Somebody Has To Say It…

September 28, 2008

A Dream Destroyed (A moment of self-evaluation)

This post is not about politics, although it involves an issue of which our politicians are certainly aware, and with which they should be concerned.

This post is not about race, although the young man of whom I am writing is in a situation that is tragically and disproportionately prevalent among young Black men in these United States of America.

This post is not about strange haircuts, clueless governors, idealistic constituents, or any other sometimes interesting things I like to write about.

This post is about life, decisions, and the question each of us should ask at some point in our lives– “Could I have done more?”

Three years and two months ago, a young man walked into my classroom. What became clear to me over the next few days was that very little had ever been expected of him academically, and as would be expected, he had come to accept that sentiment. He was in the 12th grade, not quite 18 years of age, and quite frankly, not really expecting to graduate. He lived with his mother and stepfather, and his biological father (and namesake) was also close by, yet this young Black man had never been able to connect with a male role model in any substantial way until he met me. I don’t profess to having done anything extraordinary except what I’ve always done, which is to not prejudge anyone, especially if they fall under my authority. I also wouldn’t accept lack of effort, especially from young Black men who already faced a shaky future, and this young man was not going to be an exception.

As the year went on, he confided in me more and more. I learned about his family life, the personal struggles he had with other students, his belief that his temper “could not be controlled,” and his rationale for “not dating my own kind.” He often told me that he couldn’t date a Black girl because they didn’t know how to shut up, and given his aforementioned temper, such relationships would never work. I must note that he also admitted that he’d never dated a Black girl, nor had he even asked one out, but he was adamant that his reasoning was sound.

One of our graduation requirements was an extended research and career-interest project, and a major reason that this young man had gravitated to me was that he found out that I was a musician, and he loved to sing. In fact, I heard him one day and realized he was truly talented– no formal training of any kind, but a remarkable ear and passionate style. He had asked the Minister of Music at his church to be his mentor for the project (a requirement), but even after saying “yes,” that Black man refused to make himself available, and ultimately, had my student in danger of not completing the project. So he turned to me, literally in tears (it was not the first time this young Black man had cried on campus, and would not be the last) for help, and although as a teacher I normally would not be a student’s mentor, the proximity to the deadline justified my decision to assist. For the next two weeks we worked diligently, and for what he said was the first time in his academic career, he received an “A” on his final presentation.

We have a baccalaureate service at our school, and the Senior Class President (the first and only Black student to hold that position at our school) asked me to help with the program, as he really wanted it to be more diverse than previous ones. I had two other Black students (both female) whom I knew had beautiful singing voices. Like the young man, they had never sang publicly for the school, and I saw this as an opportunity to show the school that there was other talent around, not just the students in chorus and drama. So I wrote a song, possibly the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever written, entitled “Because God Said I Can.” I brought the three of them together, and when they performed that song during the baccalaureate service, it was as emotional as I’d imagined it would be. The young man sang the bridge, including a powerful modulation, and I could see the amazement in his classmates’ eyes as they watched him, his eyes closed as he sang in the utmost sincerity.

The next night was graduation, and I was so proud to see him cross the stage. Afterwards, his mother and grandmother came up to me (I’ve never met his stepfather or father) and thanked me again (they had hugged me the night before) for believing in him, working with him, and being there when he needed someone.

And then the school year was over.

I’ve seen him twice since then, both times a chance meeting in a store. He’d had some ups and some downs, but seemed to be finding his way like so many young Black men do. Each time I told him that I would keep up with him, and to call if he ever needed me, but as we tend to do, I moved on to the next group of students, and the next.

