Race is on America’s mind. Whether it be in the #Oscarsowhite hashtag circling the Twittersphere, the images of black bodies slain by police officers, or in the cries of “Black Lives Matter!”, America is obsessed with race. One question that seems to resurface, though, is that of blacks feeling the need to play victim and complain about their conditions. In fact, it has been said that even Jews, who have also endured unimaginable suffering, managed to still build themselves up without complaining or reminding the world about it. While the former is true, I’d argue that the latter is inaccurate.
If you’ve ever visited the National Holocaust Museum, you have seen the adage “Never Again” painted among the ceilings. It is the battle cry that many Israelis and Jews in general, internalize; it’s the catalyst for their courage. Jews haven’t forgotten the Holocaust, and as evidenced in history classes across America, they won’t let anyone else forget either, nor should they.
This is the same for blacks. Blacks never want to forget the inconceivable injustices that their ancestors faced, nor do they want their fellow Americans to forget, lest they become slaves again.
In her epic speech, Sojourner Truth proclaims:
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?
This poignant prose is still being analyzed in classrooms and recited at black history programs, and it is an epic speech of Sojourner Truth complaining. Oh, and she’s not the only one. Rosa Parks? Complainer. MLK? Complainer. The Freedom Riders, who were persecuted for wanting to freely traverse this glorious nation, were complaining.
The protesters, who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge demanding their right to vote, were complaining. The families of those four young girls in Birmingham, whose beautifully laced dresses lay covered in soot, complained. Abolitionists, who protested the stench of open flesh that hung from trees, were huge complainers. College kids, who sat at lunch counters, enduring coffee burns; spit; and Billy clubs; were nothing more than big, fat, complainers. And this was only 5 decades ago. Now the cries are heard in the hallways of inner city school kids who can’t learn because their stomachs are growling, their teachers are inexperienced, and their schools are underfunded. It’s behind prison walls, where 1 in 15 black men occupy the beds. This cry is in the food deserts and in the plethora of liquor stores conveniently deposited in black neighborhoods. These injustices exist right now. And until black folks, or any other marginalized group, overcome these staggering statistics (see: facts for features), they will keep asking for, lamenting about, and demanding justice. So, the question shouldn’t be why black folks complain so much.
The real question is: when will America stop covering its ears?