Tag Archives: Culture

Black Life: Misunderstood

Black Box

Sometimes being a black person in America is unnecessarily hard. We are viewed differently, judged differently, and treated differently. It is something a black person must face, and in many cases, overcome daily. At work, at school, and in other public places, black people are under surveillance. Sometimes it is just to see what we will do in certain situations. Other times it is to exclude us from certain activities. Either way it makes black life misunderstood, especially when the spotlight is so bright we become aware of it.

Some who read this will not understand. If you think we as a people have made it; this is false. Sure, some of us have “made it”, but many of us have not. You might be wondering how this could be. Barack Obama was President. Jay-Z and Beyonce are billionaires. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. These are all great accomplishments indeed. But what do these accomplishments mean for millions of black people on their daily grind. Their success does not translate to our lives when we are being watched and judged while doing our daily activities. We are misunderstood even more thanks to today’s view of black people.

I believe today’s society uses black people of wealth and prestige as the measuring stick for the rest of us. Naturally there is an element of “if they can do it, so can you”, which is built in to following successful black people. This is not what I am talking about. Instead I am referring to people of different races who use our celebrities as the examples of what black life is like. If you think the Real Housewives of Atlanta are the real housewives of Atlanta, then you have not been to Atlanta (or Detroit, or St. Louis, or Philadelphia). The real housewives of Atlanta work at jobs, take care of home, raise families, and serve as the backbone of our communities. Any other explanation is of black women faulty at best.

This is a stark reversal of a phenomenon that happened to black people in the past (and still happens today). Back then, society used examples of unsuccessful black people or even criminals, as a measuring stick for all of us. All you had to do was see a black person doing the wrong thing, and then that black person’s sins were carried by all of us. Even worse, their behavior convinced many people that we all behave like that. We are all criminals by nature, unintelligent, lazy, and hostile. If you did not live up to these stereotypes, you were the exception, not the rule. Millions of black people chase the American Dream every day and do it the right way, yet the incorrect actions of a few black people defined our lives and culture?

So here we are in 2018 and we are misunderstood.

  • Some people view ultra-successful black people as their idea of who we are or what we could be if we try.


  • Some people view unsuccessful black people as who we really are and how we really act all the time.

Either way, we are put into a box that is difficult for the many black people to escape. The by-product of this is when tend to live up these ideas. Some of us want to live like our celebrities, so they spend and consume as if they already do. Others can’t live like them, they resort to activities that will lead to money and fame that brings celebrity status. Meanwhile, the hard-working black man, and the hard-working black woman are misunderstood daily. We are the bedrock upon which our culture and experiences are built. We deserve a little understanding.

To all my people who are trying to make ends meet, making ends meet, or struggling to make ends meet, I am with you all the way. Do not let society’s misunderstanding who we are and what we do define you. Instead, hold your head high, find like-minded individuals, and work together to build better lives. It’s the only way we will continue to grow, while facing the challenges of being misunderstood.

Until we meet again, wake up and rise up!


Gary A. McAbee created the Wake Up/Rise Up Black America blog to have a powerful voice and positive impact in African-American neighborhoods, communities, and society. The articles posted are not only for African-Americans, but for all people due to their relevance and cultural significance. Along with his other blog, Motivation for the World, Gary is able to get people talking about issues that affect us all. He is the proud author of three self-help books: Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now!, the follow-up Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now! , and Defining Success: One Word at a Time.


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R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore

R&B Soul

R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore

I long for the days when R&B singers used to sing. Not only did they sing, but they made timeless R&B classics that will live on forever. All you need to do is tune into the radio and find the Quiet Storm. You can dig into the crates and find your favorite tunes on wax. You can sort through your tape collection and find the artist and album of your choice. No matter how you do it, go find your favorite old school R & B music. R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore…

I’m talking about Marvin Gaye. I’m talking about Gladys Knight. I’m talking about Luther Vandross.

It’s time to go down memory lane. What made R&B music great was the effort that was put into creating music. R&B singers sang about passion and feeling. They sang with power and emotion. They sang about joy and pain. They sang about love. All of these artists captured feelings and emotions and turned them into forms of art. R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore…

I’m talking about Minnie Riperton. I’m talking about Freddie Jackson. I’m talking about Stephanie Mills.

It’s time to go down memory lane. R&B music of the past was accompanied by smooth, often sensual music. It set the mood for love and romance. When the lyrics of some of the greatest songwriters were added, it created the right mix of soul, funk, and rhythm. Music like this is affectionately known in the black community as “baby makin’ music.” In fact, I am sure a lot of us 70s and 80s babies were conceived while some smooth R&B played in the background. R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore…

I’m talking about Barry White. I’m talking about Shirley Murdock. I’m talking about Babyface.

It’s time to go down memory lane. I genuinely believe that our music reflects the times we live in. Like today’s society, our music (in general) no longer reflects the love we had for each other years ago in the black community. Male R&B singers of the past referred to women as treasures; not objects. Female R&B singers referred to men as providers; not takers. R&B music used to spread unity and love. We need to get back to hearing these messages in our music. R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore…

I’m talking about Stevie Wonder. I’m talking about Chaka Khan. I’m talking about Peabo Bryson.

It’s time to go down memory lane. All you need to do is tune into the radio and find the Quiet Storm. You can dig into the crates and find your favorite tunes on wax. You can sort through your tape collection and find the artist and album of your choice. Enjoy yourself. If you remember some of these songs, you know exactly what I am talking about. As a sample, I have provided a short list and links for some of my favorite R&B songs. Feel free to comment and add to the list!

R&B Music: They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore…

If Only You Knew- Patti LaBelle

You Should Be Mine- Jeffrey Osborne

Cause I Love You- Lenny Williams

The Morning After- Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Living All Alone- Phyllis Hyman

Love’s Train- ConFunkShun

Between the Sheets- The Isley Brothers

Anticipation- The BarKays

Betcha By Golly Wow- The Stylistics

Let Me Be the One- Angela Bofill

The Chi-Lites- Have You Seen Her

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


  • For self and community


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


  • To self, family, and community


  • 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).