We just past the ﬁrst full year without Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House serving as our ﬁ rst Black President and First Lady. I am remembering the days when we would call out loud when we saw a Black person on television, even if it was a non-speaking commercial spot. And now we take it for granted that we belong there.
On NBC, we see the Today Show that had Bryant Gumbel, a Black male co-host. Today, we have Al Roker as the weather man, Sheinelle Jones as a special host, and Hoda Kotbe, a woman of color (Egyptian), co-host. On the CBS Morning Show, we have Gayle King co-host. Good Morning America features African Americans, Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan.
On national cable T-V, we have AM Joy named after its beautiful chocolate skinned host, Joy Reid, Lester Holt (anchor NBC nightly news), Don Lemon (anchor CNN), and Craig Melvin (news correspondent, MSNBC), to name a few.
The names go on and on. Arsenio Hall and Montel Williams represent the pioneers. Nischelle Turner hosts Entertainment Tonight and African Mo Abudu brightens up the small screen with news and intellectual discussion along with Reverend Al and a host of others.
On local television we have Blacks in every market, Los Angeles has Beverly White, Gayle Anderson, and Leslie Sykes, There are many other African Americans newscasters such as Jim Hill (CBS sports), Marc Brown, and Pat Harvey, among others.
From law ofﬁces to banks, real estate, escrow offices, medical and dental ofﬁ ces, likewise, are full of Black participants in large numbers. Surely the damn has burst. The doors are open, and Blacks are everywhere, doing everything.
There is still a problem. It’s harder to get into certain ﬁelds. As soon as we get a chance, the rules seem to change. We become fewer, and we ﬁnd ourselves shut out. The other problem is that when some of us get in, we don’t share the spotlight, glory and knowledge with our Black brothers and sisters. As touchy as it is to say, though we have our own ofﬁces and try to play by the rules, in our quest to show that we are equal employment opportunity employers, we often neglect to hire our own people. I see this in many professional ofﬁces, such as Real Estate, Insurance, Doctor’s and Dental ofﬁces, Accounting ﬁrms and Attorney’s ofﬁces, just to name a few.
I had a recent problem at my ofﬁce where the people called me referring a potential client from my church. I had been advised to call and confirm the appointment. When I called to conﬁ rm, I was told that I was “too close” to the person and the appointment would not be kept. “Too close”? Really? I didn’t know this person except the fact that they were a fellow church member. But, I guess they assumed I did just because we belong to the same church. I’d had no relationship or discussion nor ever sat in the area where this person sits.
I was prepared to follow my customary professional procedure and refer the person to a Doctor who also is a member of the church. I wondered if the doctor would be “too close” also. A portion of any income received would eventually go back to the church and beneﬁt our community. So much for that! I could only think how soon we forget. I recall a time in the sixties when I had some trouble and needed a lawyer as a senior in college. I found a good Black Lawyer and asked my parents for assistance with the fee. I was told no because I was going to hire a Black Lawyer. My parents were just two generations away from slavery and could not imagine Blacks being as good or even better than White Lawyers. I insisted that that was my choice. We hired him, and he got the case dismissed. My family witnessed how capable my attorney was. After that, they were sold on Black Lawyers (not to mention how supportive they were to me in my quest to become an attorney). This attorney cared about me and did his best to represent me.
This is not my first experience with being “too close”. A few years ago, I represented a young man in Orange County in a very serious case. We got to the deal making part of the case and I worked hard to get an offer for 18 years. Under the circumstances, due to the nature of the case, this was a good offer. But the Mother of the young man said no. The deal was off and we went to trial. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 30 years. It was literally the only time I ever cried based on a court case result. He would be out of jail by now if he would have taken the deal.
In another case, a young college man at home on break from school connected with some of “his homies”. He gave them a ride to the store. They went in and robbed the store and shot and killed the store clerk. This young man was represented by an attorney who did not seem to care anything about the young man. Even though, the young man remained in the car and never went into the store, his attorney allowed him to plead guilty and take the blame because, presumably, he would get a lighter sentence, as he was a college boy and had no record, while his homies all had records. His homies are out of prison now. However, the young college boy is still in prison serving 25 years to life.
Our young people weren’t here when the Civil Rights struggle was being fought. They didn’t see Emmit Till’s face after being beaten unrecognizable as a human being. They didn’t see the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church after it got bombed. They didn’t live through or participate in the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Council), Black Panthers, Black Student Union’s, SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), and/or Dr. King’s marches. They only saw the result (the gravy if you will). They reaped the beneﬁts from the result of the resistance, and we never told them the true story of the struggle.
We wanted to forget about it and move forward. However, this new President of the U.S. is working on returning us to the (Bad) Old Days and bringing it all back, forcing us to remember. The unfortunate thing now is that our children will likely go through a Civil Rights struggle. If they do, let them never forget!