Last week, another student told me that the young man had been sentenced. I didn’t even know that he’d been in trouble. He received an 8-year prison sentence (with credit for about 10 months served). I won’t detail what he did, but it was a shock to my system. Yesterday, I decided to do some research, and I quickly found his picture, sentencing information, and crime on the Department of Corrections website. I was devastated to learn that the date of his crime was early May of 2005– when he was still my student. I sat for nearly an hour with his image on my computer screen. I thought about the conversations we’d had, the advice I’d given, my constant admonitions to never give up and to never sell himself short, and how wonderfully proud he, his mother, and grandmother looked on those two nights, as he sang his heart out, and when he stood proudly clutching his diploma. I thought about the two times I had seen him since, and how I’d seen in his eyes the almost desperate look so many young Black men have as they fight that uphill battle to make it in these United States of America.

He lost the battle, maybe and prayerfully not permanently, but for now, he lost the battle. I taught him about literature, I taught him about life. As all teachers know, eventually it was time to move to the next year’s class, and the next young Black man looking desperately for answers. I feel good, I believe justifiably, about the work I do, and the influence I have with my students, and I realize that I could not and realistically would not be expected to hold a grown man’s hand. We teach, we nurture, we console, we listen, and we empathize and sympathize in ways that most people will never know.  But eventually, I and the students must move on. I realize that, I understand that, and as much as I care, I must accept that.

But as I sit here typing, I keep asking myself “Could I have done more?”

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August 31, 2008

Memories

The camera cut back to her at least half a dozen times. Although there were certainly thousands of people in the Pepsi Center, she seemed to be all alone, standing above the fray, peering down upon it in wonder. What had once seemed unimaginable was now a done deal– Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, had been formally nominated as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States of America. For those who had been wary of some misguided coup attempt by Hillary Clinton (and I was certainly in that group), breathing was easier once again as we realized she’d just wanted to have at least some symbolic share of this historic moment.

But even as thousands celebrated, the camera could not stay away from the lady in the stands. I do not know her age, although I would guess around sixty or so, but the look in her eyes spoke of many years past. She did not clap or wave, but held her hands clasped tightly together in front of her.  I never saw her yell or scream; in fact, her lips did not move, save a slight quivering that, given the mistiness of her eyes, was an indication of her determination to hold her emotions in check.

I wonder what she was thinking? I imagined that it was my mother standing there; would she remember that day in 1969 when she came home from school, told me to put on shoes, then took me back to Aliceville Elementary School so I could see the tank parked in front of it? Would she remember the National Guardsmen who stood in the hallways, rifles at their sides, ordered to that institution of learning to ensure integration happened without violence?

I imagined my father in the lady’s place. Would he remember walking five miles to little Eatman school, having to literally cross the Sipsey River on his journey? Would he remember hauling pulpwood for two dollars a day, which was a huge step up from what he would make picking cotton? Would he remember his oldest sister, Aunt Catherine, giving up on her own college education, choosing instead to leave Stillman College, coming home and running the household so that the rest of her siblings could follow their educational dreams?

I imagined my Aunt Bess standing there. If she were still alive, would she think about Uncle Walter, who spent decades planting, tending, and picking cotton in those vast fields that did not belong to him?  And would she recall that after Uncle Walter’s death, how the owner refused to let the family back onto the land, even though our family reunions had been held there around that boat well for twenty years, and the two ramshackle houses that had sheltered at least four generations were still standing? We wanted nothing but our memories; we had no claim to the millions of dollars that those fields had yielded, but since the owner had no obligation to allow us on the land, she saw no reason to.

And I imagined my late mother-in-law, Mattie Wilder Gay, standing there. If she were alive, she would be about the age of that lady. Would she have remembered the nights driving home from civil rights rallies and SCLC meetings? Would she have thought about the time someone followed her, and she feared that she might soon share the fate of Medgar Evers or Emmitt Till? Would she have remembered tirelessly registering Black people in the Alabama Black Belt to vote, an effort she surely would have doubled or tripled in support of Barack Obama’s unprecedented candidacy?

