Let me start by reminding everyone what the hallmark of the critical thinker is, it is the sincere ability to seek to understand the perspectives of others, most especially when that perspective is diametrically or even violently opposed to your own. With that clear understanding let me first say that the title on this article is very emphatic and I ask you to of course consider it with an open heart and mind.
Many of you will agree with it. Many more of you may say it’s wrong, the word of an ignorant traitor to the community. I would ask that we drop our filters and consider the right or wrong of it through the prism of a critical thinking mind, viewing, refracting, and redirecting thought for effective consideration.
Now, let us consider in summary Don Lemon’s five point plan for healing the Black community:
5) Pull up your pants (Really).
4) Understand the truth about the n-word (Indeed).
3) Respect where you live (one of my favorite Goodie Mob interludes talks about messing up where you stay, and how we are f’ing up our own hoods).
2) Finish school (Does anyone really have a problem with this?).
1) Just because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should (Well … can I get an amen?).
Not bad, right? I know not one person would disagree with these five statements unless they were delivered in a manner considered perhaps … a bit unwholesome? Don Lemon went on television and said that he agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s commentary on black people. He actually played O’Reilly’s commentary first, then went on to state and elaborate on the above points. Now, we must pause. Why is Don Lemon catching hell? Let’s consider it. Bill O’Reilly said,
“The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African- American family.”
Does this sound like something your pastor said last Sunday, or the Sunday before that? What about your grandmother? Does she lament a better time when we held each other in higher regard?
It’s always good to speak from a position of knowledge. The black family and community was closer together before the advent of modern culture, but we still had pain, strife, suffering, and self-imposed degradation on top of the degradation heaped on us by the wider white society. We hurt each other, killed each other, raped each other, and plotted against each other before the 1960’s. But still, we were closer together.
And no, despite what Larry Elder and some aluminum hat-wearing Right Wing conspiracy theorists thinks and says, the downfall of the black family was not the result of President Johnson and the Great Society. His plan for uplift was not designed to put black people on a Democratic plantation. That is utter nonsense designed to make him more money through additional ad dollars on his radio show. TRUTH!
The truth is the evolution of American liberty and the counter-culture shifted the zeitgeist of what it meant to be free in America. This change coincided with a culture-clash around civil rights, a movement unfinished. Out of this crucible came a different mind-set as well as different opportunities. The changing dynamic of the black family is no different than that of the white family in American culture. The numbers are more stark because we are a minority, and we are sensationalized fodder for the camera, the political agenda, and the entertainment complex. Those are the observable historical facts, and that is what led us to today’s broken family.
O’Reilly also said, “Raised without much structure, young black men often reject education and gravitate towards the street culture, drugs, hustling, gangs. Nobody forces them to do that, again, it is a personal decision.”
Now … is that the truth? Hell no! And HELL YES! The statement is an oversimplification. Structure is needed, this is not in dispute. Some young black men do reject education (no generalizations please), this too is not in dispute. However, it is not so easy to say they just choose crime as a personal decision because hey, selling crack for the same amount of money they could make flipping burgers is glamorous.
Bill is dismissing critical factors in the decision making process that drives a youth towards crime as a way of life. However, we do understand that it is his job to sit behind a desk and make money talking about things he thinks he understands in depth. Let us not begrudge him, but rather remain solution-oriented and drive past him.
So, why is Don Lemon catching hell? He is catching hell because he agreed with a white male ideologue on actions that would invariably benefit black families. He is catching hell because he continued to clarify his five point plan for Black America through the prism of white comparison, vis-à-vis White America.
He did however try to bring us all around in perspective by stating his callouts on Black culture do not let the ideological Right off the hook. However, it was far, far too late for the lay Black, or even the sophisticated Black.
We, Black Americans, no matter how well-meaning or understanding, have a real issue with airing our dirty laundry with regard to ills and improprieties. We can barely stand it when we say it to ourselves in closed company, let alone on national television.
Remember when Reverend Jesse Jackson wanted to grab President Obama’s balls and twist them into agony for speaking the truth about the black family? Remember that? We know our dirt. We know it’s deep. We know it’s wide. We know it festers and stinks. We know all this. We just don’t want to talk about it too loudly and we damn ‘sho don’t want no creepy ass crackers talking about it.
Know what I’m sayin’? Ya nyahh meannnn?
If you can’t understand that last sentence it’s okay. It’s a ghettoized way of saying you know what I mean. Just that sentence alone carries so much weight. It makes some of us cringe. It’s makes us judge ourselves, especially when we know others judge us. It makes us forget, it marginalizes too many of us, and pushes us into aspiring for the wrong thing … or nothing.
