Tag Archives: Black America

Learn to Live and Let Us Live: Do We Represent Clear and Present Danger?

Learn to Live and Let Us Live: Do We Represent Clear and Present Danger?

For a long time in America, black people have represented a clear and present danger to people of other races. When this occurs, some people chose to overreact, rather than learning to live and let us live. In 2018 alone, we have seen people calling the police on black people who:

  • slept in a common area at a college
  • sold water in front of a stoop
  • went canvassing door-to-door to gather information
  • attended a local pool
  • left a Airbnb property
  • barbequed in a public park
  • waited for a colleague in a coffee shop
  • mowed a lawn
  • collected money for a youth sports team

We have to remember that these incidents ARE NOT on the rise. Instead, they are being filmed now. Can you imagine how many black people had the cops called on them, got arrested, or worse, when there were no camera phones around to record these incidents? Let’s face it: some people, whether it is 1818 or 2018, chose not to mind their own business. They choose to get involved when it might not be necessary. They choose to call the police and expect them to take action. If this is you, learn to live and let us live.

Who exactly are these people? They are the people who, for some strange reason, want greater control in certain situations. If they cannot be in control, they have to get someone who can. They also possess a certain level of paranoia that makes them perceive “threats” and dangers that do not exist. They want to feel comfortable, and they will do whatever it takes to ensure their comfort is secured. Most of the time, their method of control and security is to call the police. Learn to live and let us live.

What do these people think will happen when the police arrive? Whether justified or not, the person who makes the call has to know the potential outcome of their actions. The potential “threat” could, at minimum, be questioned by the police and/or arrested. Does the punishment fit the crime? The potential “threat” could be in a life-or-death situation if they, or the cops who approach them, become overzealous or irate. This is a not a concern for someone who seeks comfort in these situations. Learn to live and let us live.

I wonder why some people can’t live and let live. If you witness an obvious crime, then by all means call the police. On the other hand, if you witness something that bothers you, but does not jeopardize your safety, then go on about your business. I guess it is empowering to be able to call the police on someone and watch them get “put in their place” or even arrested. Where is the enjoyment in that? Learn to live and let us live.

I have never thought of calling the police on anyone who is not a clear and present danger. Perhaps this is where we should draw the line: by defining a “clear and present danger”…

  • A clear and present danger is threatening to get or use a weapon.
  • A clear and present danger is menacing, or causing a public disturbance.
  • A clear and present danger is intimidating, harassing, or bullying another person.
  • A clear and present danger is destroying property.
  • A clear and present danger is committing a crime or violating someone else’s rights.
  • A clear and present danger is acting with clear intent to do wrong or harm another person.

Call Police

Here’s a tip: If you don’t see things that present a clear and present danger, then chances are the situation does not warrant calling the police. This does not mean we should not be aware of our surroundings or watch for unlawful activities. On the other hand, it does mean that we need to improve our discernment as it relates to other people. Learn how to tell the difference between a “normal” black person engaged in a regular activity and a black person (or any other race) about to commit a crime (I have several of my own alive while black experiences to share). If you can’t tell the difference, then maybe you should learn how to use better judgment. Learn to live and let us live.

Black people should be able to do things anyone else can do without fear of being thought of as a criminal, especially in public places where people of other races conduct the same activities. We should be able to catch a nap in a common area, if students of other races also do it. We should be allowed to swim at a pool, if residents of other races also do it. We should be allowed to rent an Airbnb, if vacationers of other races do it. Learn to live and let us live.

Let’s move on to activities that could be considered unique to the black experience. We should be able to barbeque in a public park. We should be able to sell water on a hot day. We should be able to collect money for a youth team or organization. If any of these situations violate any local laws or create unsafe environments, then let the affected property owner or local police patrols handle it. We don’t need an “outsider” who feels violated calling the police and overstating the level of the danger or perceived threat. Sooner or later someone will get hurt because of it. We don’t need any more of that!

Learn to live and let us live.

