“Just Because You’re Black!”

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In the late 1960s the iconic spoken word group, “The Last Poets” produced a poem on their first album titled, “Just Because You’re Black.” It was a critique of Black people who were unwilling to die for a just cause. In today’s blog I’d like to flip that script and suggest that far too many Black people encounter things “just because they’re Black.” They don’t need to die for a cause when the cause of their dying is “just because they’re Black. The difference in life expectancy (although improving slightly) between Black men and White women is 11 years. Our churches are filled with older women sitting on the “Mothers’ Board” many of whom are widowed while there is a paucity of older men.
Today marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Black women are 40% more likely to die from this disease than their White counterparts. Just because they’re Black. The ironic thing is Black women develop breast cancer at a LOWER rate than White women…we’re just more likely to die from it. We have higher incidence of high blood pressure, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease…just because we’re Black! Of course, some would argue that we don’t make the requisite life style changes to avoid these health issues but I would counter than when you live under as much stress as the average Black person does in this society, making healthy choices is not always as simple as it might seem.
Black women who walk into an automobile showroom will pay more for a car, just because they’re Black. A Black couple who attempts to rent an apartment, secure a loan, or buy a house will have a more difficult time at it, just because they’re Black. We’ve seen the experiments where individuals with IDENTICAL credentials apply for the same job and the one with the “Black sounding name” does not get a call back or interview while the one with the more “White sounding name” almost always gets invited to interview. Same credentials, same qualifications but you don’t get a chance at the job…just because you’re Black.
Of course the startling disparities our children experience in school fall into these same categories. Black children are more likely to be retained, suspended, expelled, and assigned to special education. They are less likely to have an opportunity to take honors or advanced placement courses (even when their PSAT scores indicate they are eligible for such courses) just because they’re Black.
I know that there are those who argue, saying this is another example of a Black person “playing the race card.” Unfortunately, that’s the card we’ve been dealt and not one White person I know would be willing to switch cards with us without major “compensation.” If you think I’m kidding you should read the experiment that sociologist Andrew Hacker (who is White) did with his college students. He asked them if they woke up tomorrow and EVERYTHING about them was the same, except for their skin color (they were now Black), what compensation, if any, would they want for having changed racial identities. Their response was, “1 million dollars!” Yes, although they would maintain their intellect, their living arrangements, their jobs or places in the university, if they had to go through life with Black skin they’d want $1million in “damages!” Just Because (now) They’re Black!

Stay Black & Smart!

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