It is obvious that the connection between conscience, commitment and cause — other than the fact that they are all noble pursuits — is that they share the distinction of being vanishing notions in this decade of decadence and compromise in the African American community. Those lauded moments of acuity and movements for occupation to counter conservative thinking that rationalizes greed and mitigates responsibility for the outcomes of corporate irresponsibility, job displacement and worker replacement, stand in direct contradiction to the concepts of conscience, commitment and community.
So often we relish in past achievements and pay tribute to the leaders of earlier movements, yet the inertia caused by a static political and financial system should give us all pause and compel us toward activism and a heightened appreciation for advocating change in a system that continues to overwhelm the country’s economic engine and the entire community. The intellectual stagnation resulting from three generations abdicating their obligations to take full advantage of a free education has far-reaching consequences, as in high school dropout rates as high as 50 percent in some urban communities. These young people volunteer — whether it’s consciously or unconsciously — to follow the tide of ignorance and ride the wave of apathy, like water to its lowest point, the penal system.
The prison industrial complex is the tangible manifestation of cultural and societal disdain. It evokes disturbing images and causes tears to stream from the eyes of too many in our community. It is the bane of our existence and an insult to a community working to uplift and elevate our intellectual capital to effect progress that Dr. King spoke of, and the progress our accomplished forefathers fought for in education, emphasized in HBCUs and instilled in their children. With pride and singular determination they constructed institutions and manufactured the vehicle of our escape from oppression and to integrating the economic classes — education.
But much to our detriment, our convictions wane with each unconscionably capitalistic gesture. Corporate greed breeds mutual contempt for individuals on both sides of the street, which is why we are right and required to take issue with those who create and offer financial products that detract from the value of our neighborhoods and diminish the quality of life in our communities.
Minority participation programs in advertising, marketing, construction and all facets of American business is under attack and even individuals who are African Americans no longer feel safe advocating for more business for their companies and communities. Claiming greatness exacts a price that the conscientious understand. They were attacked by dogs, thrown in jail and endured endless assaults on their reputations and their persons. Given the coordinated and complex assaults on African American communities, workers, students and our culture, it’s time to renew the commitment to our cause, our values and ourselves.
The inscriptions of quotes that have historical significance on many African American monuments have been ignored and forgotten for songs that desecrate the images of African American men and women. In the absence of community — no longer a constant in our way of life — we work to erase through assimilation and racial mutation the evidence of ever being committed to a cause or a commitment to our community.
It is there inside that we cannot hide, the invisible tears, the wails of a mother as a coffin closes, and doors shut tight and we endure the long ride of silence from unemployment offices and prison complexes. Our silence makes possible the persecution that riddles our communities and lessens our ability to rise. Why have we abandoned our commitment to the cause and the community?