I usually save my commentary in this column for ratchet reality shows. Unfortunately, a recent news segment by CNN’s Don Lemon had more tomfoolery than anything I’ve watched recently. Here’s where Don Lemon went wrong…
Let me start off by saying I get it. Black people are tired of watching our communities be disproportionally ravaged by violence and ignorance. I also understand that people in power — or in positions of perceived power — who are Black have to speak out in a critical and real way in order to create change. What I don’t support is anyone using a pedestal that they are given to pass mass judgement without insight. And, in my opinion, that is why Lemon needs to be squeezed.
First, when talking about Black culture, it is important to distinguish between race issues and class issues. Yes, there are some negative patterns that impact our culture in a disproportionate manner, but many of those concerns are more closely correlated with how Blacks have been disenfranchised on a larger scale. Poverty is the issue. Not “Black-ness.” Differentiating between the two is significant. The fact that a higher percentage of Blacks live closer to the poverty level —while facing systemic racism and being disconnected from uniform core culture values or religion— is largely the issue at hand.
Second, while we all experience freedom of choice, we must also be fair in assessing how circumstances shape one’s perception of options. It is blatantly ignorant to state that an entire group of people simply chose to be perpetuate a cycle of poverty. Does Lemon honestly stand by his statement that Black men prefer not to work and not go to school? Or that Black women prefer to be single mothers? It’s utterly asinine.
What is the case is that racism, drugs and poverty created a cocktail that has ravished the Black community post integration. A lack of Black-owned businesses in our own communities hindered our ability to create opportunities for those financially crippled by racist hiring practices, leading to a lack of hope, opening the flood gates for rampant drug use.When daddy can’t provide, he passes on that hopelessness. He leaves. He hurts. When momma isn’t supported, she passes on that hopelessness. She looks for love where she can get it. She doesn’t cherish her most precious gifts. When kids aren’t raised and nurtured, they look for it elsewhere: like gangs,in each other’s pants and by making babies.
Now asking folks who came from broken homes to just “fix themselves” is like expecting a car to run efficiently with a dying battery: You might get close to your destination, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll make it all the way there.
Black people are the only ethnic group expected to have resilience without targeted, consistent government support. I don’t get. We are three generations into this cycle— that means we have tons of households where grandparents and parents have been traumatized. Who is to lead the charge in any given family? Normal distribution tells us there are only a small percentage of people capable of higher intellect and resilience. If you’re in a situation to be touched by someone in that category you will likely escape the poverty cycle. If not… Most people are average products of their environment. If you live in the suburbs, you ascribe to suburban hopes and dreams. If you live in the hood… Asking the masses of impoverished folks to just pull up their pants, go to school and believe in the American Dream is like asking a kid who grew up in the suburbs to be content living in the projects, eating Spam sandwiches and ducking shootouts at the local park. They are comparably unfathomable realities.
If we want to create change in our communities it has to start with the belief that there is hope for a realistic better life for all parties. Parents instill hope in kids. They set standards. Friends share hopes and dreams with each other. While many boys wear saggy pants just for style, others believe it is part of their life trajectory. Ascribing to prison culture isn’t so ridiculous when you believe you may end up there — whether you’re guilty or innocent— or will be dead by 25. College what? Who will pay? How does that work? Wearing your pants pulled up isn’t so appealing when you know it will make you a target for being a lame. Having a baby isn’t so bad when you hope it will make the guy you want be with you because daddy left — because he couldn’t be a provider. Or because you want something to love and start anew.
My question to Don Lemon is how do you address those issues. How do you help a family feel enough hope to weather a storm of joblessness,trauma and addiction and get to a perspective where they don’t believe they deserve to live in a place with trash thrown on the street? I’m waiting to hear your five points on that. I’ll be watching…