To: Ancestors of the Black Race
From: Generation X – Rep. Ennis Smith
Subject: Formal Apology
Dear Grandmothers and Grandfathers of generations past,
Somewhere in the shadows of passing time, we lost sight of who we are. We forgot about the injustices and atrocities you faced daily, just to survive. While other races of people thrived under normal conditions and circumstances of the times they were born into, you were never given a truly fair handshake. You were constantly belittled, cheated, mocked, and killed over the pursuits of basic human rights deservedly given to other races of this great country, but fervently denied you as if it were a God written law to do so. But I digress. This is not a letter of condemnation of those who treated you as less than human. Only God Almighty can, and will, judge the deeds and hearts of men. No, elders this letter is about us – Generation X.
Grandparents, you were slaves who overcame unspeakable horrors. History teaches us that we were a proud race of kings and queens who once dwelled in a foreign land, but were forcibly stripped away to be made the equivalent of beasts-of- burden, to be used and abused, at the discretion of others. Oppressors blotted out the history and rich culture of our people for generations. Our natural spirit was broken; our brave hearts were subdued; our pride was crushed until we were demoralized mentally. Eventually, our people forgot about their rich heritage. Generations no longer remembered what it meant to be a community, further dividing us. But we were never completely destroyed. Like the Israelites of biblical times, a remnant of strength always endured. With each new generation, strength was preserved.
Grandmothers, you were raped and maimed; you were degraded and humiliated; you were violated in ways no black man can ever truly understand. Yet, you persevered throughout time. Grandfathers, you were beaten and broken like livestock; you were brainwashed and subjected to humilities no black woman can comprehend. Your strength of character was all but erased. Still, you endured the countless tests of time. Barriers were broken little by little, thanks to your unwillingness to concede, Grandparents.
Slavery was abolished, only to make way for social injustices to take root. Once again, you had to endure the atrocities of mankind. You were scourged; you were mocked; killed; and unfairly treated for generations more. But, just as it was in the past, a remnant of fighters endured. Some of you stood up to oppression, demanding equal human rights amid the onslaught of opposition. With your sacrifice and by your stripes, others among you joined the cause. Many of you were martyred throughout the passing generations, while some of you lived to see small victories inch through the crevices of passing time. Names like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks ascended into the stuff of legend, sparking grand movements toward equality for our people. Over time, we once again became a proud race destined to reclaim greatness and rebuild what was once lost.
But, something changed. Time marches on and through the latter generations, our parents slowly forgot about your sacrifices. Your stripes became unimportant to so many of us. We grew content to be classified as second-rate citizens of a nation that could care less about our true history. We grew lazy and weary of struggles. We looked toward the comforts of distractions to appease our ever growing lusts for personal gain. We finally saw the birth of a generation hell-bent on reversing everything you had worked and sacrificed for.
On behalf of an ungrateful generation, I apologize for what we have become, and for what we continue to perpetuate within our own communities and families, Grandparents. What does it say of us as a people, when we put more emphasis on the degradation of our women, than we do on the responsible rearing of our children? How can we be okay with an alarming number of our young black men more likely to go to prison for destructive tendencies, than to start a business that might benefit a community for future generations? When did it become popular to glorify terms like ‘nigger’, ‘coon’, and ‘bitch’; terms that historically insulted our people; terms you fought to eradicate from our personal vocabularies? Why is it so hard to convince our children to strive toward an education, as a means of escaping their circumstances? Where do we turn to change course, from the downward slide our people are into?
Generation X was born on the cusp of the technology revolution. Our children have a wealth of knowledge literally at their fingertips, today. Yet, our race is still plagued by some of the same hurdles of poverty, gentrification, low-education and division you faced centuries ago. It seems that the boom of technology does not automatically translate into a better way of life for all people of our race. Yes, there are positive strides. We are in an age where black folks have better opportunities to chase after the coveted American Dream, than ever before. But, we first have to want better. We have to desire and hunger for better, choosing not to settle for less than what we can become.
We were a proud race of kings and queens in a foreign land, Grandparents. Generation X forgot that. Instead, we put our trust in bubble gum music, comedy shows, and video games. In so doing, we continue to fail at teaching our own children and grandchildren the importance of who you were and what you fought and died for. But…just like in generations past, there is a remnant. Your legacy lives on deep rooted within our lines. And I believe the day will come, when we will make you proud of us, again.