Final Thoughts for 2015, Part III: This is part three because I know that tomorrow, there will be more uncluttered ruminations.
Happy Kwanzaa, Everyone
UJIMA -collective work and responsibility.
In 1985, Whitney Houston sang,
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
I woke up this morning hearing these lyrics, first penned by Linda Creed in 1977 in The Greatest Love of All. But it was Houston’s 1985 voice and image that added the emphasis of Black and mother; love and hearth. I smiled because my children are out there in the world making the most of what this world has to offer them. And then as I settled in with coffee and a mouse, there were other visions.
The first article was of 2,000 youths rioting in a mall and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods of St. Matthews in Louisville, Kentucky where responding officers were busy “keeping people safe” and had no time for arrests. The teens were described as unruly. One interview with a police officer described the scene as a fight and the barrage of calls to authorities a misunderstanding. He claimed from the outskirts of the crowd, it sounded worse than the incident actually was. Had it not been for various other reports of the youths spilling out into the streets, neighboring brawls and civil unrest from other news stations, his statement would have charmed the public into the “kids being bad” narrative.
The second article, a Chicago, Illinois family dispute between a father and son ending in the 19-year-old son, Quintonio LeGrier and a 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones shot dead by responding law enforcement, closed the nation’s conversation. Everyone is now safe.
The eeriest of this was the “Top Stories” ticker tape streaming across the screen’s bottom while the reporter described the Chicago scene. Floods, terror threats, fires, and of course the 1000-2000 “unruly-youths.” Media matters. I rolled back to the late 20th century argument against indicating the race of offenders when they are non-White and media bias in reporting. We fought for equal reporting, but we as Blacks were not there as yet within our communities. We worried more about respectability politics than respect for our lives.
Black abolitionist and writers sought to humanize the African and African civilization to the rest of the world before and after Reconstruction. But humanity loves and hates, it is pristine and messy, it is clear and polluted, and it is raw. We cannot dismiss this in our fight for recognition in all that is human. To dismiss any part of our human selves is to create an inhuman and inhumane approach to each other. No other body denies or denigrates its broken limbs as we do. They sting and burn and seek attention. The kind of attention easily utilized by the Other as they deny, yet understand that it is a part of their whole. This is our worry. This is our politics.
We understand that “All Lives Matter,” yet until a child was torn from us in public, with no regard from the perpetrator or authorities, did some realize that Blacks lives were never a part of that “All.” So we proclaimed, “Black Lives Matter.” The world rumbled on all sides. A burning CVS said, “They are not worthy as yet. The media showed the photo of a burning CVS more than the body of our young lying on the streets as an omen; — more than it popularized the burning of Black Wall Street.
I am not a fan of R. Kelly, but I did respect him for walking out on the Huffington Post interview. We choose our heroes, not by merit, but by our own demented biases. He refused to be beaten by his challenges and that is ok too. Bill Cosby has challenges that are multiplied by his present game of Dodge Ball. With Cosby, the African American community is divided by respectability politics and nostalgia on one end and rape culture on the other. Is this so for R. Kelly? Can we enjoy his music and still guard our children as parents are wont to do? I have never had a problem enjoying Woody Allen’s genius, but I definitely would not hire him as a babysitter.
So what is our solution? When do we get real? In the 1980’s, I saw a White man outside of the Wall St. Stock Exchange dressed in an expensive suit smoking crack at a phone kiosk. No one in my periphery snarled, sloped away, or even acknowledged him. We might determine it was because he was white, or wealthy, or manicured, any of the deference we do not grant the common man. I thought of privilege; of the friends and world that grants him a stumble and help him rise again. Dr. Bernard LaFayette communicated, if I may paraphrase, that it is not the one community that supports an idea that gives it power; it is the millions worldwide that support it making the difference in the power it wields. But I have also been told that each drop of water creates an ocean.
When do we find enough credibility in our community despite our broken homes, gang violence, drug addiction, economic marginalization, illiteracy, and sagging pants? Every nation of immigrants has faced the same challenges in America. The difference is they were human when they arrived. They banded together in their ghettos, not around their achievements, but around their challenges. They climbed mountains together knowing that some may fall and others, in doing so, may add dead weight. But they held the rope, pulled each other up and never let go.
“The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all”