During black history month, we rightly celebrate men like black abolitionist Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King, Jr. At pivotal points in America’s history, these men took a stand for equal rights for black Americans.
But it’s time we honor the achieving black Americans who have taken advantage of those rights, applied their skills, overcome obstacles, and achieved their piece of the American Dream. Though thankful for their freedom and opportunity, many now rail against the culture of victim-hood that sadly contributes to high black unemployment, black-on-black crime, and the explosion of fatherless families in black America.
One such man is renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, Benjamin Carson. While speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Dr. Carson thanked his loving mother who, with little more than a third-grade education, wouldn’t let him accept failure. She required him to turn off the television, to start reading, and to believe that he could become whatever he wanted to be.
One book he read was Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery. This great American truth teller vehemently rejected black victim-hood. Washington called on black Americans to claim the challenge of freedom: “Brains, property, and character for the Negro will settle the question of civil rights…. Cast down your bucket where you are…and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life.”
Washington warned even then, “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
Dr. Benjamin Carson, a Horatio Alger Society honoree for rising out of poverty to a life of significance and author of America the Beautiful, did some truth telling of his own, “We’ve moved from a ‘can do’ nation to a ‘what can you do for me?’ nation.”
To Dr. Carson, America needs more equal responsibility to go along with equal opportunity: “Everybody has to have skin in the game in order to make this work. We talk about an egalitarian society. Well, if everybody is paying according to their ability, which is what the tithing system was, it’s proportional. if you make a gazillion dollars, you pay a lot of taxes. If you make very little, you pay very little taxes. But your skin is in the game.”
Dr. Carson is not alone. Thomas Sowell, renowned economist and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, writes: “One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas complimented the motivation of modern liberals “to stop society from treating blacks, the poor, and others . . . as if they were invisible, not worthy of attention. But the [rights] revolution missed a larger point by merely changing their status from invisible to victimized…. Minorities and the poor are humans—capable of dignity as well as shame, folly as well as success. We should be treated as such.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave credit to her parents: “It was my mother and father, who, despite the fact that I was growing up in Jim Crow Alabama, always had me convinced that I could be President of the United States. They always taught me to just look past the obstacles. Either blast through them, or assume they’re not in your way…. I just refuse not to be optimistic. You only have one life. And if you spend your entire life seeing obstacles and seeing clouds and assuming everybody’s out to get you, then I think you’re just likely to waste your life, and I’m just not going to do that.”
Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happiness, went from homelessness in San Francisco to being an owner of a multi-million dollar institutional brokerage firm in Chicago, IL. Chris shares his inspiring message to young and old alike—”It’s not a black thing or a white thing. It’s a green thing. If you can make people money, they don’t care what color you are.” He tells kids that you make your own breaks by studying your books! You don’t need to play ball to be a success. To Chris, the big game is played on Wall Street! Chris Gardner is living the dream he earned.
Armstrong Williams, black economist and columnist, suggests: “We need to stop glorifying thugs and start praising those black CEOs and there are plenty of them now–who have seared through the competition to take possession of wealth and prominence. In short, we need to glorify Entrepreneurialism, not victim-hood! Entrepreneurialism is the engine that will close the racial economic gap. But we’ll never get there unless the younger generation of American Blacks decides it is time to move beyond the basic covenants of liberalism. That is to say, unless they decide they can succeed as individuals, rather than remain forever victims because of their skin color.”
These men and women were and are fearless, authentic, passionate, articulate, sincere, bold, real, practical, believable, provocative, politically incorrect achievers who need to be heard, honored and learned from. America needs a few more truth tellers of every gender and race. Being trapped in government dependence is not the American Dream our forefathers fought to create. No American need play victim. Don’t settle for less than making America work for you.