A threat to growth in our community
It has become apparent to me that survival in the Black community, especially among the youth, depends on the importance of being cool. This means gaining popularity through a peculiar and well-developed sense of style, while at the same time maintaining an air of feigned indifference.
The key to being cool is to be able to play it off as though the very demeanor that you were dedicating every waking hour trying to perfect was absolutely meaningless.
But where the problem begins – this feigned indifference, this being cool attitude, has become an actual indifference towards life, dignity, knowledge, responsibility and all the social tools and resources that are so vitally necessary to establish any kind of viable lifestyle in a modern society.
So many of our males are now vying for the nomenclature “cool.” This social indifference has become so much a part of young people’s lives, especially, they go out of their way to corrupt even the most routine social conventions, like tying their shoes, pulling their pants up, or wearing their caps straight. The message being sent is that they do not have time to be bothered with such nonsense. Sadly, this is exactly the kind of nonsense that goes into being able to raise and support a family. This factitious indifference is an attitude that all but guarantees that many of today’s young people will be trapped in a downward spiral for life.
Ordinarily, one would be safe in saying, O.K to each his own. If they do not want to tie their shoelaces or pull up their pants, that is their prerogative. Sadly, it is not as easy as that. We are not just dealing with the chosen lifestyle of one individual, or even a handful of individuals—we are now tasked with having to stamp out the attitude that is permeating our entire community. I am not only talking about dress codes here as this antagonism towards social convention is also having a negative impact on our young peoples’ ability to speak business English… all but guaranteeing that a young man won’t be able to get through a job interview or support a family, not forgetting that the economic sway and job positions are still dominated by the mainstream culture.
It should be made clear thatit is not my contention that the larger society is completely blameless in this scenario, but Black people are not helpless children, so in the final analysis, it is primarily our responsibility to salvage our community.
Truth is, we do have in our Black community a low priority for education, in addition many of our young people do not have the support either at home or in the community to become effective learners. As a direct result of this lack of support, if… when they fall behind in school, they stay behind, and as the learning material becomes progressively more complicated, they see it as impossible to catch up. Once that downward spiral begins, these young people become frustrated, and start looking for a defense mechanism to help salvage their self-esteem.
Then with the able assistance of some in our community who insist that their “inability” to learn is a plot on the part of the white man to keep the Black man down. Hence, our young people are given both a convenient excuse for failure, and a foundation upon which to build a lifetime of hostility towards society. In addition, since knowledge is free, while we as a community can blame the white man for a number of atrocities over the years, trying to blame him for our failure to educate ourselves stands as a direct assault on our own credibility.
Education is and will always be a proactive endeavor.
One cannot be educated, one must educate one’s self. And since there is just as much knowledge in the corner library as there is at Harvard or McGill universities, if one is under-educated, it’s one’s own fault.
I am not so “old school” that I am failing to realize that with every generation the older generation brings up some of these same issues, but sometimes they are so correct. For example, they were right, for example, about some of our excesses in the sixties. So now is an excellent time for Black people to level the playing field, but in order to do so it is incumbent upon us to step up to the plate to curb the excesses in the Black community.
We must start by refusing to settle for the status quo, and insist on a lot less talk, and a lot more action from our churches, politicians, and others who benefit from our community’s support. Our churches do an excellent job of spreading the Word, now we need them to become just as prolific at spreading the deed.
We must also insist that these institutions initiate, encourage, and support programs in the community that assist low-income families, promote the education of our young people, thereby lifting their self-esteem.
Also, we must begin to lavish our props and rewards upon those who bring excellence, knowledge and honor to our community over those who simply bring entertainment. Because, to paraphrase an old sports announcer from years past, if life was a department store, you’d find music and sports in the toy department.
Aleuta! The struggle continues…