I do not know what the lady was thinking, but as the camera insisted, again and again, upon sharing such a personal moment, her eyes unmasked what was at once joy, wonder, and thanksgiving. I was born in 1964, less than a year after the assassination of President Kennedy. I did not see the dogs or firehoses, but maybe she did. I cannot recall the abject despair that must have engulfed the Black community when Martin Luther King, Jr., was gunned down, but maybe she can. I was not attacked on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, but maybe she was. And I have never been denied the right to vote, eat at a restaurant, or sit in the seat of my choice on a bus, but maybe, just maybe, she has.

In that moment, as the camera kept returning to her poignant visage, that Black lady, whomever she was, became Every(Black)man. There are so many who literally gave their lives for oppotunities much less grand than this one. They merely wanted to vote in peace, eat at the same counter, and have some semblance of a fair chance in this American Dream. If only they could have been there on August 27, 2008, as the deafening, soaring symphony of “Aye” acclaimed that Barack Obama, a Black man in these United States of America, had ascended to the very doorstep of a house built largely by African slaves, and which has symbolized, for over 200 years, a level of power and prestige only attainable –no, only imaginable, by White men.

As the lady stood silently, watching the unabashed joy unfolding below, I wonder what she was thinking?

August 8, 2008

Change We’d Better Believe In

Mayor Corey Booker (Newark), Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (Detroit), Senator Barack Obama (The Man Who Would Be POTUS)

From top left (clockwise): Mayor Corey Booker (Newark), Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (Detroit), Senator Barack Obama (The Man Who Would Be POTUS)

 

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others,
By the time I finish my song?

Ah, the sweet, innocent days of childhood, when we would run and play and not be concerned with grown folks’ problems. Every now and then – and I know I’m not the only one– I long to return to the time when my mistakes resulted in a loving butt whoopin’, and not the lead story on CNN. Of course, I know I can’t go back to those days, and even though I’m not really, really high profile, like, say, mayor of the 11th largest city in the United States of America, I realized long ago that to whom much is given, much is required. Wait– let’s put that a different way: “If you don’t want me to go there, don’t take me there.”

Kwame, Kwame, Kwame…what in the deepest corner of Hades is wrong with you? Eight  Nine Jeez, 10 felony counts! Your Wiki entry reads like something from a Death Row Records wannabe, but then, maybe that’s part of the problem. You come from distinguished political genes, and from all I’ve seen and read, have had the potential for an extraordinary career in public service. Given your pedigree and parents’ connections, “Senator Kwame Kilpatrick (D-MI)” was well within the realm of possibility. But, and maybe I’m being superficial here, when I look at your pictures, something is amiss. I know, clothes don’t make the man, but let’s deal with reality here– in this American game, especially the variation they call politics, image is everything. If you want to be the next CEO of DefJam, then slap on the cream-colored double-breasted zoot suit with the white Fedora and have at it. But if you want to be the next force within American politics, you should look like you’re about business, and not like a four letter word that rhymes with limp. 

When you know better, you do better, and I refuse to believe that you don’t know better. Now at least one person is going to say “Why should he have to change his ways just to play their game?” Well, there’s your answer– it’s not our game, and if we want to have any chance at winning, we’d better learn how to play it better than them, but with a whole lot less margin for error.  Your substance may be there, but perspective is at least 110% of reality– You may love your twists, you may not want to cut your twists, but trust me on this– when you don’t get that job you know you’re qualified for, bro’, it’s because of the twists. I wrote a line in a song a couple of weeks ago that said “I know you think this life ain’t fair, but cryin’ never made nobody care.” Catch my drift? Good…Now go cut your hair and start acting like a grown man.

Kwame, when all is said and done, I sincerely hope you can prove your innocence. But no matter what, it would behoove the rest of us to pay close attention to this lesson, and remember: The most powerful revolutions happen from inside the organization.

August 4, 2008

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

and I’m glad, ’cause there ain’t nearly enough words in our language to describe this:

What tha???!!!

What tha???!!!

That just looks freaky.

That just looks freaky.

Proof positive that we can trivialize anything.

The President of Black America

“I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the Black President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend Black people, Black issues, and possibly the Constitution of the United States, except when it runs counter to what Black people want.”

