For black people to hold their heads high even today means getting rid of internal feelings of inferiority.
A history of obstacles
This can be difficult given that white supremacists had real clout in this nation for nearly 250 years.
Take, for example, the very definition of a "black" person in America. Historically, a person with any known black ancestry was defined as black, making African ancestry a taint on white purity.
The way race is defined in the United States makes no biological or genetic sense. It's been used primarily as a tool for political and psychological oppression – providing economic gain for many white people.
The Emancipation Proclamation, written in 1863 during the Civil War, finally freed slaves in the South from bondage. After slavery, there was a short-lived period of "Reconstruction" in the South when black people started businesses, bought property, voted, and even served in Congress.
But old habits die hard, especially racist ones. When Northerners wearied of Reconstruction, the old South reared its head and imposed "Jim Crow" segregation.
Buying into victimhood
Although few acknowledge it, the doctrine of white supremacy has sunk deeply into the minds of too many Americans, black people included. It has slithered its way into the psyches of poor black youth with low self-esteem, who equate academic success with "acting white." If success is "white," then are they saying that to "act black" is to fail?
We wonder how these embedded stereotypes affect black people today. Are we too dependent? Do we rely too much on white people or "the system" to rescue us? Do we lack faith in our own ability to run things? Has the legacy of slavery affected even our current mental state?
Too many people, including some black people, believe many poor black youth – particularly males – cannot be educated. This position harkens back to the notion of poor genes determining poor performance rather than poor environment, poor schools, or a music scene that imparts destructive, degrading values. The good must be separated from the bad while treating black people with respect and not demeaning an entire culture.