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Black Panther: A Trailblazer Long Overdue

Black Panther: A Trailblazer Long Overdue

kente cloth

What is a trailblazer? A trailblazer is a pioneer; one that blazes a trail to guide others. Usually the trailblazer is the first one to accomplish something. Sometimes, these accomplishments are considered great, groundbreaking achievements. Make no mistake about it, the movie Black Panther is a trailblazer. It is the first movie of its kind: a movie from a major franchise (Marvel) with a black superhero as the lead character. It’s release is during Black History Month, which adds to the lore of this film.

Why is this important? For some, it isn’t important. For me, it is important. This is because all of the super heroes we all know and love are white characters. DC comics characters Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman is the obvious parallel to Black Panther as a female lead character), and many others are all white. Marvel comics has Spider Man, Iron Man, Thor and many others as lead characters who are white. Black Panther breaks this mold. He is the first of his kind: a black lead superhero.

NOTE: I must pay homage to other black superheroes such as Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) and Catwoman (played by Halle Berry). They are also important characters in the own way. However, those characters are more singular, unlike Black Panther, who is a part of the much larger and more popular Marvel franchise.

In order to fully understand, we must talk about black “firsts” to put the importance of this film into perspective. What is a black “first”? It is the first time someone black accomplishes something significant in history. It is usually a monumental achievement, due to the fact that many of these trailblazers face significant challenges on their way to success. (By the way, let me be the first to “apologize” to anyone who is tired of hearing about black “firsts”. Unfortunately, our inclusion into many American institutions occurred so late that we still have black “firsts” in 2018. You will continue to hear about black “firsts” for a long time to come).

Although it is not on the same level, this movie is the latest of black “firsts” that changed the world we live in. It is groundbreaking like Barack Obama’s ascendancy to become President of the United States. It is like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier of Major League Baseball. It is similar to Ruby Bridges integrating an elementary school in New Orleans. Each of these black “firsts” opened doors for so many black people, as well as other minorities, people with disabilities, and LGBT as well. People like Barack Obama, Jackie Robinson, and Ruby Bridges are trailblazers: the first of their kind. The movie Black Panther qualifies as a trailblazer as well.

Black Box

  • Black Panther contains imagery, costumes, and scenery that will impress and delight moviegoers.

It depicts a fictional country, Wakanda, and all of its majesty and splendor. It is patterned after the imagery of many areas of the continent of Africa. I guess you could call it a futuristic look the continent that also has images of Africa’s past and present look. This is very important and groundbreaking. It gives positive images of a black civilization and what it should look like under the right direction and guidance. On another level, it shows what some black communities in the United States used to “look” like before urban blight and decay took over. The move Black Panther presents a glimpse of a thriving black community which should not be overlooked.

  • Black Panther depicts a black king, along with other members of his royal family.

Their exploits resemble those of real African kings and queens. We have heard of kings and queens of Africa, yet many of us know little about their accomplishments. The lead character in Black Panther is T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda. All you need to do is research kings like Mansa Musa, Akhenaton, Imhotep and you will see the obvious parallels between them and Black Panther’s T’Challa. T”Challa’s mother Romonda is the Queen of Wakanda. All you need to do is research queens Hatshepsut, Makeda “The Queen of Sheba”, and Ann Nzinga “Queen of Ndongo” and you will see obvious parallels between them and Black Panther’s Queen Romanda. In this regard, the movie Black Panther serves as a connector to former kings and queens in Africa.

  • Black Panther will instill a sense of pride and accomplishment in many black men, women and children.

Let’s face it: we need to see more images of positive black people who are doing great things. Even though this is just a movie, it sure feels good to see this character on the big screen. It sure feels good to get positive images of “Africa” on the big screen. It sure feels good to know we can be heroes too. It sure feels good to finally be included in this genre of films. The thought of Black Panther just feels good.

The movie Black Panther is a trailblazer that was long overdue. The use of a black superhero in a leading role of a major movie franchise is a remarkable achievement. For me, it is a game-changer. It is another black “first” that needs to be celebrated. I suggest you celebrate by going to see this film, and/or buying it on video. Based on most reviews, it is an outstanding picture. By the way, it will not be long before we see the second installment of Black Panther so enjoy the ride. You are witnessing a trailblazer.

The Kingdom of Wakanda awaits!

