Unapologetically Black

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Where do we go from here?

I’ve heard a lot of people asking that question lately.

Interestingly enough, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. posed that same question in 1967 (during the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). He suggested that to answer the question, we must first HONESTLY recognize where we are.

King said: “When the Constitution was written, a strange formula to determine taxes and representation declared that the Negro was sixty percent of a person. Today, another curious formula seems to declare he is fifty percent of a person. Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites.

“Thus, half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of whites. When we turn to the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share: There are twice as many unemployed; the rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites; and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the population.  In other spheres, the figures are equally alarming. In elementary schools, Negroes lag one to three years behind whites, and their segregated schools receive substantially less money per student than the white schools. One-twentieth as many Negroes as whites attend college. Of employed Negroes, seventy-five percent hold menial jobs. This is where we are.”

To all of my well-meaning white brothers and sisters who are asking the question today – eager to move to “action steps” in a quest to end racism, I have a question for you: Do you know where we are? If not, I suggest that you find out before moving to treat the symptoms rather than working to root out the disease, which is racism.

To all of my Black and Brown brothers and sisters, I suggest that we follow King’s advice: “First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amid a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values.”

He warned, however, that arousing human worth within a “people that have been taught for so many centuries that they are nobody is not easy.” He stressed how even semantics/language have perpetuated a false sense of inferiority in Black and Brown children while perpetuating a false sense of superiority in white children.

“In Roget’s Thesaurus there are some 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, such words as blot, soot, grim, devil, and foul. And there are some 134 synonyms for whiteness and all are favorable, expressed in such words as purity, cleanliness, chastity, and innocence. A white lie is better than a black lie.  The most degenerate member of a family is the “black sheep”, he said.

King urged us to affirm our own self-worth, to reach down to the inner depths of our own being and sign our own emancipation proclamation, telling the world that we are human beings with dignity and honor.

I signed my own emancipation proclamation decades ago; and I will not apologize for my truth: that I am Black, that I am proud (not arrogant), that I am valuable, that I have a rich and noble history, that Black is beautiful, that Black men are not a threat, that Black Lives Matter.

And I will not apologize for hesitating to applaud the institutions, corporations, organizations, and individuals who insist on treating the symptoms of racism while white supremacy continues to drive the operating system in America.

“… power without love is reckless and abusive, and  love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.  And this is what we must see as we move on.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

19 responses to “Unapologetically Black

  1. I so appreciate your words of wisdom re systemic racism, Collette, and the challenge we whites have before us. The same day you posted this blog, the Louisville Courier Journal had an ed-op page guest columnist headline “White people’s silence enables racism to spread unabated”. Jen Algire says: “The question is not, ‘Am I racist?’ The question is, ‘Am I enabling racism?'” This is a good start of an examine of conscience.

  2. Once again, Colette, thank you for your powerful message, and your consistent ability to shine an essential light on the truths that can be so hard to hear, and for practicing what you preach by sending the message with both honesty and love.

  3. Colette,
    You are such a blessing to us as our Director of Associates. I am dedicating myself to go out of my comfort zone to support those in my neighborhood and community who are trying to actively address systemic racism and not just accept temporary or short-term fixes to difficult issues.

  4. Colette,
    I admire your stance and your statement of emancipation. I would love to see us, the associates and the sisters adopt a program which educates white brothers and sisters in the ways of racism, what we can do to eradicate racism from ourselves, and what we can do to eradicate racist philosophies and practices in our government.

  5. Dear Colette, Thank you for writing this blog entry. I have thought for a long time that I was quite well aware of racism and have not felt that I acted in any racist ways. Lately, I have learned much more: reading about white privilege, hearing the lawyer Ben Crump and Al Sharpton at George Floyd’s memorial and funeral services, reading White Fragility, and conversation with a black woman in my apartment building have touched me at a deeper level. I am not sure how we need to move forward, but move, we must, I must.

  6. Thank you, Colette, for this strong, truthful, and demandng challenge that we seek to root out the disease rather than just try to fix its symptoms. And thank you for hanging in with us and continuing to trust that we will gradually learn the difference, even if slowly and with many mistakes along the way. That continuing and undeserved trust is a great blessing to our entire community!

  7. Colette, Your words are wise and as usual, they hit the mark. God has given you a great gift that can move white people from a feeling of complacency and false superiority to what justice demands of all of us ~ that of ‘love ~ correcting everything that stands against love” . MLK

  8. Thank you Colette for your powerful words and challenges. As a white women religious I learned from my mother to love black women. And to love Blacks with the love of Jesus which has no bounds. She taught me to be willing to speak up and to do whatever I could to respect blacks and to help change our attitudes and the system. I am still learning to do whatever I can to change the “systems thinking” through the Dominican Srs. Of Peace.

    Blessings and peace,
    Sr. Brigid

  9. Wonderfully said, Colette. I know that when some folks have questioned whether I am Native American / Mexican or whatever, I answer that question by telling them about all the wonderful qualities of our race. I find many change the conversation from Race to agreement or asking more questions which is a good way of not only instructing but acknowledging our own worth and value that others may SEE. Thank you for the question.

  10. Thank you, Colette, for your honesty and very informative message. You certainly are a very beautiful Black woman and good friend. I want to apologize for my own arrogance
    which I displayed while working beside you with the Associates in the past. I was quite possessive with the Associates since it was a very important ministry I had for many years before becoming a Dominican Sister of Peace.

  11. Colette, the Clergy Against Hate in Schenectady County NY is reading a d working through the book AntiRacism. They had an open zoom meeting for us to gather. I think the challenges in the book will be an excellent start to be looking right at ourselves. My book and many others are back ordered from the publisher. I will let you know.

  12. Thank you Colette. Even when I think I’m aware, knowledgeable about our history & consider myself progressive, when I think I’m not the problem..,it becomes abundantly clear that I’m woefully in the dark about some history, woefully short of full understanding & action. So I’m humbly trying to learn by, among other things, reading How to be an Antiracist & White Fragility. So much work to be done, on myself & our unjust systems

  13. Colette, the only thing I can add to this reflection is “Thank you.” You are a beautiful example for all of us.

  14. Beautifully expressed Colette. How can I ever forget our Martin Luther King and his I have a dream. It seams we have a very long way to go during this trying times in our history. Thank you so much for your thoughts that give us lots to think about. Peace, Alicia

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