It’s important to applaud the countless advancements made in technology that continue connecting cultures, building communities, and redesigning society. America is continuing its evolution into an incredibly diverse global society, reflecting an eclectic mix of individuals who represent every corner of the World. As a result, today’s young people identify more with shared interests, values and lifestyle choices than skin color.
Of greater note, today’s early teens are on pace to become the first era in our nation’s history to reach adulthood with the total population of minorities becoming the dominant majority. Thus, “plurals” will replace “millennials” as term used to describe the next wave of youthful game-changers.
There have also been other notable marks of progression reflecting the reshaping of America. The appointment of Barack Obama to the United States Presidency showed that no level of achievement is out of reach. Hip Hop’s ascension from niche sub-culture to thriving global culture has millions mirroring the fashion, language, lifestyle and aspirations that defined the genre.
The growing list of black moguls paints a vivid picture of wealth and access that young boys and girls believe is possible to acquire in their lifetime. Considering the vast scope of history, tremendous strides have been made.
But, in critical categories that dictate the value life, there are many more steps to take. Amidst a deserved spirit of celebration, a tradition of trapping world-changing potential still exists. As a skilled, educated and resourceful person of color, you can likely land a job in the field you’ve developed a skill or passion for. It is also very possible to maneuver effectively through your life and career free of being confronted with extreme oppression or hardship. In short, tangible success is attainable for all who inherit the tools and apply the effort-driven formula.
Yet, there are still structures, systems and conversations taking place behind the scenes that have the power to control the course. That is the subtle existence of privilege, powered by the intent of managing perceived threats. But, the concept of being a “threat” runs far deeper than being young, gifted and black. For context, let’s look at two notable examples that changed the course of history in pivotal times of advancement.
The Bloods and Crips, referred to as two of today’s most notorious gangs, are largely credited for the demise of America’s inner cities. They’ve been commonly pinned as criminalized cliques of dangerous and misguided groups from abandoned communities. Yet, that is not how they began. Sharp and savvy men and women with progressive visions, seeing the need to protect and preserve the human rights of African Americans, initially established these powerful alliances.
In a time when black neighborhoods were subject to frequent attacks from white mobs and police would not patrol their blocks, these groups formed to establish a new sense of government, support and unity. When countless factories closed down and drugs followed the White Flight Movement, the perception and function of street gangs shifted. The same State Government that honored these groups for their service to the community suddenly stripped their distinction. There was no longer a direct adversary to fight. In the face of rapid unemployment and disparity, blacks began seeing each other as the enemy. Denied resources and access to equal opportunity, poverty prevailed. As a result, the privileged escaped the grasp of turmoil in the face of an emerging socioeconomic plague.
In the prime of the 1960’s, during an era of heightened solidarity, issues of inequality surrounding education, employment, and the judicial treatment of African Americans were approached with diligent action. These organizations developed independent programs for kids to receive proper schooling, healthcare, food, shelter and other essentials inaccessible to underprivileged blacks. Exercising their amendment rights, they spoke out against evident injustice, rightfully bearing arms.
Yet, instead of State Officials working in unison to develop necessary reform or negotiate proposed plans to provide equal rights, these groups were declared domestic terrorists. Police followed mandates to arrest, imprison and subsequently inflict violent force against African Americans who refused to comply.
Though decades ago, the same framework exists in a climate that promotes progress and innovation, while also presenting instances of protest and civil unrest following the shooting deaths of unarmed teenagers such as Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown. As seen before, each was labeled a threat. Each fit the predetermined profile of a domestic terrorist. Each was underserved by systems founded on principles of privilege.
As battles continue for more blacks to break ground in Silicon Valley, the new creative class continues producing bright thought leaders, and more minorities become preeminent forces in various industries, there will be unseen opposition that may never know you’re fighting against. While pushing through the trials and triumphs of being young, gifted and black – remember that imagination, ideas and potential are limitless. And, the ability to shatter systematic limits makes you even more of a threat to the concept of privilege than taking on an identity that can be tamed or controlled.
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