I’m Mad With Your Race

A lady I know, let’s call her 223, approached me and said “I’m mad at your race!” She is white. The “good” news is she felt “comfortable” saying this to me. I like to know where people stand on issues of race and culture. The bad news is I knew where this was headed. I responded with two questions:
“What race?”  
“The human race?”
Her response was “no, I mean YOUR race.” I replied, “oh, you mean MY race.”
Before we continue, let me provide a little background information. The debate about confederate flags and monuments, and Neo-Nazis and the KKK, is currently engulfing our nation. It seems that community after community is facing the question about what to do with Confederate monuments that are a sense of pride for some, and a symbol of hate for others. Here in the Tampa Bay area, removal of a monument of two Confederate soldiers has been a hot topic and it has spawned a heated debate. With this as the backdrop, 223 thought it was appropriate to say to me “I’m mad at YOUR race!”
Now that we established 223’s anger with “MY race,” I pressed on with the conversation. “Why are you mad with MY race?”
223 responded, “Because you want the monuments taken down.”
These are the times when I go into my interviewer/teacher/great debater role. I welcome these conversations; you know the ones about “MY race,” provided the person I am speaking to is willing to listen. Most of the time, I know these conversations probably will not resolve anything or change anyone’s opinion. But, I believe that if we talk these things out and try to listen to each other, at least we might get a glimpse (and maybe a little understanding) of how others think.  I tend to ask questions too, in hopes of getting my “opponent” to think and provide answer to support their point-of-view. Hold that thought…
So I engaged 223 with my interviewer hat on. “You do realize there are plenty of (using Donald Trump’s words) “very fine people,” I mean WHITE people who also want the monuments taken down too. Are you also mad at them?”
There was my first question. I threw that pitch right down the middle of the plate! I just wanted an answer that would confirm what I already knew, but hoped was not true: she was really mad at MY race.
She didn’t give a response! Instead, she launched into the next talking point (also espoused by Donald Trump). 223 said “who comes next: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?” I was ready for that one. It was time to put on my teacher hat. “You do realize why Washington and Jefferson are viewed differently right?” No response to question two either.
Time to teach. Washington and Jefferson (and the other Founding Fathers), though neither saints  nor heroes in my eyes, at least had the forethought to put mechanisms in place to “decide” questions of race in the future. Although their idea was to produce a perfect union, they knew the society they created had flaws, which is one reason why the Constitution they created can be amended as needed. I give them credit for that. However, their reluctance to act upon their moral responsibility to end the “peculiar institution” has caused a, slow, but steady ripple effect that leads some people, even in 2017 to say: “I’m mad at YOUR race!”
Back to the story. This trail of logic would have been too much for 223, so I condensed it. I told her, “the difference is Washington and Jefferson never took up arms against the United States. The soldiers on this and other Confederate monuments (in particular Robert E. Lee) did. So monuments erected for them are viewed differently.”
Although this wasn’t a question, I thought maybe I could get a response worthy of continuing the “conversation.” Instead I got this: “well they were all involved in slavery.”  This is a valid point. But, it misses the mark because Washington and Jefferson are known more for the good they accomplished for our country. Robert E. Lee is known for his opposition to our country. I knew this response would require the great debater role in me. Should I take it there?
I did want to lay a tactful, yet pointed, smack down on my “opponent,” because unknowingly (I think) she put her foot in the slavery “debate.” All I needed to hear next was the talking point about how good slavery was for MY race back then. Believe it or not, in 2017, there are people who present and even accept as true the idea that slavery was beneficial…
Sometimes you should accept the fact that you have the high ground, and your opponent can’t take it from you. I was there. Any further conversation would have led to an “unnecessary” confrontation. I could not change 223’s heart or mind. It wasn’t worth it. I am the kind of person who can agree to disagree. By the way, I do like 223 as a person, and I think she likes me as a person too. However, I am not sure if our “acquaintance” trumps (pun intended) her opinion of “MY race.” It does mean I should keep 223 at the proper distance in regards to this topic, unless she chooses to have meaningful dialogue about it in the future.
I guess 223 is still mad at “MY race.”
What really concerns me is how many others feel the same way?