My, my, my…what a concept. All this time, I thought Senator Obama was running for president of the entire United States, but apparently I was dead wrong. According to this bunch, the good Senator is spending too much time talking about national and world issues, and not aiming enough of his rhetoric at our issues. To his credit, Senator Obama did not do what probably needed to be done– namely, have the Secret Service and a few select bodyguards take these knuckleheads outside and slap them up and down the sidewalk for one or two or maybe ten hours. No, he told them quite politely and calmly that they would have a chance to ask questions at the end, then gave them that chance. He then answered their questions, pointing out to them, overtly, that he had addressed every issue they brought up and, a bit more sublimely, letting them know that it’s okay to pick up a newspaper and actually read every now and then.

Now here’s the peculiar part: Apparently these budding activists, who claim to be members of the socialist “International African Revolution,” appeared on WAOK in Atlanta this past Friday (thanks to my sister, Miranda, for the info) and proclaimed that they “do not participate in the political process.” So why were you standing there cuttin’ the fool and hollering out during the townhall?  Just had to be seen, didn’t you? And whatever happened to home training?

Sadly, in spite of all the problems facing this country, too many Black people are just like this group, having bought into the notion that every politician of color must either be consumed with all things Black or admit he/she is a Republican (translation: Uncle Tom). That’s it. No gray area here. Echoing President Bush’s famous words, “You’re either with us or against us,” and for Black Americans, that means ignoring bigger issues except where they pertain to or affect Black Americans. For some, the election of Obama to POTUS can only mean bazillions of dollars suddenly being redirected into the waiting pockets of the Black community. The FBI’s primary (only?) focus will be White folks who commit crimes against Black folks. The Justice Department will personally take over every black homeowner’s mortgage and pay the note for them– forever. Reparations for slavery will not only be doled out with a quickness, but the IRS will suspend all other operations just so Black people can get that money that’s clearly been owed since 1865. It will be the end of racism, discrimination, and Black unemployment– all because the “Black President of the United States” will mobilize every asset at his disposal to fix those things that have been “keeping us down for too long, holding us back for too long, depriving us of our slice of the American dream for too long!” I can just hear the “Amens.”

Really, are we that freakin’ shallow? No, must of us aren’t, but the few that are don’t have the common decency to just shut up and be ignorant in silence.  Come on, Black people– grow up.

June 23, 2008

Waiting for…?

Milwaukee

I’m sure there are hundreds of images of the flooding in the Midwest, and in those hundreds there are many faces representing the utter devastation these people have faced and continue to endure. Yet, this is the first one I’ve seen that featured Black people, and frankly, it is beyond discouraging.

A couple of weeks ago, a poster on a forum that I visit quite regularly (okay, twenty times a day) opened a thread with the title “Am I a Racist?”  I’m going to print verbatim what he said:

This morning, when I was watching the news, I first saw a news flash about the floods in Iowa, I was completely floored. I prayed for the people who were evacuated, and whose homes were destroyed. I then made the comment that “the level of water was comparable, if not worse, than that in New Orleans after Katrina. However, Iowa is full of white midwesterners, so I doubt there will be any looting. Furthermore, these people will more than likely be quick to rebuild instead of waiting on Fema to show up and fix it. While New Orleans still looks like a war zone, I am willing to Bet that Grand Rapids looks the same it did last week, if not better, inside of 8 months.”
After saying this, and realizing that I believed it, I asked the question, does this assumption make me a racist?

After a bit of back and forth, the subject moved to affirmative action, and its impact on Black society. I then posted the following:

The problem is that in spite of its stated original purpose (a temporary forced righting of the ship), it has become institutionalized, with only a small percentage of people each year/generation managing to leap out of its quagmirish cycle. Many of us know that it needs to go, but without some support system in its place, it will result in immediate levels of economic destitution for millions of Americans who, having never had a reason to become self-sufficient, will have no idea where to begin. This is not what Dr. King wanted. Never once did he campaign for affirmative action or handouts– just for a level playing field. What we got has done immeasurable harm to black society, which for 500 years survived because of its ability to adapt and overcome.

