I'm sure you'll agree with me that Black people have it harder than any other race in the world. If you don't think so, just look at our unemployment rate, high school and college graduation rate, or ratio of the Black prison population compared to our total population. While I don't claim to have the solution to all our problems, what if I told you, there is one simple concept that, if you consistently practice, will guarantee the change you're looking for in your own life? In this post, I'm going to breakdown how making this one small adjustment in your mindset is the key to unlocking the power to make any change in your life.
Have you ever felt stuck? Like you can't go anywhere or make the change in your life you desire? If you're like many of us, you may have felt like this for a long time. It's like we're born in quicksand. The more we try to get out, the more it sucks us back in. This is the frank reality for people of African descent around the world.
So, what's the cause? What is holding you back from seeing the change you desire in your career, relationships, fitness level, your life? Is it systematic racism? Lack of opportunity? Lack of money? Lack of friends? Lack of education? Yes, these all likely play a role in your current life situation and you may not be able to change these circumstances. Yet, the hardest thing in the world to change is a person's thinking.
The issue is this: "Thoughts give life to actions, actions create habits, habits create personality, personality multiplies, creates environment, environment creates collective destiny." I propose to you that there is a fundamental problem in our thinking rooted in centuries of being cut off from our African roots. Like a tree planted in foreign soil, so is the Black man and woman in today's society. Thus, our thinking is confused.
We are Africans, yet think we are Black, while trying to fit in by calling ourselves African-American or African-European. "Black" is a color and does not embody our African heritage and culture. African-Americans are Africans who immigrated to America and became citizens. Last I check, most of us did not immigrate to America or Europe, America and Europe immigrated to us and brought us here in chains.
"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions."
(If you didn't read the first section, go back and read the first section. The answer will do you no good without understanding the problem)
Black man. Black woman. Black is the color people on the outside see you as. Yet, heritage can only be seen from within, by you alone. Don't define yourself by what can only be seen on the outside, your color. It is not what can be seen from without that makes a person, it is what's unseen within. What is unseen is your African ancestry, your rich history, your vast cultural heritage, your strength. We are powerful beyond belief. Africa is in your blood. You can't see it, but you must believe it. Why believe only in what you can see? What makes you unique is your ability to see what others cannot, to see within your own self. I can see your skin is black, your blood is red, but I cannot see you. Can you see yourself? The eyes face out, but vision comes from within.
So, the concept is this: To understand that you are African and all that it means in terms of your heritage, your culture, your history. You are not a descendant of slaves, but of a proud people with their own language, culture, history, and heritage. Reminding yourself of this understanding everyday will result in the following:
1. Resourcefulness. If you understand your African identity, then you understand your challenges are not yours alone. Struggling to get ahead or improve your situation cannot be an individual struggle. Long have our people understood the need to work together to build anything of value, be it national landmarks or a family. Yet, somehow, in today's society, we're all trying to make it alone or by begging for free handouts. We fail to realize our greatest resource is each other, not gold, money, or wealth, but this is changing!
Patience takes belief, however. No one patiently works for anything unless he or she believes they will obtain it. Patience is not waiting however, it is working. Never say you are waiting patiently, but rather working patiently until the result manifests itself.
3. Wisdom. Our ancestors lived and died by the wisdom of the elders. Don't underestimate wisdom, the ability to see life and situations for what they are. The truth is, we're not struggling because of lack of money, opportunity, education, or anything else. These are symptoms of the larger issue. Fundamentally, we're struggling because our homeland was ravaged for centuries, our ancestors were dragged to foreign lands, enslaved, our women raped, our men lynched, then given limited freedoms, and later told to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make it on their own. This is not a statement of anger or bitterness, but just a statement of fact. That is what happened.
Understanding the cause of our fall is the first step to rising in our own power. If we are at the bottom of society as a result of the destruction of African civilizations and culture through colonialism and the slave trade, does it not then follow that to return to the top, we must rebuild African civilizations and culture? The answer is a resounding yes! Money, jobs, relationships, education, and religion will all help, but these were not the cause of our fall and therefore cannot restore African people either individually or collectively. Yes, we are concerned about our individual success, but this is invariably tied to our collective success. If you want to succeed, help your brothers and sisters succeed.
There is nothing wrong with calling yourself "Black," but it should not define you. Resourcefulness, patience, and wisdom are all the byproducts and result of understanding your African identity. These three are the beginning to manifesting any change you would like to see in your life. It's not hocus-pocus, it's getting back to who and what we are. For more on understanding the effects of colonialism and slavery in order to create change, check out our blog series on Post Traumatic Slave Disorder. And for more on restoring an African self-awareness in your life, purchase the book series by Dr. Na'im Akbar, psychologist and pioneer in the development of an African-centered approach to modern psychology.