How to Navigate the Color Line

Author: Brennan E. Wells

America is a post-racial society. And the fact that America has its first African-American president is further proof that America no longer deals with the issues of race and racism.  Furthermore, just look at Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Oprah Winfrey, they too are African American and still succeed. Why African-Americans have a 1.2 trillion dollar contribution to the United States GDP, so the economic ills of the African-American community is an issue of personal failing.  Superficial statements such as these, that use numbers outside of context and illogically apply conclusions from individual success to a whole highlight the wide chasm between black and white America. So then, how does one navigate the color line of the 21st century ?

In his tome, “The Souls of Black Folk”,  W.E.B. Du Bois advances that issue of the 20th century is the color line. Unresolved still African-Americans must grapple with this question. I, as a single author am not going to provide an answer with one fell swoop, but I can offer a recommendation on how the problem should be defined and point toward the necessary tools to build that solution.

The definition in question I dare say begins with Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.  In this widely acclaimed deep dive into the issue of global oppression, Freire lets it be known, that to oppress another human being is dehumanize yourself. Additionally, a mindset that would find it okay to oppress another human being bleeds into the conscious of the oppressed. Upon this foundation of understanding, I assert, that to even begin to inquire and ponder upon the color line requires a revolutionary act of love. First, self-love to appreciate yourself as a black human being. To know that you are worthy of life, love, joy, personal advancement and education, all of which must not be encumbered. Secondly, to engage in this act of self-love, we must recognize others who look like you, not as thieves, misanthropes, scoundrels, hoods, thots, hoes nor n***as. To love yourself is to see yourself and to see yourself is to see yourself in others. Thirdly, we must divest the mentality of “I” in our community and substitute it with a “we” mentality.


With a clear-eyed vision, we can move forward in confidence to pick up the tools to navigate the color line. These tools include, but is not limited to, collective thought, collective action, collective education,  and collective finances. In a word, unity. In the age of decentralization in which everyone deems it necessary to voice out a direction, we are left with a mass shouting out in the wilderness. Dissenting opinions are needed to help craft and shape a direction, but too much of anything is a bad thing. There is within the African-American community foundational principles that must not be lost on us. The struggle we all shared in, the battle we still fight must be acknowledged and the solutions must be engaged by a majority to institutionalize reform in the everyday situations of African-Americans.

We too are America, complex in all of our beauty. Too complex for simple solutions of “just thug it out”, “it will be aight”, or “go to school and get a good job”. The days of indifference, bingeing on VH1 or BET, deflecting civic duty, empowering black leaders who talk loud but say nothing must cease. This must not cease tomorrow, but today. There are missing black fathers from homes, missing black boys from college and disunity between the black woman and man.

The problems we face are urgent, but our solutions are within us. One may ask how I may be optimistic during such perilous times. I am steadfast, because of Rosewood, Florida, and Tusla, Oklahoma were real. Despite the changing times, the innovation that produced such communities are within the African-American community still.


Everyone’s navigation of the color line may differ, but a restoration of first principles in the African American community will shorten learning curves till the day comes we have a salve infused solution to heal the persisting wounds of the color line.

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