A Challenge to the New Generation

By Jackson, Jesse | Ebony, August 1990 | Go to article overview

A Challenge to the New Generation


Jackson, Jesse, Ebony


A Challenge To The New GENERATION

Constructive action, diligent academic preparation and a sense of history are needed to meet the demands of the changing new world

As they face the challenges of a world linked and advanced by technology, African-Americans born in the last 30 years must be prepared to take their places at the forefront of the continuing struggle to ensure basic freedoms for all mankind. Armed with a sense of history and purpose, this generation must confront the forces of racism and oppression that continue to strangle people of all colors on these shores and beyond.

To meet this challenge, our young men and women must understand the historical context in which they live and the global significance of our domestic struggles.

We came to America enslaved, having been sold in Africa and sold again upon arrival. But we are not up from slavery. We are from a proud African tradition from which the first civilization sprang. It is from our motherland that Greek and Roman culture were borrowed.

Therefore, we are more than descendants of slaves. We simply encountered slavery along the course of our long, proud journey. But we survived it and, we flourished in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Among the greatest impediments to the progress of our children is the fact that they have no sense of their historical context, no appreciation for the ancient landmarks on which they stand. With no sense of history, you exist in a vacuum. You are adrift. How can one appreciate Mike Tyson without understanding the significance of Joe Louis? How can you applaud Michael Jackson and not realize that he stands on the shoulders of Sammy Davis Jr? Could there be a David Dinkins without an Adam Clayton Powell?

With little money and few weapons besides courage and wit, our brilliant and determined forefathers and foremothers fought heroic battles for the freedoms we enjoy today. It is hard for this generation to imagine the abuse endured by a Jackie Robinson or the Little Rock Nine. Still, our young must develop an understanding of the big historical dues that were paid to gain admission to the more open society that has existed in the America of their brief lifetimes.

Our struggle has set the world on fire. The great clashes with oppression that have captured international attention emanate from us.

The same struggle that South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela is engaged in today, Martin Luther King Jr. fought a generation ago. Apartheid, the system of segregation which operates now in South Africa, was borrowed from America. And when Apartheid is over, South Africans will face a different struggle, with a different kind of resistance--a struggle for true and total equality.

This generation--which faces similar resistance--must learn to view itself as part of that global struggle, a struggle that links Montgomery to Manila, Birmingham to Berlin, Tennessee to Tiananmem Square, and Selma to Soweto.

Our young must learn to appreciate the fact that we are not minorities. We are world citizens. When President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet, that's a minority meeting, because together they represent only one-eighth of the human race. The other seven-eighths of the human race is Black, brown, yellow, non-Christian, poor, female, young and non-English-speaking. One-eighth of the human race is African. This generation must understand the significance of those numbers as it prepares itself for world citizenship.

Part of its preparation has to include cleaning up our act at home. This must be a generation of high ethical and academic standards. Today, our young are threatened not so much by the Ku Klux Klan as by cynicism and a loss of self-esteem, by withdrawal into drugs and from school, by babies making babies and not taking care of them, by rampant killings. …

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