It’s all about you

Published 3:05 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

By Clyde Johnson


In a conversation with some friends over the holidays, the question surfaced as to how did the Emancipation Proclamation impact the social and economic conditions of the nation? As we look back from whence we have come, we realize that some have made considerable social and economic gains while others have not been so fortunate. This is more visible among the black and poor. There are a number of things that influence the economic and social growth of an enslaved people.

Movies like “The Butler” and “Twelve Years a Slave” depict deplorable living conditions in the south prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery and freed the Negro. Some view these movies as an avenue to reflect on our history and motivate us to move forward, as others do not want to be reminded of such deplorable conditions. And there are still others who are shocked into disbelief to hear that such things actually happened. Regardless of what side of the fence you may find yourself, in reality as a nation we have not come very far from those conditions today. While there are no apparent lynchings, people are still being killed for no justifiable reason. And the law sometimes condones such actions. We need only to take a look at the Trayvon Martin Case.

Although The Emancipation Proclamation freed the Negro, it did nothing for the Jim Crow era (1876-1965) that followed the Reconstruction Period. Jim Crow Laws were state- and local-mandated segregated laws in the South. It was during this time that many Negroes (by the thousands) migrated north in search of a warmer sun, while others stayed behind to case down their lots where they were. During the Jim Crow era, Negroes were still being lynched with little or no consequences for the action. The majority of the time the perpetrator, who was white, was not even arrested, and if he was, he was released with what amounted to a slap on the wrist with no punishment at all. Can you recognize similar conditions in the justice system today? The consequences for black people committing a particular crime far outweigh the consequences for others guilty of the same offense. We have a lot of work to do to overcome this unfairness in our justice system.

Economic oppression is the issue of today. The American dream of a wife, a house, two kids, a dog and two cars in a garage is no longer a reality for many Americans. Many private sector businesses do not pay their employees the wages to achieve such an end. The government sometimes has to subsidize their wages for them (employees) to have a bearable livelihood. To make conditions worse, workers are threatened to be fired if there is a rumor of a union. How do we overcome?

I think we must start with education. We must develop our minds. My Grand Daddy and Mother instilled within me that education is key in overcoming the ills and adversities of society and promoting a good livelihood. One should get as much education as he can, be it formal or informal. In addition this knowledge must be applied in a manner that is beneficial. It does no good to learn and have knowledge if it is not used to your advantage (wisdom). God gave each of us a mind. There is a reason for this. He intends for us to use it to develop the potentials he has instilled within us. Although he did not give all of us the same abilities, he would have each of us use what he gave us to the fullest. If you are destined to be an educator, strive to be the best educator there is. If you are destined to be a doctor, lawyer or whatever, strive to be the best there is. If you are destined to have a hands-on profession (electrician, plumber, carpenter, mechanic, technician, etc.), you must strive to be the best you can be. This is what professional athletics do and that is what President Barack Obama did. How do you think he became president?

There are many challenges in developing your talents and becoming your very best, but one should never give up. Making A’s is harder for some than others. This simply means that you must study longer. The more you study the more comfortable it become. Parents, you must get behind your children. Following the path of least resistance is common for most children, but it does not give the greatest rewards. The harder you work for something the more rewarding it is. Think about it! You care more for a pair of tennis shoes you worked hard for than a pair that was given to you. That’s the way life is. Parents, love your children by having them realize that there is something called responsibility, and they are ultimately responsible for their own livelihood. Love is not giving your child every thing he wants. It’s making him earn it. And good grades are a starting point. Love is tough sometimes. It requires saying no sometimes to your child even if it hurts you. You must think about what is best for the child. What’s best for the child takes priority over what he may want to do. In the long term both of you will realize that saying no was the best decision. Children want to be discipline; they really want to be told what to do. This suggests that you care about their welfare. Love requires teaching your child not to give in to peer-pressure but to be his own person and think for himself. You cannot be like another person. You must be what God created you to be.

If a person does not learn to capitalize on his God given potentials he may become trapped in a world of despair with no visible way out. When this happens he is quick to blame others for his condition. Each of us is responsible for our own livelihood. And we need to start early developing ourselves into the person God has ordained us to be. As Booker T. Washington stated, “We must lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” We cannot depend on anyone else to do it for us.

What is your New Years Resolution? If making yourself into the best person you can be is not included, then you have missed the intent of this article.

CLYDE JOHNSON is a retired health physicist of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He resides in Franklin.