African American Cultural Norms

kente cloth

These are the cultural norms of African Americans…

The Extended Family

  • Cousins, Aunts, Mother, Father, Uncle

Informal Adoption

  • By blood relative and non-relatives… Play mom (Godmother, Godfather), play cousins, play nieces, play nephews, play grandmothers, play grandfathers)

Religious Orientation

  • Involved in some type of church religious activity

High Value on Children

  • Children come first

Respect for the Elderly

  • Always respectful to adults and especially to the elderly

Flexible Family Roles

  • Mother working and father taking care of kids

Respect

  • For self and community

Restraint

  • Not doing something that you know you should not do. Knowing right from wrong

Responsibility

  • To self, family, and community

Reciprocity

  • I keep the kids one day and you keep the kids the next.

 

Can you think of any examples of how these cultural values apply to you and your family?

kente cloth

Hill, Robert B. Ph. D 1999. The Strengths of African American Families- Twenty-five Years Later. University Press of America, Lanham, MD.
Sudarkasa, Niara. Ph. D “Interpreting the African Heritage in Afro-American Family Organization.” Pp 27-43 in Black Families, Ed. Harrielle, P. McAdoo, Newbury, Park, CA: Sage Publications, (1988).

Learn Our Story: We Are Successful!

Learn Our Story: We Are Successful!Black History Heroes

…from the book Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now, by Gary A. McAbee

Thanks to the advances we have made from slavery to the Civil Rights Era; we have been left a remarkable gift by the highest achievers of our race. The gift is their stories of success. We all MUST learn about each of these successful people and many more if we are going to tap into ways that will lead to greatness. We need to understand that most, if not all, of the successful people in our race started with little or nothing. Yet, they were able to use what they had to achieve great things. If they could achieve success, why can’t we, with all of the resources we have in the 21st century, become successful too?

We all know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is because he is one of the few African-American leaders we learn about in school. This is why there is an old joke that goes around about trying to answer a question about a successful black American. The “answer” is always Martin Luther King. Who was the first black American to run in a marathon? Don’t know? Say Martin Luther King!

It is a funny joke, but not because it makes you laugh. It’s funny because it is a true, yet very sad commentary on our knowledge of successful black people. We just don’t know enough about black pioneers and creators. There are thousands of books that contain the “secrets” of our race. We have autobiographies of black Americans such as Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X. We have poetry, created by Phyllis Wheatley and Maya Angelou. We have the magazines produced by John Johnson and Earl Graves.

All of this means that finding and reading literature created by or written about successful black Americans should not be a problem. We have been active in the political arena. Our political leaders have scored countless victories that have not only benefited black Americans, but all races of people. We should be proud of their accomplishments and celebrate their successes. Shirley Chisholm and Maxine Waters are shining examples of the impact African-American women can have in politics. Douglas Wilder and Tom Bradley proved that black men could be elected and handle state and large city governments. They all proved to us that it can be done. We simply need to find out how they became successful and use their methods to duplicate their success.

In order to build upon the success of others, we must learn about them. Unfortunately, as a whole, African Americans don’t read enough or do our own research unless we have to. We should be willing and able to learn about our true heroes: successful black Americans who paved the way for us today. The internet is a blessing to us because we can easily find all there is to know about successful African Americans. There is no excuse why we do not know about the highest achievers in our race.

So the readers of this book have an assignment: to learn more about the following African Americans. First, search for their biographies. What were their beginnings? Next, read about their achievements. What were their goals? What obstacles did they overcome? Finally, learn their secrets to emulate their successes. What achievements make them famous?

The following list of famous African Americans should be researched to learn more about their legacies and contributions to our race. It consists of African-American men and women who achieved greatness in various walks of life. Purposely, it does not include famous athletes or modern day entertainers. Although their contributions are very important, if asked, I am confident that most of them would attribute their success to people on this list. If not, then they have an assignment too!

