Many people are fortunate enough to live in the same house that they were born in and maybe raise their children in the same home or community. Others, like me who are equally fortunate are given an opportunity to live in different areas of the United States, throughout their lifetime. No, I am not a military brat. I am just one person whose life experiences evolved and landed me into different states.
I notice social behaviors of African-Americans, in my city that appears to be unique to this geographical area and immediately visible to another African-American who has also lived in other parts of the country. Whenever, I encounter this behavior, it helps me to identify individuals who were either born in this city, or who have migrated from neighboring cities and lived here for a long time. You will not find this type of social behavior in the South, East or West coast.
“Whats On The Ground”?
I can immediately tell the locals from transplants who moved from another city, based on the immediate lowering of one’s head, as, they prepare to pass another person of color on the streets, and their refusal to engage in conversation. The local will not look that person in the face and will go out of their way to not speak or make eye contact. It’s unusually frustrating to witness this, especially because African-Americans are definitely in the minority in this city and surrounding communities. The immediate reaction and disappointment for some African-American residents is that there will be open dialogues, an acknowledgment of each other and at a minimum – a smile before the parting of ways of each person. That my friend, does not happen. Instead, you will notice that the local will always defer to looking down at the ground until the person has passed, prompting me to wonder ‘What’s On The Ground’? This behavior must be acknowledged in the same way that other social norms are addressed. Discussions about this type of behavior are not addressed in schools, college campuses, churches and amongst family members.
It is unlikely that the people who demonstrate this behavior are aware of what they are doing. It is a divisive tool that is subconsciously enforced as a result of old slave behaviors that emanated from the deep South. Slaves, used to fear speaking publicly to each other for fear that massah would think they were planning uprisings and ways to escape. We are no longer enslaved and need to talk about this and work to make it a a thing of the past.
Why is This Important?
While we champion for changes outside of our communities, we have to recognize behaviors that are inherent in our own communities that further divide and separate people of color. Dismissive behaviors, such as ignoring one another and saluting communities from other ethnic groups, is not an indication that our lives matter. It suggests that there is some level of shame that accompanies a bowing of the head, whenever an encounter with another person of color is imminent.
We must be proud of our abilities to socialize and encourage each other. A sense of pride in fraternization needs to be taught throughout my city to the same locals, who are proudly protesting for national changes, but yet fail to realize that they have work to do themselves.
What You Can Do?
If, Black Lives Matter let us start by teaching our students how to have self-pride.
Acknowledge one another.
Tell them to pick their heads up off of the ground and take pride in an opportunity to salute another person.
Parents, continue to enforce a sense of pride in your children within their schools, churches and homes.
Encourage students to demonstrate respect towards each other.
Sharon Edwards-Billings is the President and Founder of ALLPARENTSONDECK, L.L.C. and welcomes your input. Submit your comments or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.