Black People Are Survivors

It's time to remember that we are survivors

Isabel Wilkenson, 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Warmth of Other Suns, motivates us all to continue to be a survivors in recent article from Ebony.

When you know the history, there’s very little that surprises you. Over the past eight years, we’ve seen a resistance to the changing demographics in our country. We have seen unarmed Afri­can-Americans shot and killed by police officers. We have seen nonindictments and inaction. We have seen the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act. We have seen many examples of a pulling back, a retrenchment in commitment to social justice in this country by many people in the majority of our country. I think when you put all that together, this should not be as big a surprise as it might appear.


We’re now in a moment where we have been lulled out of whatever comfort or illusions we might have had. This can be a time in which people can do great assessing, join together and recognize this is often not a fight for African-Ameri­cans alone.

We have always been at the forefront of social justice. The civil rights legisla­tion of the 1960s, which was fought pri­marily by African-Americans, ended up benefiting the entire country. The ben­eficiaries were actually White women, because it outlawed job discrimination against women. It paved the way for educational opportunities for women. It created a path for immigrants from parts of the world that had not been as welcomed. It opened the way for LGВТ rights. It led to rights for the disabled.


This is a wake-up call for all the ben­eficiaries of the hard work, protests and freedom strategies to come together and recognize that equality and fairness in our country benefits everyone.

We’ve survived the Middle Passage, enslavement and Jim Crow. African- Americans have survived centuries of repression and hostility against them. Because we have survived so much, we can survive anything going forward. It’s a time to come to­gether and recog­nize how much we all need each other. It’s a time for kind­ness and empathy toward one anoth­er and those allies who share our de­sires for freedom and equality. It could also be a time of enlightenment, if we choose to see it that way.


There’s a study out of the Univer­sity of North Caro­lina in which [the researchers] are trying to under­stand how young people, primarily children of color, can have greater resil­ience in the face of a larger society that diminishes their humanity and worth. What they’re finding is that children of color, children of disadvantage racially, culturally and ethnically in our country, fare better when they know their his­tory. That means knowing where you came from, how you got there and all the ways of survival that got your family to where you are, is healing and protective for young people as they go forward in a sometimes hostile environment.

I think the same could be applied to­ward all people of color who are now in what seems to be a more hostile environ­ment.

Unaddressed history repeats itself. It’s a time to examine how the ancestors persevered through their challenges, which were far worse than what we are facing now, and to find the answers from within, because the answers are there. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We don’t have to start over. You can take all the lessons of the past while surveying the challenges of the present in order to go into a stronger future.

This country made us survivors, and we should never forget this. No matter what comes black people will endure it, just like we did in the past.


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