Never have I been more embarrassed to be a black man than in the immediate aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Particularly if you watched liberal news outlets like MSNBC you were treated to a parade of intelligent successful, dare I say articulate, black men and women bemoaning how awful mean old whitey has made things for them and theirs. In my opinion it cheapens all their great successes and the hard work they have put in to get where they are.
Chief among the offended is the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). From the emails I get from them, it appears that the organization is really interested in “Advancement of Colored People by White People”. Most every communication I get involves getting the government to stop mean old whitey from taking advantage of poor black folk You know what gang? It gets old. What happened to people owning their own destiny? What struck me about the Zimmerman/Martin dust-up was black’s refusal to take any ownership for what happened to Trayvon Martin. If you listened to the black narrative, echoed by well-meaning but badly deluded liberal white journalists, you would think that George Zimmerman saw Trayvon and shot him right off the bat — or worse, shot him in the back as Trayvon was running away. You would think Trayvon was a small child about the age of 13 with a bag of Skittles. To listen to the popular liberal narrative, you would never know that Trayvon was a kid suspended twice from school, a full 17 years of age with a height and weight appropriate for that age, who punched George Zimmerman in the face. The narrative that is not spoken is that George deserved an ass-whupping for hassling the kid. Trayvon represented decades of collective pent-up black oppression that burst forth on George Zimmerman. George was getting a righteous beat-down and had no right to shoot in self-defense.
I have a suggestion for Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP. Invite Bill Cosby over for lunch and have a nice long talk. You see, Cosby has long advocated blacks cleaning up their own act before crying foul. Instead of inspiring a movement of self-motivation and ownership, Cosby has gotten heat for his comments. The following is a spliced and diced version of Cosby’s remarks to the NAACP in 2004 on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, that has circulated on the Internet for some time:
They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk…
Why you ain’t
Where you is
What he drive
Where he stay
Where he work
Who you be…
And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk.
And then I heard the father talk.
Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.
In fact, you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around.
The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal.
These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what??
And they won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.
I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit.
Where were you when he was 2??
Where were you when he was 12??
Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn’t know that he had a pistol??
And where is the father?? Or, who is his father?
People putting their clothes on backward, isn’t that a sign of something gone wrong?
People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn’t that a sign of something?
Or, are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?
Isn’t it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body?
What part of Africa did this come from??
We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans. They don’t know a thing about Africa .
With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.
Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem.
We have got to take the neighborhood back.
People used to be ashamed. Today, a woman has eight children with eight different ‘husbands’ — or men or whatever you call them now.
We have millionaire football players who cannot read.
We have million-dollar basketball players who can’t write two paragraphs.
We, as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal- Mart with seven kids… you are hurting us.
We have to start holding each other to a higher standard.
We cannot blame the white people any longer.
The full text of Cosby’s speech can be found here.
Whenever I’ve taken this tack, I am reminded that it is wrong to single out blacks for this. There are plenty of whites behaving ignorantly as well. But it isn’t a winning strategy to defend one’s ignorance with the excuse “white people do it too”.
So here is the bottom line for Ben Jealous. Start spreading Cosby’s message. Start telling parents that if your kid uses the N word in his Twitter handle there is something wrong. Tell parents that if your kid is caught with jewelry from an unknown source and a screw driver in his backpack, there is something wrong. Tell them that for as long as pot is illegal, getting caught with it at school ain’t cool.
There is a photo hitting the Internet now courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The NAACP can help make sure that this child’s life does matter by advocating a good education and proper behavioral role models for the kid. Blacks kill each other in urban centers throughout the country on a daily basis. Do we demonstrate through this behavior that black life matters to us? Everyone from the outraged MSNBC commentator to the President himself has tried to turn Trayvon Martin into a hero. The best way the NAACP can make a hero out of Trayvon Martin is to dedicate itself to creating fewer of him.
The Race Speech Part Deux
Last Friday Barack Obama made an impromptu 17 minute speech on race in America vis-a-vis Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict. Two things struck out at me:
Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Really? Let’s put aside the young Obama’s fondness for pot. Yes he and Trayvon had that in common (oh God — I’m echoing Sean Hannity, there is some nasty karma coming my way). But please tell me — if Twitter had existed 35 years ago would Obama really have been No_Limit_Nigga? Would Obama have been suspended twice from school for serious infractions? Would Obama have been involved in striking a bus driver? To put it another way, do we really think Trayvon was headed for President one day? Not without a serious course correction, that’s for damn sure. So who are we fooling here? Are we really making Trayvon the yardstick by which we judge our outstanding young black men?
There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.
Time to queue Maya Wiley on an MSNBC special:
i have had the woman clutch their purses. and i do want to say that what he didn’t say, white women clutch their purses. i mean, we’re not talking about black women getting in an elevator. that’s what’s so racialized about it.
Maya is President and Founder of the ironically named Center for Social Inclusion. I have seen Maya on several different shows in the past week and I get the distinct impression she has a certain dislike for white people. So what kind of inclusion is she interested in? Maya wants to make clear that Obama is referring to white women in his “elevator” comment. Allow me to let Maya in on a little secret.
Obama’s car locks clicking reference resonated with me. You know why? It was not because it has ever happened to me while walking across the street. Granted I am light enough to pass for white and physically disabled so that might be unlikely. It resonated with me because as a boy, when my Dad was driving through Harlem, my Mom — my very black Mom — would urge my father to roll up the windows and make sure the car doors were locked. It resonated with me because my Dad — my very black Dad — would arrive to work in a ghetto school extra early so he could park close to the building to avoid being mugged — again — by a black hoodlum. It resonated with me because in high school when I was sitting next to a girl I wanted to impress, I became mortified when some jive talking fool swaggered into the room and I was afraid of guilt by racial association.
This is the little dirty secret that Maya doesn’t want you to know. Black women clutch their purse a bit tighter and hold their breath when a brother enters the elevator, unless of course the dude is dressed professionally and doesn’t appear threatening. Black people with the capacity and the will, get the hell out of all black neighborhoods for fear of crime like my grandparents did in the 1970’s. Many black people are mortified by the behavior of some of their brothers and sisters. Not many of us have the guts to say it publicly because our honesty gives fodder to virulent bigots who use our comments to come to the wrong conclusions.
They say that the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. Blacks have a public relations problem in large part due to our own behavior and what we tolerate from our own people. We white-wash Trayvon Martin instead of admitting what a terribly flawed young man he was. We get defensive about “star witness” Rachel Jeantel instead of mourning the fact that the young woman cannot write or read cursive handwriting and is at least one year behind in school.
Barack’s second speech on race since he became a public figure puts his first speech (defending Reverend Jeremiah Wright) into a new perspective. Liberals loved both speeches. But both speeches basically come down to “white people, you just don’t understand”. Both speeches either defend or ignore ignorant and inflammatory behavior.
What saddens me most about the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and President Obama’s speech is that it didn’t inspire the “conversation about race” that really needs to occur, the conversation among black people to take control of our reputation, clean up our act, and be a shining beacon of victory over oppression — not because white folks changed but because WE changed and made our lives better.