This isn’t a call for blacks to learn an additional language to communicate alongside the English we speak now. Even though Hispanics are an increasing percentage of the population- displacing blacks as the largest minority in the process- I’m not advocating the need to learn Spanish; though that may indeed prove helpful.
What I’m advocating here is something quite different and I believe more practical and much more pressing. Blacks are monolingual- we only speak one language and oftentimes it’s at our own expense.
The language isn’t English… it’s race. On occasion, we speak it very well and considering the historical presence of blacks in America, it’s understandable. From slavery to the Emancipation, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow segregation; from the Civil Rights Movement to the present day- our historical reality in America forced blacks to develop a polished articulation of racial language.
But in twenty-first century America, the language of race is no longer as welcomed or as understandable to hearers as it once was. The old black/white paradigm of racial semantics is no longer the reality as it used to be. The presences of Asians, Hispanics- and yes Africans, including other races and ethnicities have drastically changed the vocabulary of racial language. More and more, mainstream America is closing its ears when blacks speak the language of race- particularly when it’s spoken in the narrative of accusatory victimization.
If blacks continue the delay in conceding this new reality, and stubbornly refuse to adapt and learn other languages, they will become culturally and politically irrelevant.
Some argue that this irrelevancy has already set upon us.
Politically, black irrelevance is already a distressing, self-imposed reality. It’s the reason that one political party- very intentionally- takes black for granted, while the other political party ignores them altogether. It’s why both political parties are creating deliberate yet incoherent and destructive strategies of Hispanic outreach and capitulation, even though blacks represented a greater percentage of the electorate in 2008 (12.3%) and 2012 (13.4%) than did Hispanics (7.4% & 8.4%, respectively).
Both parties are fully aware that blacks are self-limiting, one-dimensional racial linguists and that language only goes so far. It recycles itself but doesn’t create anything of value.
If blacks want to avoid becoming a cultural and political afterthought, and I believe we do, then it is an existential imperative that we become multilingual.
Blacks must learn to speak the language of education- specifically education reform. It’s not simply enough for blacks to mouth empty platitudes about supporting quality education for black children. It’s even harder when blacks support a political party that steadfastly refuses to deliver meaningful quality education to black children. The education establishment has intently provided substandard education to black children for generations and will continue to do so until blacks speak the language of education reform so loudly and defiantly that it would be impossible to ignore. At one point in American history it was illegal to educate blacks and as such, many blacks risked their lives to be educated. Now that it’s legal, risk isn’t involved but sacrifice is.
Blacks must learn to speak the language of economics. The past five years, black unemployment has been at or above 15%, twenty-nine times, and at or above 16%, eleven times. Black teen unemployment has been much worse, falling below 35% only three times and reaching 40% or higher, thirty times. These are catastrophic statistics, and no amount of government handouts is going to rectify this bleak reality in any qualitative way. In combination with the language of educational reform, blacks need to instruct and expose themselves to the virtue, dignity and incentives of work and entrepreneurship. From this comes self-sufficiency, respect and greater wealth accumulation.
Blacks must also relearn the language of love- of self and of others. Blacks accounted for thirty-six percent of all abortions between 2007-2010. In 2012, 80% of black pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion. In Mississippi between 1995 and 2010, 72% of black pregnancies ended in abortion. The sad reality is that abortions are responsible for roughly 1400 deaths of preborn black babies each year. Those children lucky enough to escape the womb unharmed have a very high likelihood of being killed by another black who was also lucky enough to have been born. Or they have the disproportionate probability of engaging in delinquency and experiencing the correctional system. This dysfunction is all too pervasive. Blacks must learn the language of love that: resuscitates the stigma and shame of having illegitimate children and thus, encourages the virtue of marriage prior to having children; that motivates a man to demonstrate a responsible masculinity for his son and an archetype of a future husband for his daughter. To waste what our antecedents fought and died for is inexcusable.
Blacks must relearn the language of morality and faith. The self-destructive, immoral behavior categorized by a lack of self-discipline exhibited by blacks is enough to make our ancestors weep. It also gives reason to question if our predecessors struggled and died in vain. We’ve discarded this language and the effects are undeniable, noticeable to all. Though blacks continue– in theory- to be the most religious demographic in the country, many blacks do their best to conduct themselves as if they are allergic to dignity, incapable of impulse control, and immune to morality. We act as if public and personal rules of civility, etiquette, and the rule of law are applicable to everyone except us. We engage in this imprudence proudly, centered in the many pathologies plaguing black America, characterized by the excessive participation in violence and criminality, the disrespect shown to authority, the disregard we have for ourselves and our families; the production, consumption and romanticizing of sexually explicit and vile images, the indifference shown to the values that guarantee success and the crutch-like dependence on guilt-ridden, racial shakedowns leveraged against white guilt to assert a perverted notion of power – done without sense of shame or a hint of guilt. It’s not only a slap in the face to those who came before us; it’s offensive and threatening to those who are affected by it.
Blacks used to speak the language of faith and morality well, but you wouldn’t know that today. We descend from a cultural heritage that was once saturated with a spirit-filled religiosity, grounded in biblical Christianity. This faith nourished the strength and resiliency that buttressed the spirit against the evils, pain and anguish associated with slavery, segregation and the successful fight for civil rights. This same faith was the foundation upon which our forefathers molded the integrity of their character and the dignity of their humanity, despite the doubts and difficulties they faced. If they could do it, considering what the many obstacles they faced, I know for certain we can do it.
These are but a few of the languages that blacks must learn to ensure cultural respectability, moral legitimacy and political relevance. Again, developing the talent of multilingualism isn’t a suggestion; it’s a prerequisite for self-preservation. The once obligatory language of race, spoken with a specific articulation, sincerity and urgency in American history, has virtually become obsolete. Our failure to adapt to the changing linguistic landscape will result in blacks being completely left behind in a reality only they recognize.
And it will be our fault.