Successful blacks should help those trapped in poor communities 

Pay It Backwards

It's rare that I read my fan mail, but I recently took a glance at the comments on my column about young blacks and the obligation they have to the black community from which they sprang ("The Insanity of Racial Denial," Nov. 28.).

One guy asked if I think black people who have risen out of poverty should return to their old neighborhoods after they've moved up the ladder of material success. Not at all.

Maybe I didn't make myself clear: When you get out of the hole, you should reach back to help others get out.

The concept of collective effort is universal, but from the comments I received, you'd think black folks in America have arrived at full parity and it's unnecessary to ensure collective equity as an ethnic group in this country.

Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1965, equality for blacks is still a long way off. That's because some folks prefer to walk around with their heads in the clouds as if the work of creating "The Great Society" is completed.

I realize that the prejudices perpetuated over centuries can't be eradicated in one or two generations. The end of legalized slavery didn't end slavery; slavery simply took other forms — sharecropping, unfair wages.

With examples like the incident at a Berkeley County school a few weeks back when posters threatening black students were hung up on campus and the trouble in Jena, La., I'm surprised there are still so many in this community who see the plight of the black community as something people should simply ignore. Who wouldn't want to move out of an impoverished and crime-infested community? But everyone should want to help eliminate those who are trapped there. The real deal is that most blacks who have been fortunate enough to escape those situations, more often than not, leave their relatives and friends behind.

W.E.B. DuBois was both educated and wealthy, but his life was spent trying to uplift the black community.

The original bad boy of racial issues in Charleston, Denmark Vesey, was a free black tradesman who not only purchased his own freedom, but also his wife's. Vesey could easily have said to hell with the other blacks left in slavery, but he chose to initiate a failed revolt that cost him his life.

Similarly Martin L. King, Jr., who after graduating from one of the nation's most prestigious black colleges could have simply been a preacher at one of the South's largest black churches, instead chose to use his talents and skills to help the black community. The guy saw inequity he didn't personally face and challenged it. And his attempts to help cost him his life.

I could go on and on about blacks who have given more than their fair share to the black community, but that's not the point I wanted to make, neither in the previous column nor this one. My point is the stupidity of thinking that economic or social status can determine racial status.

I have no problem with a sister having a party with white guests. Hell, I was there and had a great time! Some of my best friends are white.

But when blacks are blessed with any advantage, they are obligated to use that advantage, whatever it might be, for the collective benefit of the black community.

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