I’m Just Trying to Survive

Chapter from Philosophical Street Chronic (I’m Just Trying to Survive!) 

malcolm_x thinking The number one driving force behind a man’s actions is survival. When faced with situations that can lead to life or death we will fight to the death to stay alive no matter what is trying to kill us. Happiness comes in second and love/acceptance is third. The reason for this ordering is because you don’t really understand what acceptance/love is as a child because your parents are the only people that you really know, and they love/accept you unconditionally, notwithstanding those that are abusive, but you know what feeling happy is, so you search for that throughout your life. Then later in life you realize that being happy is tied to being loved and accepted by others.

So in the inner city survival within your environment is learned at a very early age in life and it stems from the activities that happen on your block and then later what happens on the blocks surrounding yours.  This is one of the major reasons Black youth join gangs, which will be discussed further in a later chapter.

One of the other reasons that this thought pattern is adopted by Black boys living in the ghetto early in life is because of an ominous warning by some adult, on TV, or the radio, erroneously stating that the life expectancy of a young Black male is 21 – 25. Add to that, the fact that most Black boys attended church on the regular as children, and one of the major things preached about in church is getting right with God, because tomorrow isn’t promised to you. So we tend to develop a subconscious thought pattern that says we need to get rich early in life so that we can be happy and experience the finer things in life before we die.

So at an early age you learn what it takes to survive in the environment that you live in, and if the things that you see are gang banging, drug dealing, and killing, you start to believe that this is how to survive. If you grow up in an affluent neighborhood and you see none of this, then you formulate survival in a different manner.

Not only are you seeing these things occur, there’s someone who’s older than you, and considered “wiser” than you, helping to reinforce the ghetto survival theory. This person is usually a gang member, drug dealer and sometimes a father, brother, uncle or in some cases the mother. They all have been through this system and are “surviving” in any way, shape or form. This is why you will hear countless inner city youth say the phrase “I’m just trying to survive!”

So what we have is a young Black male who has been conditioned to believe that the only way that he can “survive” is by imitating the things that he sees others that are “surviving” in his neighborhood do. Their notion of survival has been flawed throughout their lives and they believe that the things that they do to “survive” are ok because it’s what they’ve seen their entire lives.

And as we know, the earlier you are taught to think a certain way the harder it is to break the mental chains later in life.

This is why Blacks needed to be in poverty situations so that we could develop a certain way of thinking that mentally handicaps the way we interact in society. The things that some inner city Black youth believe, about how life is, and how life is always going to be, stems from this aspect of “survival”.

Other popular phrases uttered from wrongly taught Black males is “survival of the fittest” and “only the strong survive”, as if we are animals and we don’t have a brain to think with. We have been programmed to think instinctively because of the environment around us, as opposed to critically and knowledgeably.

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This thought pattern didn’t become the guiding force for young Black males until the mid 80’s and early 90’s. As history has shown us, this was one of the darkest decades in the Black community since the civil rights movement.

This attitude is usually adopted around 12 years of age for disenfranchised Black youth and it’s the product of having to live a rough life. Growing up without a father in his life and a mother that made him fend for himself due to any number of circumstances, a Black male sees this statement as the embodiment of what life is all about. Survival, by any means necessary becomes his modus operandi.

This is why the words “survival of the fittest” and “only the strong survive” becomes his mantra. He believes that whatever it takes to survive is okay, as if we don’t have a higher intelligence than the animals that are governed by this very saying, so his actions become animalistic in nature.

Once this thought pattern is coupled with “By Any Means Necessary”, then you get what we see today. Go through any inner city neighborhood in America and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. They think they’re just tryuing to survive and that it doesn’t matter how they do it, as long as they do it!

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