I had to search for the REAL heroes. The ones that changed our lives, not mocked all the sacrifice it took for them to change it. Do you find that as troubling as I do?
I’m a white woman speaking about black America. What the hell could I possibly know about the subject? It’s simple. Take away the color. It’s the exact same in poor white neighborhoods. Society wants our children to see the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians. I’ll bet you a brand-new dollar if you ask your children who Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, and Mary Edwards Walker are, you will be met with a quizzical look at best. Most adults don’t know who those women are and why they are so important to our lives today. Why? Why isn’t Mary Edwards Walker a name on the lips of every young girl in America? Why do you, as an adult, not know that she is the only woman in the history of the United States to receive the Medal of Honor and that the medal was earned during the Civil War?
Those are our heroes. Those ladies are the true warriors and We The People step on their memory. We disrespect them with the garbage that we have allowed to consume our lives. Self-worth used to matter and now self-image is at the forefront of our being. Do your children know why the Kardashians are famous? Do they understand that reality television came at a moment of desperation during a writer’s strike? Do you understand that’s why reality television exists? The television industry needed to keep our attention and what better way to make us feel better about our lives than throw the train wreck that is reality television at us? We as a culture can watch Jersey Shore and comment how lucky we are that our kids aren’t going to turn out like that and then go buy a four-year-old a Snooki costume for Halloween.
We take pride in the wrong things, my friends, and the nation has developed a prejudice against the truth. We have to get back to taking pride in hard work and sacrifice and develop a hard prejudice against taking the easy way out. We have to take pride in the little boy in the neighborhood that refuses to give in to peer pressure and chase a dream. I watched one kid, and I’ll just refer to him as “ET,” grow up in the heart of the hood. That kid got up every single morning and went to school, and he worked hard. He brought his books home and he endured the teasing of his peers. He was told he was a Momma’s boy, called a sell out and a nerd. His response was always, “Keep talking. One day you are still going to be talking and I’m going to be stacking my paper. You will still be talking while you are standing on that same street corner trying to look cooler than the dude next to you and I’m going to be stacking my paper in my crib in the gated community you won't ever get in to.” That’s exactly the path he is on. He graduated high school and he is in college. He is a good-looking kid, and he is smart. He has not fallen in to the obsession with sex and keeps his focus. He has not allowed society to dictate to him who he can be. Instead of ET being celebrated and spoken about in households from his own neighborhood, he is spoken about as if his name on the tongue is distasteful. There is something inherently wrong with that scenario, but it exists in every neighborhood throughout this country. We simply have to change our values. Turn off that ignorant television and get outside. I am sitting outside as I type this, talking to my neighbors and listening to the birds chirp. When is the last time you did that? Just stepped away from the constant onslaught of information we are “supposed” to hear and looked at the world? It is much different than what you see through that idiot box that’s always providing the background noise to our lives. We need more ET and less Eminem. If Eminem and Lil Wayne were REALLY the heroes, they would be on every platform available to them to spread the word to their fans that they are a fluke. They were in the right place at the right time and sometimes, no matter how much talent you have, you will NEVER have the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. If they had any type of love for their fans and fellow man, they would tell you to chase your dreams but handle your business. Get an education and a life fulfilling career, just in case your dreams of stardom don’t work out.
We are a prideful nation, and we are a nation that doesn’t hide its many faces of prejudice. Let’s make an effort to fill those columns in our history books with the right things. It is the only way we save this country and her people from self-destruction.