What Role Models Mean For People-of-Color
America makes it hard for people of color to have role models. Our leaders not only face systematic murder, but surrender their legacy to our various oppressors. Speaking of my experience, I never learned about Fidel Castro or the Black Panthers in school. When they were briefly mentioned it was their particular stance on violence which kept them from being our heroes. Ironically, we were absorbed in the American identity; we being offspring of those folks who continue to be discriminated against. As young Americans we risk our membership as we consider “terrorist” role models.
It wasn’t until college, when I started reading diary entries and autobiographies of Castro and Huey P. Newton, that I realized the myths of my early education. These individuals weren’t people that wanted to harm me, rather they loved me. Thus, to be American has several meanings; we are most definitely a specific type of American.
For the Americans that are brutalized by the police and that occupy the dominant percentage of unemployment, we positioned against the State. The preferred way of existing requires that we demand an end to discrimination in the job market; in addition, that we protect ourselves from the local police departments. Therefore, it becomes clear that Newton and Castro were “terrorists” because they necessarily opposed the oppressive forces of America.
No doubt going against the State seems suicidal and therefore intimidating, but what are people in such troublesome circumstances supposed to do? Homelessness , hunger and death—the essential conditions for many people-of-color in America—don’t seem justifiable by any perspective. Yet, countless individuals recognize this eternally painful experience as their daily reality.
As if we weren’t tired of irony, what motivates these specific people is not the desire to live but to die, to end this type of life. Fear of the necessary steps toward making life for people-of-color better, then, motivates us to continue suffering. Otherwise, we attempt to be like Newton and rise against America; at the risk of being identified as an “Enemy of State.” Unfortunately, most people-of-color give into the fear—that comes with saving themselves—and justify the lifeless conditions of their existence.
The problem, as a result, for people-of-color relates to the lack of role models to encourage the people to redeem living conditions for themselves. Newton along with Bobby Seale intrigued young people to start a movement of self reliance. Faced with homelessness, hunger and violence, the Black Panther Party stopped making requests of the government and created breakfast programs.
Police patrol schedules and political education classes could not have existed without the courage of people to take up opposition. In their courage, they constituted themselves as role models, as resistance to the intimidating flex of the police apparatus. In short, the issue of missing role models correlates with the State power’s ways of creating a fear of action.