Houston Forward Times

26 February 2014 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

BLACK IN AMERICA: SURVIVING THE GAME

You do know what the “golden rule” is, don’t you?

No, not that “Golden Rule” that says that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The “golden rule” I’m speaking of is that unwritten one that says “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

When it comes to being Black in this country, all one has to do is review history and you will quickly see that Black people have been systematically placed on the wrong side of rule-making from day one to present.

If you simply step back and take a look at the Constitution of the United States and the 3/5ths Compromise; the Dred Scott Decision; Jim Crow laws and other segregationist policies; lynching; sharecropping; literacy tests; poll taxes; the ‘War on Drugs’; Mandatory Minimum Sentencing; and Voter ID laws, you will begin to see an all-too-common thread of public policy and legal actions that have negatively impacted Black people in this country for centuries.

And guess what?  Black folks did not make up any of these rules!

Black people have been the unwilling beneficiaries of many public policies, rules and regulations that have not benefited them at all; yet Black people have been resilient and have managed to overcome these constant hurdles.

Civil Rights activist and historian William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois once said that, “a system cannot fail those it was never built to protect.”

As I often remind you, I am an avid movie buff and the plight of Black people in this country is reminiscent to a movie that I really like called “Surviving the Game.”

“Surviving the Game” is a 1994 action film starring Ice-T and Charles S. Dutton, where Ice-T plays a homeless man from Seattle by the name of Jack Mason and Dutton plays a soup kitchen worker named Walter Cole, who saves Mason from committing suicide. After speaking with Mason, Cole refers him to this businessman Thomas Burns, who offers him a well-paying job as a hunting guide.  Although initially reluctant, Mason accepts the job. They fly Mason out to this remote cabin surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods, where he meets the rest of the hunting party, all of whom paid $50,000 for the privilege of being there.

The first night, all members gather together to eat a nice dinner and engage in conversation. They go to sleep and then the following morning Mason is awakened with a gun in his face by Cole, who explains that the men are not hunting any animals, but rather hunting Mason himself. Mason quickly bolts out of the house and is given a head start with only the time it takes the others to eat breakfast. The hunters finish their meal and set off after him, but Mason uses his wit and skills to outsmart the hunters and eventually takes out all hunters except one, Thomas Burns.

Unable to find and kill Mason, Burns leaves the woods and returns to Seattle, Washington, where he begins the process of abandoning his current identity and hoping to avoid Mason and the potential legal ramifications of the botched and disastrous hunt.

Little did Burns know, Mason had escaped the forest, returned to the city and was able to track him down.  The two gentlemen began to fight and after Mason gets the best of Burns, he begins to walk away instead of killing him. Burns gets up and attempts to shoot Mason in the back, but Mason had blocked the barrel of Burns’ gun so that it backfired on him and killed him.

Now that’s a serious story; but not too far removed from the story and the actualities of what Black people have experienced and have had to endure in this country since our arrival here.

As a people, we have had the barrel of a gun put in our face by those who don’t like look us; and Black people have been told we are a part of an unfair system that doesn’t consider us to be equal or even worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As a people, we have had to continuously fight an unjust system and serve as constant pawns in a game of “survival of the fittest.”

People of African descent (Black people) have always been leaders and overcomers; as well as being a resilient people with vision.

Ethiopian novelist and playwright Abe Gubegna is credited with the following well-known quote: “Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.”

Every day that Black folks wake up in this country, they realize that they have to work harder; react differently; smile more; arrive earlier; avoid conflict more; and give more than everyone else in order to play the game that has been laid out for us. The sad reality is; when Black people figure out how to play the game and become successful at it, the rules change.

Why do the rules keep changing? It is because the rules were never meant for Black people to win.  But that’s what winners do right?

The only way you can stop a winner from winning is if you cheat or break the rules.  It’s beyond time for Black people to come together and get involved with making sure we are not just playing in the game, but that we are helping create rules that are in our overall best interest.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper.  Jeffrey is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance.  If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.