The More We Get the More We Lose, by E. LeMay Lathan

The more we get the more we lose. That statement alone should be enough to rally blacks into a concerted effort to demand our equal rights. Our leaders are always on the stump, preaching about how our rights are being violated and that we are being taken advantage of in every respect. How, then, can they allow the small victories we’ve already won to be taken and expanded upon by every other group in this country? Where are our leaders?

For example, we asked for and obtained the name African-American, although the name means something different to just about every black person and means something different again to a real African-American person (born in Africa and transplanted to America). We lost that unique status, such as it was, to Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Polish-Americans, Irish-Americans and others.

It is usually the efforts, pleas and demands of the black community regarding unfairness that allows situations to be looked at more closely. But we are usually the ones to receive the least benefits from the results of those efforts. Is this pattern unrecognizable?

Look at the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Blacks have lost most claims to that law. When you thought of civil rights during the late 1960s and early 1970s, pictures of white police officers beating up, hosing down and setting dogs upon blacks were the images that played in your mind. Today, images of civil rights perils feature white women bumping their heads against the proverbial “glass ceiling” or young, gifted Asian women and their earning potentials in relation to their white male counterparts. We are also shown the images of Mexican-Americans slaving away in the fields for very low pay and living in cardboard box houses.

And, still, we don’t ask the question, “why?” Our people were the ones who sacrificed their dignity, broke their bones, endured racial slurs, were spat upon and gave their very lives to allow us – the next generation – to be able to vote and walk down the street without the threat of harm from a white person simply because we didn’t adhere to something they thought we should. It’s just another right fought for by blacks and then expanded to include everyone but blacks.

But let us not fear, the NAACP is there behind the black actors in this country to ensure they receive more and better roles on TV and in the movies.

Take another example: the Million Mom March. Excuse me, but it was the Million Man March. The message of that has now been lost. Although I didn’t follow the Moms as closely as I did the Million Man March, I did hear about it quite often. I heard no objection from the black community about the theft of the name. From now on, when thoughts of millions marching come to mind in the future, the focus will most likely be on gun control as opposed to blacks coming together for support and to better themselves.

How about affirmative action and equal employment opportunities? These were also co-opted, with blacks taken out of the equation for the most part. No longer do employers look around their workplaces and see only white employees and feel the need to diversify. Now, they see Asians, Latinos and Russians and compliment themselves on their expression of a diverse workplace.

I hope you are following where I’m headed with this. Example after example shows a history of the black community fighting for and, in most cases, winning the battle for an end to societal wrongs and then have others benefit more from the changes.

It would seem a simple thing to ask our leaders to stand up for us. It takes no more effort than they exert now for things of far less significance. Some may say, “who cares?” But, as little things begin to shift the focus from us to other groups, future generations will suffer. The old saying “two steps forward and one step back” is so very true right now.

As a people having risen from slavery to the social-economic place where we are today, allowing the fruits of our battles and the memories of our ancestors’ battles to benefit others more than us shouldn’t be tolerated.

I can’t understand where our black leaders are on this matter. Do they not recognize the pattern, or do they not care that it is happening?


(E. LeMay Lathan is a member of Project 21 and author of the book The Black Man’s Guide to Working in a White Man’s World. He can be reached at [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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