A Black Year's Resolution

Welcome to 2018! There are numerous milestones in Black history that will be celebrated on this trip around the sun. The year 2018 will mark fifty years of what many consider to be the end of the Civil Rights Movement. Fifty years and a Black president later, one thing is clear: No one is coming to save us. We will have to save ourselves. Saving ourselves starts with how we think and treat one another. A new year can bring an opportunity for Black people to think differently; an opportunity for a Black Year's resolution.

On an individual level, we articulate our commitment to thinking differently in the form of New Year’s resolution. After all, what is a new year without a promise of what we will do less or more? We make resolutions for a good reason: because we want to be better. Say what you want about whether individuals actually stick to their resolutions. Whether they are adhered to or not, the process of creating a resolution allows for the reflection that is a necessary, though not sufficient, to create change.

Who can argue that for all of our progress, there is still work for Black people to do within our community? Who can deny that this is the perfect time for community reflection and consideration of what we want to do less and more? Ultimately, there are things we, as a Black community can commit to that will allow us to be stronger and work together to better identify solutions to the problems we face. All of this got me to thinking, “What if each of us thought about a Black Year’s Resolution as a way that we will commit to being intraracially – among ourselves? What if we began this year thinking about how we can each combat the harmful effects of internalized racism, effects that often manifest in our relationships with one another?”

So, here are my Black Year’s resolutions:

1.       More accepting of differences within the Black community.

The notion that there is complete uniformity of Black thought and behavior is not an idea that was created by us - it forced upon us. This narrative was done out of necessity and for the express benefit of those who have sought to subjugate us throughout history. The process of minimizing individuality goes hand-in-hand with the process of dehumanizing. But as we recognize our full humanity it is important that we allow for differences of opinion and experiences within our community. Our differences should not lead to questioning someone’s Blackness. Let’s evolve to allow one to be Black and be of a different religion (or no religion), Black and of a different political party (or no political party), Black and with certain interests. When we act counter to this, we weaken ourselves and perpetuate the idea that we are a monolith and incapable of individual thought.

2.       Less class division.

One of the most important things that we can do as an oppressed community is to form solidarity along class lines. We are all familiar with the idea of “divide and conquer.” And what divides Black people more than anything is class. This, too, is by design. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian organizer and educator, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, says “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend to become themselves oppressors.” Far too often, when one of us achieves economic security, the tendency is shame those who have not; the fear of association becomes too great to bear. When Black people deliver blistering critiques of one another along class lines (a person or act is bougie or ghetto) we allow capitalism and its evils to make us less than we can be.

3.       More positive Black narratives.

The media is not our friend. In an age of social media we can unknowingly do more harm to our community (and each other) than we realize. Does that Worldstar video really need to be shared? Are you guilty of promoting a harmful idea about Black people that you would find offensive if a non-Black person upheld? My Grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.” That sage and simple advice can be used by each of us today to create a stronger community. This does not mean that you should ignore your experiences, but it does mean that you commit to thinking about your experiences critically before attributing it as a negative trait on the group.

These are my Black Year’s resolutions. What would you add to the list? What will you commit to doing for the betterment of our community? Did you write your resolution(s) down? Do you have an accountability partner?

Jyarland Daniels

CEO, Founder – Harriet Speaks

Jyarland Daniels, MBA, JD is CEO & Founder of Harriet Speaks, a racial equity and inclusion consultancy, focused on anti-black racism, that offers training, executive coaching, communications, and conflict resolution strategies for non-profits, educational institutions, and corporations. Learn more at harrietspeaks.com.