We have just enough rope to hang ourselves

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African Americans have struggled in this country since 1619, as the first traces and evidence of slaves from the slave trade began arriving in North America. Because of that suffering at the hands of white men, African Americans have become conditioned to a system which was built on the fact that we would perpetually destroy ourselves as a race.

Borrowing from the fictional Willie Lynch Letter and the old saying “They’ll give you just enough rope to hang yourself,” The Hornet Tribune staff questioned the validity of this statement and if this is the case, would we actually hang ourselves after being taught to degrade, destroy and demean ourselves?

While Willie Lynch may not have existed, point by point in that letter held true.

African Americans were “freed” from slavery in 1863; however, for many of our ancestors the struggle for freedom, equality and being seen as simply human continued. But in their fight for the things and values in which they so believed and desired to be true, too many African American lost sight of the bigger picture.

Even Alabama State University, a historically black university, an institution that once had to lose its accreditation because its students believed in the cause of the Civil Rights Movement and the Bus Boycott, struggles to realize the bigger picture. The institution once stood as the breeding ground for the change that would usher in a new age in the country and possibly the world, but now, financial difficulties, politics and poor decision making leave us lost as a university with a beautiful past and bleak future.

When Lynch speaks about pitting African Americans against each other, based on their skin color, breaking apart families with psychological tortures and techniques, and making the black slaves love white slave owners, you clearly see the effects of this kind of system being harshly enforced. Even Lynch noted that pushing this system for a year without letting up would make it possible for the slaves to perpetuate the system themselves.

So then again, we ask have they given us just enough rope to hang ourselves?

They allow us to lead our schools, give us the money and power, and while having control over your own system is good, what happens when an individual who has never owned, managed, or led is given power and resources? It becomes a tragic path to downfall. When we fail, because we lack the knowledge and years of leadership experience, they are right there to take them back.

When we refer to power, we think about the school boards that have been politically driven instead of focusing on the mission of educating the students or the HBCU that has not progressed because the only consistency is the continuance of unstable leadership based on political ties. When we refer to resources, they will provide us money on the front end, just to prove we are incapable of effective management and budgeting, thus, justifying why they should not continue to support our university.

They give us the rope, and sit back and let the self-lynching process commence.

We must understand that we can build economic strength in our community. What is important is that when we take power, we don’t neglect the communities’ needs, but that at every juncture, we take the opportunity to make the most of that power to build stronger people. What is important is that black people pay attention to their surroundings, become diversely educated and not be distracted by parties, entertainment, gossip, or things that will not help build the community.

The problem is this: black people have to realize we are not over slavery; we are just living in the after effects. We are living in a society where we were taught to hate ourselves, and the system that was built was meant to thrive off our backs. We are living in a time where, instead of the physical lash of the whip marking our backs and body, or the literal horse-hide rope tightening around our necks, we feel the lash from the whip of inequality and the rope of self-hatred tightening around our necks as we dangle from the tree of a system that, from the beginning, never considered our existence as human beings.

We must understand that the system we live in must be broken, because when we break the system of white men coming into the black community, selling hopes of rap careers, NBA legend dreams, and NFL superstardom, and begin building black sustainability financially, socially, and emotionally, we can challenge the larger system that was not meant for us.

They give us enough rope to hang ourselves: The government will traffic drugs into the community to create drug addicts, then wage a war on them. The government will place politicians and political leaders in schools to watch them run to ruins with political poisons, then take them over. The government will use outlets to shape the images of our people, strike fear, concern, and outrage in the hearts of others, just so they can have an excuse and agenda to control communities.
But it takes choices. Will we allow drugs in our communities? Will we stand for outside businesses determining our economic value as opposed to us investing and building our own economy and financial stability? Will we allow politics or what’s best for the student to run our schools?

What happens when we wake up, stop living in the taught self-hatred and take that rope to get where we, as a people, need to go? The famous 1983 film “Trading Places,” starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, when the successful brokers, the Duke brothers (Mortimer and Randolph) depict this idea very well.

In the film, the Duke brothers frame Aykroyd’s character, Winthorpe for a crime he did not commit, with a plan based on a bet that they could take a homeless, poor black man, Valentine, played by Murphy, and turn him into a successful business man and leader of their thriving business. In order to do so the Duke ousted Winthorpe, froze his assets, and replaced him with Valentine, to prove they could make Winthorpe poor and useless and Valentine rich and viable.
Upon learning of the plan, Valentine and Winthorpe teamed up to take on the Dukes hitting them where it hurts (in their pockets) and then becoming rich themselves. This left the Dukes in a terrible position as their assets were frozen, their riches and property were worthless to them, and they lost everything, all because the Dukes wanted to give Valentine a rope. They did not realize that just because you give someone a rope to hang themselves, doesn’t mean they will do it. In fact, how does the old saying go, “If you’re digging a hole for me, might as well dig a hole for two.”