I had a professor when I was at UNC who expressed to me that the problem with my generation and other post Civil Rights Movement generations was that we were taught with “The Promised Land Mentality”.
What exactly is “The Promised Land Mentality”? It’s the idea that we (as African Americans) have made it. There are many in my generation that would be hard pressed to explain the segregated Jim Crow South. They’d also be hard pressed to express knowledge in leaders other than Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. A few of my generational colleagues may know about Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer. And a few more might know about Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis. But if you start asking us about Diane Nash, James Farmer, James Bevel, or Septima Clark- our knowledge starts to wain. While some of our ignorance can be pointed at the school systems for not teaching the Civil Rights Movement as thoroughly as other subject, part of the reason we don’t know these things is because we were not taught by those close to us who experienced it.
That’s right. Our parents, family members, mentors, church members, and others have sold us short. We’ve benefitted from their struggle, yet we don’t exactly know what the struggle is. And that’s dangerous because it’s extremly difficult to appreciate the current situation without a knowledge of the past obstacles.
I say all of this because I’m afraid that the recent election of Barack Obama will lend the African American community to once again feeling that we have made it to the promised land. I’m sad to say that we haven’t. The election of Barack Obama is only the beginning. We’re on our way to the promised land, and we’ve come a long way. But we’re not there yet. How do I know that we’re not there? Because educational inequality exists. Because gender inequality exists. Because racial inequality exists. There are so many inequalities that we cannot possibly have arrived in the promised land. I refuse to believe that the promised land would offer so many broken promises to so many people.
My hope is that the inspiration that we’ve received from the election will be a catalyst for action- so that we can truly make it to the promised land. This is not a time to be complacent. There’s work to be done, and Barack Obama can’t do it by himself. Our nation requires citizens who are not only informed, but willing to act. Our children deserve parents who devoted themselves to the causes of freedom and equality. Let us act in gratitude to those who came before us, and in preparation for those to come. We’re not there…yet.