We can consider the perspective that brother Don is in the wrong, that as Goldie Taylor intimated, “He’s a turncoat mofo.” We can imagine Reverend Jackson considering a gauntleted hand of steel, and how much torque pressure he can apply to Don’s most sensitive parts. Yes, we can see and most certainly understand the anger of the Black community.
We can see Black Twitter revoking brother Don’s Black Brother Card, affording one premium access to the deepest warrens of the hood, fried chicken discounts, and a lifetime pass to use the word nigger, nigga, negra, and any other derivation of said word in music or poetry, or just walking down the street saying high to a loved one. Let’s be honest, brother Don probably never had that card, and he probably never wanted it. There is nothing to revoke, nor should there be.
All joking aside, the other perspective can skirt the edge of anger without falling into the abyss of blackicide, blasting a black man’s character for saying what we all know to be true, or even saying it in agreement with a white man, who for all intents and purposes no matter how many times he says he means well is lying through his Faux News teeth.
I’m sorry, that was emotional and not at all befitting.
The unfortunate truth is Bill O’Reilly said the right thing. The unfortunate truth is we don’t want or need him to say it, and he would not have cause to say it if we were addressing it as hard and as passionately as we address Love and Hip-Hop or Basketball Wives. That’s just the truth people. Let it burn in.
And listen, I recently started watching Love and Hip-Hop so I ain’t hating. I have never had so much degenerate fun blasting my brain cells into incredulity as I watch black people behaving badly for a bit of fame and a fat wallet. We all have a right to choose.
The critical thinking point of this entire argument is that though we have the right to choose, in the midst of crisis we must do more than talk about it. We must be about it, and we must be about it as individuals firmly rooted in a community that values and elevates our youth in such a fashion as to totally wipe out the ills of American culture gone wild, social degradation, the elevation of stupidity and the glorification of ignorance.
You see, we can allow others to make money being fools, so long as we see it for what it is and don’t seek to emulate it in our lives, or teach it to our kids. You see, we can turn gang violence into television melodrama, or better yet historical documentaries, so long as we demand, require, build, and execute on a plan that turns Chicago into a black bastion of education the likes of which three of my lifelong heroes Geoffrey Canada, W.E.B Dubious, and Booker T. Washington only dreamed of.
My fellow Americans, just to be clear, Chicago gang violence and the Trayvon Martin case are mutually exclusive. They are not same-same. However, they are both indicative of a rot at the core of our culture. They both arise out of what I call American’s Drive Towards Mediocrity. One is a function of our national and historical socialization around the so-called importance of skin color, something we are thankfully closer to resolving but still yet have so very far to go. The other is a function of ignorance and poverty.
Many are shooting down Brother Don because they say he discounts systemic racism, he discounts the stigma of institutional and structural racism, he discounts the marginalization of our black boys, and the objectification of our black girls, he discounts a right-wing ideology that is hell-bent on making us second-class citizens in a grasp for the past and hoped-for white glory days. They need to stop. Brother Don is not discounting any of these things.
The affirmation of his five points rests squarely on the shoulders of point 2, which is at the very root of all our ills. Education is the healing salve for all our people, ALL OUR AMERICAN PEOPLE NO MATTER THE COLOR, and we don’t, nor should we be wholly dependent on government to take up that burden.
America to some degree is tired of us, and I hate that. They are using President Obama’s elevation to the White House as rationalization for claiming the death of racism. We know the truth, we need only ask Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, or better yet take a trip and ask Trayvon himself. He’ll tell you the truth … from his perspective. The science of the sociological function puts the lie to the belief that American racism is behind us. It has changed, faded in some areas, evolved in others. This is not a matter of debate but rather observable fact. And it has impact.
However, what’s critical is how we manage that impact. What do we do in the midst of a Media-Driven Consumer Celebreality Culture that glorifies Gangsterism and finds honor in the Thug Life. How do we build a powerful bulwark against an entertainment culture that thrives hand in hand with a criminal culture that adores material possessions attained through any means necessary, to be idolized and dreamt of by both boy and girl alike? What do we do in a culture where young girls think making a porn movie is a viable and rational path to success?
We are fighting the wrong fight and beating down the wrong brother.
The bottom line is we all know the truth of Don’s words, even if some of his prescriptions for healing and evolving our culture seem a bit trite. The future of our youth does not hinge on sagging pants, but to his point you won’t be working in a Fortune 100 company with your ass hanging out. Now, as America grows ever more complex, as American freedom and liberty continues to change and become more inclusive, it is imperative that we take full advantage of that freedom and hold each other up, embrace what we know is right, and marginalize those things that are destroying our communities, as opposed to sanctifying those things that drive us to destroy each other. Consider it critically.
The Aspiring Critical Thinker,