Faith & Nihilism in Black America

In my search for the truth about Black America over the years I have examined the structural institutions that have negatively affected the community, from unequal marketing forces, politics, drug infiltration, unbalanced educational systems, and the unequal distribution of wealth. Although these factors do affect blacks of all socio-economic backgrounds, it is also pertinent to place the psychological state of Black America under the microscope.

Race Matters, a timeless examination of racial issues by Cornell West, takes a look into our conditions from the concerns of black leadership to the taboo subject of sex. Before examining any structural elements affecting us positively or negatively, West touches on the hopelessness and desperation of Black America: nihilism.

The Nihilistic Threat is to be understood here not as a philosophic doctrine that there are no rational grounds for legitimate standards or authority; it is far more, the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) loveless ness.

Nihilism, in turn, adversely affects the internal and spreads to lack of concern for family, friends, and ultimately, the community.

Nihilism has been demonstrated in the rapid growth of suicide and homicide in black America. According to, from 1980 to 1995 suicide rates amongst young black teens have increased over 156%–more than any other group in America. In the early 1970’s—less than a decade earlier–Blacks had the lowest rate (West). So why are the suicide and crime rates in the black community higher than ever? Why are we saving less and spending more than our predecessors? Why? Why? Why?

Many attribute the hopelessness and desperation on integrating into a system that was not ready to accept us culturally. Therefore, the social isolation, constant tarnishing of our images, and corporate institutions have assisted in lowering self esteems on individuals that need the validation of positive role models, friends, and a career. These have caused many blacks to look into themselves and question: Am I really smart? Am I really beautiful? Is my language really unacceptable? To evaluate where we are today I began to look to our predecessors of the black community–where else better than the black family?

Being fortunate enough to meet, know, and love my Great Grandparents, the products of the migration from Mississippi to the north in hopes to find equality, better jobs, and a home to raise their soon to be family, I witnessed the strength and dignity of a people who went through the overt racism that most only witness in history books. My Great Grandparents were among many Black families of that time facing oppressive vivid red tape blocking each and every door of opportunity. Yet they maintained a level of composure, dignity, and love unbeknownst to many of this era. These ideals quashed any sense of being ashamed of who they were as a people, instead instilling pride in who they were and where they came from. The pride was not in the worldly possessions, but rather in the love of their God, family, friends, and community.

In the words of Elder Bernice King the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., “God has given us the mind and ability to govern the things of the world, but today we have allowed the things of the world to govern us”. We must take back control of ourselves and our communities to know that the structural forces are as strong as we make them. The love of money & individualism has helped us forget about the collectiveness that was once the backbone of the community instead of the individual pursuit of success. For the children down the street that has no father and their mother is strung out, it is not the responsibility of the government, but us.

What can we do about the nihilistic plague that affects all of us? We must love and educate ourselves to recognize the marketing forces, propaganda in politics, and the world are presenting to us. Be critical and ask why, but not how much does it cost? As West states, Nihilism is a disease of the soul and must be treated with love and hope.

I am taking it a step further than West and implementing faith. Through my spiritual revelations, faith is a concrete house that we stand under to protect our visions from outside distractions and coming into fruition. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) How do we receive faith? Faith come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

The word substance originates from Latin substantia, literally meaning “standing under”. Therefore, if we ‘stand under’ His word, we will have the confidence that our vision will come to pass. Faith, hope, and love are all significant in our success.

Selfishness in our communities is driven by hopelessness. A visualization of a glorious future is the most daring and potent means of self forgetting (Winston). We must have a vision of greatness, not just success in our lives. For Matthew 23:11 states, “That those who are greatest amongst you will be a servant”. Our collective success will follow our servant leadership, visions of greatness, while being led by faith. Amen!


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