Some Famous Black Americans

  1. Fannie Lou Hamer
  2. Paul Robeson
  3. Marian Anderson
  4. Mae Jemison
  5. Earl Graves
  6. Booker T Washington
  7. Benjamin Banneker
  8. Madame CJ Walker
  9. Ben Carson
  10. Frederick Douglas
  11. Thurgood Marshall
  12. Shirley Chisholm
  13. Phyllis Wheatley
  14. Mary McLeod Bethune
  15. Sojourner Truth
  16. Matthew Henson
  17. W.E. B. Dubois
  18. Granville T. Woods
  19. Frederick Douglass
  20. Bessie Coleman

After learning about these outstanding examples of success, we should not let our research about the achievements of African Americans stop here. These are only 20 out of millions of successful black Americans worldwide. Our race has produced some of the brightest, most creative minds in human history. We can learn volumes from these people and put their action plans to work immediately. The question is: are we as a race ready, willing, and able to use our heroes as our role models so our race can become successful?

More than an Innocent Prank: T-Shirts Today, Discrimination Tomorrow?

Recently six white Arizona teen girls used extremely poor judgment when the posed in a photo wearing t-shirts that spelled “NI**ER”. I think everyone who analyzed the incident displayed all of the normal reactions to the photo. The media and social media outlets plastered the photo and sparked the outrage of many. Critics called for the expulsion of the girls from school. Even some supporters called it an innocent childhood prank based on poor judgment that occurs during those confused teenage years. While I can see both sides of the issue, my mind immediately jumped to a much different conclusion. It is the same place I go every time one of these “news” stories comes to light. Honestly, I am beyond outrage when these events occur. Instead, I think about what this “innocent prank” could lead to in the future.

I am NOT saying these girls are racist. I do not know them, nor do I know what is in their hearts and minds. Despite the “evidence” of the photo, I reuse to judge them for their poor choice to arrange themselves in a pose that spells out such a cruel word. However, to make my point, I need to use them as an example and use a hypothetical what if one of these girls is racist, and that thought-process stays with them throughout their life.

There is a possibility that at least one of the girls pictured in the controversial photo is a racist. What could the potential impact of this one girl possibly be? Let’s say she grew up in an environment where racism thrived, or at a minimum, was subtly a way of life. This girl could choose to think white people are superior. This could cause her to look down on people of other races due to prejudices built up and reinforced over time. In all honesty, she is entitled to feel this way. However, her thought-processes will eventually manifest themselves in actions, and this is where the problem “starts”.

N Word Pic

Photo courtesy of: New York Daily News | CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN

Don’t get me wrong, I hope this girl gets a good education and becomes a contributor to our society. The question is; what will her contribution be? Suppose she eventually works her way into management and has the responsibility of hiring personnel. She screens resumes to find potential candidates and runs across resumes from qualified applicants Tawana Jones or Ricardo Lopez. What do you think she will do with those resumes? Suppose she eventually owns rental properties and has the responsibility to screen rental applicants. When she searches, she is visited by qualified potential renters named Sun-Li Bok or Jamario Johnson. What do you think she will do after she shows them the properties?

If you think these are just hypothetical situations that do not happen on a daily basis, feel free to stop reading now. Unfortunately, I do not have the horsepower to convince you of anything different. For those who are at least open to the possibility of these scenarios existing in 2016, I applaud you. Now suppose our t-shirt wearing teen becomes a teacher at a local school. By now, she is in her 50s, and her deep seated racist beliefs have been etched in stone. She encounters a young black male student, who has the ability to be successful, but does not respond well to her. Maybe he senses something about his teacher that makes him uncomfortable. He has disciplinary issue, and she sits on the school’s disciplinary review board. What do you think her recommendation will be?

So yes, six teenage girls who choose to spell out a distasteful slur take a picture that goes viral. It sparks outrage by those who are “offended”. So be it. It even sparks support from those who defend, or at least, “understand” their innocent prank. So be it. For me, this is not a question about a “temporary” lack of judgement. Instead, it is the fear that it shows the potential racism that lives in one of these girls. As this cancer of racism grows inside this young lady, how will it eventually manifest itself in the future? Who will it negatively affect somewhere down the line? When will it be used as a means to get ahead, or stay ahead of another person?

As a final thought, how many young people in our society think this was just an “innocent prank”, and how many of them will act in the future on racist feelings they possess in the present? The next time one of these issues come to light, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves.

 

*** At the time of this writing, one of the girls came forward with an apology for the incident. Hopefully she has learned a lesson that she will use in the future to create more positive outcomes, such as granting interviews on the basis of merit or renting to people regardless of their race.