Column: Honoring black history — my history, our history, part 2

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2016

Faye Benjamin

Guest columnist

Last of two parts.

I have, for the most part, overcome a lot of the racial abuse and rejection of my past.

I have received much healing and yet, at certain times, I find myself still learning to walk it out. The most amazing thing, however, is the fact that God’s healing has come to me to a great degree, from the same race of people that brought the hurt and damage. He really does have the power to make your enemies your friends, if you do it His way.

I am convinced that these principle and lessons my grandmother taught me are, indeed, the answer to the racial conflict of our day. Humility and forgiveness, overcoming evil with good, and all of it free!!

The only thing it costs us is our individual and racial pride. We don’t need hundreds or thousands of dollars to implement programs to secure racial justice and unity. When do we even need money, conference rooms or officials to solve the issues of race?

That is best done on the grassroots level when we get our hearts right towards each other by adopting the principle of loving others as ourselves, of course, with God’s help. I have personally seen this done best on our ball fields, on our playing courts, our playgrounds, gatherings around eating tables, prayer meetings, some churches, personal invites and, of course, where we work together.

This cannot be legislated or bought, because it carries no price tag. The answer will not be found in high offices.

Inalienable rights

Come a little higher, and consider this document called the U.S. Constitution. Black history, in itself, demands that we read, study, reread and restudy the United States Constitution.

It is amazing to me how we, as a people — black — like any other people, shout out about our rights, but don’t even know what those rights are. I would suppose that most of us haven’t looked at the Constitution since we were made to memorize the preamble back in elementary or middle school.

If we have not, oh how we are cheating ourselves and our children. Dr. Martin Luther King, like many others who cried out for freedom, would not have had a leg to stand on, no ground for declaring individual or national freedom for a people who had been uprooted and oppressed for years if he had not read in our Constitution that we were all created equal with God-given, inalienable rights to pursue happiness.

He not only read it, he studied and understood it, and when he went to high officials, or to the masses, he had the proof for his demands — the Constitution — to back him up. He was not demanding for everything to be handed to his people for free.

He was not saying that the black people were more important, or less important, than any other people, so give us special treatment. No, he was saying that we were created equally with every other race, so afford to us the same opportunities you afford to our white counterparts.

He was not advocating for entitlements, because he knew that entitlements, just like slavery, were a trap, another type of bondage. Bondage that would paralyze his people, especially his men, rendering them incapable of envisioning their own goals and dreams, and working to pursue them.

Dr. King knew that entitlements would create a spirit of laziness and lethargy, stealing a man’s or woman’s vision and motivation.

Dr. King was calling for equal rights for equal opportunities that demand equal responsibilities. He was not calling for equal rights without responsibilities, but equal rights with responsibilities.

He knew that securing rights without responsibility would cause a society to collapse — perish — rendering it nonproductive. He, like many other leaders, was not asking to give his people “hand outs” but “hands on.”

Entitlements take away self-worth

I have observed that entitlements are just like drugs. They have a sneaky way of stealing one’s God-given gifts and talents, creativity and ability to think for oneself.

This, in turn, takes away our self-worth and self-value, and robs us of our sense of accomplishment. It is inevitable that when you work and save, wait and persist for something and then it happens, you have a sense of fulfillment and pride that does not come when someone else just hands you something, or you steal something. You don’t even have the sense of being responsible for its care like you do when you have worked for and earned it.

With all of this being said, I propose that we take seriously the rights afforded us in this country, for we are well-represented in that segment of the population called “We, the People.” We have a right to the pursuit of happiness as long as it does not infringe on that same right of another.

Not only do we have a right, but also a God-given responsibility to be a participant in helping to get this country back on the right track. It is not only the country, or our country, but also my country.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brilliant mind to see that the country, our country, my country is in real trouble right now as a nation. We are overwhelmed with internal ills, as well as bombarded with external troubles, and I am convinced that the solution(s) will not be found in the halls of Congress, the judicial courtrooms, or the executive office, nor in the laboratories of science, but only when we return to our creator who gave us this nation and blessed us with rights to benefit from it.

He also gave us the moral responsibility to participate in its turn around. It all starts with just God-given common sense. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Faye Benjamin is a longtime educator and Troup County resident.