Monday, September 8, 2014

They Make Us Look Bad

Young black men wearing their pants half way off their bottoms make us of us look bad.
Black teenage girls getting pregnant and having to raise their babies by themselves make us look bad.
Black women cussing and fighting each other on reality shows make us look bad.
Black men burglarizing and killing innocent people make us look bad.
Right?  Wrong!

Not even my kids doing something totally inappropriate will make me look bad.  Sure I used to think that, but no more.  Of course I went through the stage of reminding them not to embarrass me in public.  “You better not let that school call me unless it’s for something good.”  Well, the school has called every single year for the past four years, and it’s never to tell me that my son has gotten an award.  It’s always for some mischief that he got himself into.  I stopped complaining when I mentioned to my friend that my son has gotten written up once a year for the past four years.  He looked at me shockingly and kindly let me know how lucky I am because his son’s school had been calling almost every day. 

My son has lost his temper in every single sport that he plays.  He once threw a basketball at an opponent across the court because the guy allegedly hit him first.  He once argued with the parents sitting on the soccer side line because they bitched at him for playing too rough.  He has hit his baseball bat on the ground and flung his helmet in the dugout when he thought the umpire unfairly called him out.  But that was years ago, and lately I’ve been impressed with how he takes his losses.  Part of it could be that he ended up on a shitty baseball team that only won one out of 15 games this year, but most of it came with maturity.  When you realize that losing is a big part of life, your perspectives sure change quick, fast and in a hurry.

I recently read the novel ‘Purple Hibiscus’, and many parts of it not only saddened me, but will truly stick with me forever, especially regarding the abusive father.  And boy am I happy that I learned a long time ago not to raise my children with unrealistic standards.  First off, it’s impossible to tell my kids that they have to be the best at everything they do, when two of them are twins, and the third one is not that far behind.  Out of my twins, one is always going to outdo the other.  So who am I going to choose?  And because of that, I teach them to always try to do better than their last best.

Of course it would be nice if the smartest kid in the school or the best athlete in the community lived in my house; but I refuse to allow my kids to follow dreams just to make their parents proud.  I much prefer to raise kids who will follow dreams that will lead to a fulfilled and happy life.

With all that said, the main reason why I don’t take personally what a random Black person does is because I don’t know that person.  And clearly, as you just read, even if I knew that person, I refuse to take responsibility for someone else’s actions.  Now don’t misconstrue what I’m saying.  I take great pride in teaching my children moral values, in taking personal responsibility for their actions, for thinking before acting so that they can make responsible choices.  However, they are not perfect; so they will make errors in judgment.  Of course I feel comfortable saying this because I also know my kids, and I feel pretty confident of what they are capable of doing and not doing.  They hardly ever surprise me.

But my point is steering to the fact that recently I have noticed that some Black people have been blaming themselves for the racism that has been dispensed upon other Black people.  You all know I love me some Iyanla, but I was watching her special episode on the Michael Brown murder, and she pondered if our killing ourselves has caused the police to think that it’s okay to kill us too.  Beloved, you know I love you, but White kids constantly shoot up their schools, and the police are not scared of them.  Boo, every time there is another shooting, the residents always say the same thing that the residents of the last community said, “I never thought it would happen here.” 

So I refuse to believe that police and others who gun down unarmed young Black men think it’s okay to do so because young Black men are violent to each other.  I refuse to believe that it’s because of the way that they dress.  Millions of young White men wear their pants half way off their bottoms too, and no one ever thinks that their dress code is detrimental to their health.  It cannot be because of how they speak either because young White men living in the suburbs speak just as wack.  I don’t know what it is for us as Black people to blame ourselves.  The only thing I can think of is that if we defend the young Black youth, we will be seen as one of them; and we can’t have that. 

I remember when OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  I’m sorry.  I mean when OJ Simpson allegedly killed his ex-wife and her friend.  I was in Antigua when it happened.  When my father told me, and he mentioned that he was in driving away in his white Bronco with a gun, I thought to myself, guilty.  When he was acquitted, I was walking the streets of New York looking for a job.  Get your nasty mind out of the gutter – not that kind of job!  I had copies of my résumé going to various temp agencies, if you please.  But I was probably the only Black person on the streets of New York not cheering for that man.

First off, I didn’t know him, so why am I going to be happy that he was acquitted?  Not because he looks like me means that he is like me.  He might look like me, but his friends don’t.  Heck, even his kids don’t.  When he was banished from society, people who were secretly happy that he got away with murder probably chastised him in public because they were afraid that he would make them look bad.  Again, don’t know the dude, so there is no way for him to make me look bad.

I don’t get why we as a people don’t get to share in the glory but want to feel responsible for the shame.  We don’t get to gloat that Oprah got where she is because of us.  We don’t take credit for Tiger Woods (before Thanksgiving 2009) or Michael Jordon or President Obama; however, we think that the DC sniper, Michael Vick and Stacey Dash make us look bad.  We act as if the Black women on Maury who have no idea who the baby daddy is, is our own flesh and blood.

Look I’m not saying that as a people we don’t want to take pride in ourselves and feel pride in our youth and everyone in our race.  But it is IMPOSSIBLE!!  You hear me?  IMPOSSIBLE.  Black people are people first, and people are people everywhere you go.  So some will cheat, steal and kill.  Others will uplift, encourage and assist.  It would be nice if Black people the world around would do the right thing.  And it would be nice if people from every other race would do the right thing too.  But realistically, we can’t expect only other people to do crap and our own people to be saints.

We complain that we are not a monolithic group, yet when we hear the term African-American youth, we do not conjure up images of Akintunde Ahmad, Avery Coffey, Kwasi Enin or Chad Thomas.  We don't see Dr. Rameck Hunt, Dr. Sampson Davis or Dr. George Jenkins.  Tony Hasberry II is the furthest person from our minds.  Instead, we see the kid with tattoos all over his body, the one with gold all over his mouth, the one with his pants sagging to the ground, the one who skips school to smoke weed.
Well, I don’t personally know any of those people.  When I think of young Black men, I see my sons, I see my nephews, I see the male children of my cousins, my friends and my neighbors, and perspectively speaking I don’t see any of them deserving to be killed at the hands of the police.

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