In fairness, the picture above, and the apparently bizarre circumstances that surround it (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=764962) are from Milwaukee, not Des Moines nor anywhere else in Iowa. Approximately twenty percent of Milwaukee’s one and half million residents are Black, yet the pictures of this morning’s debacle show no other apparent ethnicities waiting in line for a handout. Further into the article, it states that 92 counties in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana have been declared eligible for the Disaster Food Stamp Program. I wonder if the scene in Milwaukee played out anywhere else. Are non-Black flood victims in other counties standing in line all day because they “heard vouchers were being given out?” Maybe, maybe not. I have no way of knowing, and to be honest, I would not trust the mainstream media to publicize such events if they did occur.

However, I’m concerned about us– Black Americans. As a people, have we been conditioned to wait for help? Do we lack the resourcefulness, knowledge, and/or desire to overcome adversity on our own? For hundreds of years, we could have given up, but we didn’t. Now, with opportunities standing before us that even Dr. King couldn’t have dreamed, are we resolved to stand with hands outstretched and palms upward, dependent on “somebody” to fix things for us? Yes, I understand economic disparity. Yes, I understand substandard schools. Yes, I certainly understand abject poverty. But I also understand perseverance and self-determination, and I’m wondering where it has gone.

The flooding in the Midwest has wreaked complete havoc on lives. That is beyond debate. For many people, Black, White, and everything in between, there was no time to prepare or plan. Such is the nature of natural disasters. I know that if such a disaster were to strike my town, I, too, would be struggling to protect and provide for my family.  Maybe the people in Milwaukee were facing a level of desperation with which I simply cannot identify, and maybe that desperation is what caused them to begin pushing and shoving, injuring some people as they fought for a handout that wasn’t even there. Again, I don’t know, and really, much of what I’m writing is just conjecture because I’m not there to see it for myself.

But something about this picture bothers me, deeply.  For now, I’m just going to read more and think more. Maybe tomorrow no one will be waiting.

 

 

 

June 20, 2008

Barack Obama is Not Angry…

Senator Barack Obama is many things. He is a skilled orator, a visionary with star power, and a brilliant politician and skillful strategist. However, he is not angry, and that is what scares you.

The Angry Black Man is America’s unnamed, generically black-faced boogeyman. We see him on the evening news– that menacing dark face that seems devoid of care or concern. We see him on athletic fields, ferocious and violent in his quest for physical superiority. And we see him on the streets, the weight of years of malevolent thoughts crushing his dreams and aspirations until, predictably, he explodes in mindless rage, giving you the license you crave to lock him up, discard him, and remove him from your civilized society. As fearful as you may be of the Angry Black Man, you are most comfortable with him, because society nods its collective head in agreement as you put him safely away from your wives and children. Yes, the Angry Black Man is the perpetual threat to your way of life, and for five-hundred years you have continued to justify your disdain for him.

Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and you have become desperate in your attempts to drive him there. America knows that Minister Farakkhan is the angriest Angry Black Man of all, but try as you might, you could not link Barack Obama to him in any sensible way. Then you found what appeared to be your trump card, Jeremiah Wright. Oh, in a YouTube world, he personified anger as no other could. So you trotted him out on your stage, inviting him to speak for no compelling reason, at least to the layman. But you knew that if you gave him a chance, he would show that anger one more time. We can ignore the fact that many Black men of his generation are disappointed in this land of milk and honey, and that Black ministers near and far explode in similar fashion each Sunday morning. Jeremiah Wright was your connection, and you threw him in Barack Obama’s face with a vengeance.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, so his reaction was not what you expected. Why, you challenged his church! He had to lose his cool, didn’t he? No, he didn’t, and when he reacted with calm, with reason, and with eloquence, you became unnerved. You attempted to link him with the supposed religion of a father he barely knew. You posted photos with vague and misleading (often fictional) anecdotes. Even now you are circulating the most ludicrous story of all, alleging that the Senator has been planted by your other convenient boogeymen– Al Queda. We know that there is no low that you will not dig under, but this seems absurd even for politics. Sadly, however, it doesn’t end, because when you realized nothing else was working, you attacked the one thing that surely would anger even the most stoic of Black men. You attacked his wife.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and he is also not an ignorant Black Man. He saw your intent long before you fully realized it, and steeled himself against your nonsense. He warned you, simply and without vitriol, to leave his wife alone. And that was that. Barack Obama knows that an Angry Black Man not only cannot stand in front of America, but he cannot even stand with America. You would cast him aside in abject horror, your women and children cowering in make-believe fear as you, the Hero, leap grandly forward to protect them from the boogeyman you’ve warned them about for so long. That is what you are so desperately waiting for, praying for, begging for before November. So you cast mindless dispersions, initiate unsubstantiated rumors, and rekindle decades of illogical racial fears. Each claim is more outlandish, more outrageous, more ridiculous than the previous, but that doesn’t matter, because contrary to what many people think, you are not employing Hillary Clinton’s Kitchen Sink theory. You know that your claims lack substance, and that you and others are simply playing a game of political fish stories, where decorum, morality, and basic decency are, at best, subject to interpretation. You are not really concerned that the unlearned and easily misled among you will be swayed by these tall tales. No, your objective, pure and simple, is to make him mad. You need him snarling and agitated, eyes bloodshot and bulging– the very essence of your boogeyman.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and that is what really scares you.

August 12, 2007

Influence vs. Power

I was on another board, Quimoto.com, and someone asked if Condaleeza Rice deserves a “pass” from Black people.  You know, we are amazingly quick to demand that other Black people look out for our interests and our interests only, no matter the position. Strangely, people like Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are singled out as “sell outs” and “Uncle Toms” if their agenda doesn’t overtly jibe with whatever Black Americans are currently screaming for.

We are quick to compare them with Oprah, Bill, and Cornel, but that’s comparing apples and oranges, or in this case, influence and power. Oprah has influence, and a whole lot of it. If Oprah likes your book or your music, instantly millions of devotees run out to buy your book or music. Oprah runs a vast multimedia empire, and has enough money to do just about what she wants to. However, Oprah’s power is limited. A handshake from Oprah doesn’t signal an armistice; Oprah’s signature doesn’t indicate the United State’s agreement to lift trade sanctions; Oprah’s mere presence doesn’t indicate the U.S’s tacit approval of a regime.  No, that’s power.

Bill Cosby also has lots of money, and as “America’s Dad” he wields tremendous influence both in and out of Hollywood. Bill is traveling around the country, visiting and speaking to Black people and advocating that we take responsibility for ourselves. Russell Simmons has a similar message. But Bill and Russell don’t make decisions that can radically define or alter the Constitutional framework of this country. Their opinions are just that–their opinions, not legal dissertations that may fundamentally change the very rights of millions of people.

Many people, especially in the Black community, automatically associate money with power (throw in respect and you’ve got yourself a song), but the reality is that money can lead to influence (if you have it, we want to know how you got it, and maybe we’ll listen to anything you say just so we can figure out how to get it too), but power is entrusted to a very few, and getting in that club is a lot more difficult than we are willing to admit. The two often overlap, but let’s be clear, they are separate and distinct measures.

Colin Powell had (emphasis, HAD) power, realized that it had been usurped for the Bush Aministration’s agenda, and he traded it in for influence. His presence no longer means what it did as Chairman of the JCS or Secretary of State, but it does mean something.  Barack Obama has limited power (he’s only 1 of 100 Senators), but rapidly increasing influence; however, his clear and unmistakable goal is to trade up for power. And yet, both of these men, accomplished as they might be, have their “Blackness” challenged on a daily basis.

