Making The Rounds § Back When We Were Negroes …

A Dexter Note: I received this by way of an email forward. Normally I skim through emails reading fast and furious moving to the next one at a rapid pace but this one caused me to pause and reflect. Earlier in the week I responded to a reader’s comment on how America has become a crippled nation under President Obama’s leadership.  Truth is that the daily personal decisions and choices  we make as individuals directs plight of our civilization for better or worse.

Back When We Were Negroes …
by Charles E. Richardson | originally posted on Sunday, July 31, 2011 in the Macon Telegraph

There was a time until the early 1960s when the terms to describe those of African decent, like me — African-American or Black or Afro-American — were almost unheard of.

I remember a distinct conversation with a friend discussing descriptive terms for ourselves in 1963 or ’64. The term “black” was just coming into vogue and he didn’t like it one bit. “Call me a Negro,” he said, “but don’t call me black.”

Now, the word “Negro” (publications used a lower case “n”) has almost become a pejorative, so I was a little surprised when my pastor, the Rev. Willie Reid, used it during Thursday’s revival. “Back when we were Negroes,” he said, and listed several things that were different about black life in America back then.

That got me to thinking. Back when we were Negroes in the 1950s, “only 9 percent of black families with children were headed by a single parent,” according to “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies” by Kay Hymowitz. “Black children had a 52 percent chance of living with both their biological parents until age 17. In 1959, “only 2 percent of black children were reared in households in which the mother never married.” But now that we’re African-Americans, according to Hymowitz, those odds of living with both parents had “dwindled to a mere 6 percent” by the mid-1980s. And check this, in Bibb County, more than 70 percent of the births in the African-American community are to single mothers.

Back when we were Negroes and still fighting in many parts of the country for the right to vote, we couldn’t wait for the polls to open. We knew our friends, family and acquaintances had died getting us the ballot. Dogs and fire hoses were used to keep us away and still we came. But now that we’re African-Americans, in a city of 47,000 registered — predominately black voters — more than 30,000 didn’t show up at the polls July 19.

Back when we were Negroes, we had names like Joshua, Aaron, Paul, Esther, Melba, Cynthia and Ida. Now that we are African Americans, our names are bastardized versions of alcohol from Chivas to Tequila to C(S)hardonney. And chances the names have an unusual spelling.

Back when we were Negroes, according to the Trust For America’s Health’s “F as in Fat,” report, “only four states had diabetes rates above 6 percent. … The hypertension rates in 37 states about 20 years ago were more than 20 percent.”

Now that we’re African-Americans, that report shows, “every state has a hypertension rate of more than 20 percent, with nine more than 30 percent. Forty-three states have diabetes rates of more than 7 percent, and 32 have rates above 8 percent. Adult obesity rates for blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35 percent in 35 states and 30 percent in 42 states and Washington, D.C.

Back when we were Negroes, the one-room church was the community center that everyone used. Now that we’re African-Americans, our churches have lavish — compared to back-in-the-day churches — community centers that usually sit empty because the last thing the new church wants to do is invite the community in.

Back when we were Negroes, we didn’t have to be convinced that education was the key that opened the lock of success, but now that we’re African-Americans, more than 50 percent of our children fail to graduate high school. In Bibb County last year, the system had a dropout rate of 53.4 percent.

Back when we were Negroes, the last thing a young woman wanted to look like was a harlot and a young man a thug, but now that we’re African-Americans, many of our young girls dress like hootchie mamas and our young boys imitate penitentiary custom and wear their pants below the butt line.

If I could reverse all of the above by trading the term “African-American” for “Negro,” what do you think I’d do?

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Making The Rounds


  1. avatar leigh cravin says:

    Interesting article, if only a name change back to “Negro” could fix the mess facing African-Americans today. Going from the “n” word to “Negro” to “black” to African-American took roughly 115 years, and in that time span of time this country went through several revolutions–namely; 1) drugs that decimated black families removing black males (and females) from the community and making literal orphans of a generation of black children 2) lost of manufacturing jobs that destroyed source of income that allowed black men to support their families, 3) school integration that hallowed out one of the primary institutions that held black communities together, 3) suburban growth–that gentrified blacks into islands of poor tax based communities following white flight, 4) drug laws that caused mass black male imprisonment and the cradle to prison removal of black men from the community, 5) social integration that pulled the black “talented tenth” away from a primary focus on solving black issues to instead seeking their fame and fortunes in mainstream white America, 5) erosion of the black church, and 6) repressive black imagery that continues to portray us as a booty shaking, gotta laugh loud, gotta dance, empty-headed people. Combine all this and the name change from “Negro” to black or African American is insignificant–and does not begin to address the host of problems facing us. They still refer to Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a “Negro” but he is one of the highest ranking “African-Americans” in the country. But look at this “Negro’s” “anti-black” politics as reflected in his decisions. Referring to him as “black” or “African-American” won’t fix his mindset.