I saw a Facebook post today that caught my attention. It showed an AA young man who sat quietly in his seat as a food riot took place during his lunch period at school. I believe this beautifully is a perfect illustration of a Personal Agency.
Personal Agency refers to “the sense that I am the one who is causing or generating an action.” A person with a sense of personal agency perceives himself/herself as the subject influencing his/her own actions and life circumstances.
Of course, there are a myriad of factors that can positively or negatively our station in life but at the end of the day the individual has the most decisive influence on how their life materializes or does not materialize.
You can cry all day about systemic racism and all manner of other societal ills. At the end of the day, we still have a personal choice to make. The AA community has an entire industry of race-hustlers who derive their entire livelihood from highlighting the wrongs to AAs.
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. There were more crime-plagued sections of the City, but my neighborhood was no picnic. My three brothers and I never went down the bad road, and you best believe me, there were plenty of opportunities to do so.
Even though I had two parents in the home, at the end of the day, I still had an individual decision to make because the determining factor that determines my destiny is my Personal Agency. I need to emphasize I am speaking about life in the horizontal dimension. As a practicing Evangelical, I dutifully understand ultimately, God sovereignly manages my destiny.
Tragically, most AAs do not know their history. AAs continued to advance in all of the human capital markers in the face of overt racism and legalized Jim Crow immediately after the end of slavery up until the 1960s.
It was in the 1960s that the human capital markers went in the negative direction for AAs in particular but certainly not exclusively. [Editor’s note: I would submit the principal human action that precipitated the negative trajectory of the inner city was LBJ’s War on Poverty].
It is rumored that LBJ boasted, “I will have these “N-word” voting Democratic for the next fifty years.” Even granting no ill wind to LBJ his War on Poverty rewarded negative human capital actions like higher governmental subsidy for more fatherless children in the home. Put simply AA females were incentivized to NOT have a male in the home.
The young man in the photo may or may not have two parents in the home. He may be from a middle-class family, or he may not. We will never know what his “story” is but one thing I can definitely state from this picture is he made a choice to not engage in wanton behavior.
One of the main reasons for so much negative pathology in our inner city is Personal Agency.
When people engage in crime, they are making a personal decision.
When people drop out of school, they are making a personal decision.
When people do drugs, they are making a personal decision.
When people engage in sex, they are making a personal decision.
We must, especially AAs, quit blaming others for what we do not achieve. It is downright disheartening to hear processing Evangelical laments about oppression as their excuse for not thriving.
Yes, racism is real, but racism was real in 1920, and AAs rose to the challenge and strived.
Yes, Jim Crow was in full effect shortly after Reconstruction began, but AAs did not shrink back. AAs rose to the challenge and still strived.
Accepting ”Victimhood” has never been a pathway to human flourishing.
Kudos to this young brother! He is already two steps ahead of the game!
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With fear & trembling,
Ricky Verndale Kyles Sr. DEd.Min