To suggest that Condi needs a “pass” is a slap in the face to every Black person who has chosen education and hard work over pointless rhetoric and  free handouts, . Whether or not I agree with their political stances, I can, without reservation, point my children in their direction and say “Yes, it is possible.”  Funny, we don’t challenge Bob Johnson’s “Blackness,” even though he may have done more to destroy Black America than any other Black person alive. We don’t question Jesse Jackson’s “Blackness,” even though his agenda is, at best, questionable. We certainly don’t question the neighborhood drug dealer’s “Blackness,” and wow, I wonder what he’s doing to uplift our people?

The reality is that influence tends to be much longer lasting in our eyes than power, since it is less subject to political ramifications. But it is power, so rarely attained by Black people that most of us don’t truly understand its ramifications or requirements, that changes the world.

August 9, 2007

This is your brain…this is your brain after BET

Filed under: BET,Education,My thoughts — rricejr @ 9:42 pm

Last night, for the first time in at least 2 years, I watched BET for more than 10 minutes. In particular, I watched Hell Date, S.O.B, and that hallmark of shows, We Got To Do Better AKA Hot Ghetto Mess.

Everyone take a moment to sigh deeply, then we shall continue…

Hell Date really is funny, although the two midgets in devil costumes are downright moronic. Still, I found myself laughing as the actors continued to ratchet up their performances from slightly strange, to kind of weird, and finally to downright public insanity. In the end, everyone is let in on the joke and no harm is done.

S.O.B., like it’s host D.L. Hughley, has some pretty outrageous performances, but his commentary is so heavy handed and preachy that the show loses all appeal. Here’s the deal: if you want to make statements about our wavering morality, especially when money is involved, you need to do so without cliched comedy sketches.

Now, that brings us to the heavily and widely panned We Got To Do Better. No matter what criticism you’ve heard of this show and no matter how strongly the wave of public opinion against it–it’s still not enough. That’s right, the English language probably does not contain enough words of condemnation to accurately describe this crap. Apparently, in their infinite bottom feeding wisdom, BET felt that simply changing the name (even though the imbecilic Charlie Murphy still calls it Hot Ghetto Mess in his commentary) and removing that incredibly insulting blackface would be enough to make this show palatable for those of us intelligent enough to know the difference. However, I’m guessing that someone in the Massa’s House (otherwise known as Viacom) called in that collection of Sambos who came up with this mess, then advised that they needed to tone down the comedic atmosphere (Charlie Murphy’s supposed to be a comedian, isn’t he?) lest they further offend the land. The result is insanely ignorant behavior, both intentional (viral videos) and unintentional (man on the street interviews), surrounded on both sides by Murphy waxing philosophically about our need to “read and study.”

Believe me, the irony is not lost. As Richard Prince points out (http://www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince/070725_prince/),
one reason why so many of our Black people can’t answer the most basic Black history questions is because they’re busy watching BET, which has never met a news show it wasn’t willing to cancel. Bob Johnson even justified cancelling those shows by emphasizing that the “E” stands for “entertainment” and “no one was watching.” Here’s a thought, if you really are concerned about the same things Bill Cosby is concerned about, try showing something other than booty shaking and fourth rate comedians.In slightly more than a week, I’ll get my next batch of students. Of the 460 or so that we expect in this year’s class, about 12 percent will be Black. Most of them will not be from disadvantaged homes. In fact, most will have two parents, unlimited internet access at home, access to books and museums, and no viable excuse for failure. Strangely enough, that won’t stop several of them from trying to give me one when they don’t score any higher on our state’s exam than kids in the lowest performing schools over in the hood.  But let’s make one thing crystal clear–until we all begin to make education a priority, and not just something to do in between texting and downloading, our kids will continue to do poorly in reading and math while excitedly rattling off this week’s top ten on 106th and Park.

You know, BET did get one thing right–We’ve certainly got to do better, and we can start by turning their hood rich butts off.

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