I recently saw the movie Selma and there was one particular line that stood out to me the most during that entire movie. There was a scene in the movie when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was meeting up with the leaders of a local civil rights group by the name of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). During this scene there was a cause for concern coming from the leaders of SNCC, one of the leaders being former mayor of Atlanta John Lewis, about the legitimacy & potential longstanding effects of Dr. King & the movement King was organizing down in Selma, AL. Dr. King told a then young John Lewis (and I’m paraphrasing) although he sincerely appreciated the effort SNCC was doing in helping to raise Black consciousness in an effort to understand the system of oppression Black society was facing, Dr. King was more concerned about raising the level of White consciousness across the country in order for White society to better comprehend the system of oppression that has been plaguing Black society for generations. But here’s my concern:
Does Black people raising White consciousness really work?
The era that Dr. King lived in I would have to say absolutely.
During that timeframe people knew that society was segregated but a lot of White people not living in the South more than likely did not understand that depths of segregation & how violent things could become. The internet did not exist, there was no social media, there were no 24 hour news media stations, & there were no cell phones to record incidents. So a lot of the violence that came as an unfortunate side effect due to segregation in the South could literally go undetected by the masses to the point where some White people probably had no real clue as to how serious things were for Black people. Don’t get me wrong, White folks knew the South was a deeply segregated & a racist place to live at, but due to the lack of visual “documentation” to help complete the narrative…it was unfortunately “just one of those things”. It’s very similar to me going to some random building & seeing handicap parking spots & handicap wheelchair ramps. Sure I see those thing & I know who those parking spots & ramps were created for, but being that I’m not handicap I have the privilege of simply just not thinking about the benefit of parking closer to a building or maneuvering up a ramp. It’s not until I actually take time out of my day to watch a person who may happen to be in a wheelchair go through the struggles of getting out of a car & then seeing how beneficial it is for them to use a wheelchair ramp to help them enter a building that I begin to raise my consciousness level in regards to the daily “plight” of a person who is handicapped. So in regards to the Civil Rights era of the 60s, I would say it was an absolute necessity for Black people to raise the level of White consciousness in regards to how Black society was literally being brutalized on a daily basis for simply wanting to exist because the dominant society NEEDED to see the brutalization with their own eyes to truly comprehend its severity.
Fast forward to the present day, I’m not so convinced that the continuation of raising White consciousness is of a necessity as compared to continuing to raise the Black consciousness.
“I think if you look at the voting audience – and let’s say they’re 99% white – I think you have to look at the age demographic. I think you have to look at the time in which ‘Selma’ came out — the racial trepidation in this country – that’s why it’s not doing so well at the box office. People are just tired of being bombarded with race right now. So everybody is shying away from certain topics and certain movies.” — Anthony Mackie
We now live in an era of constant information which can be accessed in seconds right from the palms of our hands & with this constant barrage of access comes the side effect of being desensitized. So while my site & others sites alike can constantly point out every case of racial injustice in America along with every 24 hour news media outlet, eventually it’s going to get to a point where people just do not notice it enough to care because they understand that whatever racially charged event may have taken place, another will come to snatch up the headlines followed by another & another & another. So the shock & awe visuals broadcasted on TV in regards to the tragedies that took place down in Selma which prompted a lot of White people to proactively respond to the point where laws were eventually changed, I just do not see that taking place to that effect in modern day times due to the never ending cycle of reporting on racial event after event after event. Now understand I am in no way saying that Black people should not continue to educate & hopefully elevate White consciousness, but do understand that I believe that now more than ever, Black people need to put more of their focus into raising Black consciousness. Because the same level of desensitization that can affect White society in regards to racial struggles, it can affect Black society the exact same way…and it has.
I have a few Onyx Truth contributors who feel it is their moral duty to raise the consciousness of the dominant society & I have absolutely no problem with that. As for me, I feel it is way more important to focus on the consciousness of Black society being that we are the ones who shall continue to feel the full brunt force of the dominant society unless we begin to make some drastic changes within our collective group psyche into understanding that those in power only respect & respond to others with power. And what helps create true power which ultimately helps to create true change? Money & creating a true economic system that financially supports the plight of those within Black society. I hate to sound like I’m giving up, but honestly I just think our priorities need to be adjusted towards getting our shit together internally so we can command respect instead of continually asking for respect.