Introduction: Here is what blacks need to do instead of huddling in fear in the shadows of the big house, and overreacting because of what someone white had to say!
I received an email request in my email box this morning. The author of the email requested that I consider joining in with other concerned American citizens, mostly African-Americans. He wanted me to respond to the comments made by two highly placed white Americans, one who is running for office, Rand Paul, and the other one, well known journalist and TV commentator John Stossel.
The email began like this
“Dear Rev, On Wednesday, Rand Paul, the GOP’s United States Senate candidate for the state of Kentucky repeated his claim that a central piece of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong, and that businesses should be free to discriminate against whomever they please.
Rand Paul and his supporters don’t seem to care that without federal intervention, Black people might still be second-class citizens in many aspects of American life: where we eat, where we work, even where we live.
Then, on Thursday, FOX anchor John Stossel went even further, calling for the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that applies to business to be repealed.”
My response to Rand Paul, John Stossel's and Mr. Rucker’s comments were and still are, "and so what"?For it is my learned opinion that we, black Americans, waste too much time getting exercised about someone else’s opinion, or opinions that they are entitled to have!
This is what I refer to as 'the massa complex', blacks getting worked up into a frenzy simply because of what someone white had to say. Mr. Rucker, I believe, is a hard-working and sincere American whose heart is in the right place I’m certain, however, I answered him this way – whereby declining to join in with the group response.
I emailed Mr. Rucker back as follows:
“On the other hand, I believe that the current climate,
Paul, the Tea Party ..., should inspire African-Americans
to do what we should be doing, and should have
been doing a long-time ago - we should simply
stop being dependents.
Why? African-Americans, will never stop hearing
this kind of alarmist rhetoric. And so what I say?
In the final analysis, what these people say is not
our problem. Our real problem is that we still have
not figured out how to come together en masse and
become a self-reliant economic power-house, that could
care less about what third-parties and other individuals
from the dominant culture had to say.
If we could simply get our talented-tenth to come
together and build, which would be a monumental
achievement in its own right, we wouldn't have to depend
upon anyone else for jobs in the first place. We
need to stop being reactionaries, and become
revolutionaries within our right, and within our
Paul's sentiments, and those who share it is a much
smaller problem than the one that we have in our
own communities, and that is the fact that we would
rather be dependents of the largess of others as
opposed to coming together and building together!
P.S. On many black college campuses, the feelings
of blacks pretty much mirrors that of Mr. Paul. Black
students and alum, apparently, would prefer
that whites would not attend their institutions. Eek!!
Is that what Dr. C. Erik Lincoln ..., was talking about, a
consciousness of kind?” close quote.
What inspired my virulent response? Frankly, I believe that Mr. Rucker and others are missing the forest for the trees. With respect to jobs, the majority of the jobs that are and have been provided for black Americans are provided by white American businesses, not black businesses.
In fact, I recently worked for a short period of time for a Latino organization in the area. And just as a side note, I have believed and still believe that blacks, for a long time now, should find and build synergies with not only Latino and Chicano people, but with all communities whether they are black, white or otherwise.
Is this, my position, a repudiation of the work of the Civil Rights Movement? No, in fact it is just the opposite. Here is a case in point. A few years ago, a female friend from Washington contacted me explaining her feelings about the fact that her son was exclusively dating white girls, his preferred choice, apparently.
His mom, being a black American female, felt rejected not only as a black woman but also as a black mother.
Of course her teenage son did not in any way interpret his choice to date a white girl, as being a repudiation or a rejection of his mother’s blackness. He couldn’t have, for I can tell you personally that his mom is a gorgeous, statuesque woman and desirable by any reasonable standard. Hmm baby!!
However, and in short, I asked her the following: What was the Civil Rights Movement all about? I then reminded her of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream Speech”. and asked her, isn’t that what was fought for, the right of Americans, particularly, black and other oppressed minorities, to have the freedom of choice, equal access to the opportunity structures of this nation (including public accommodations ... At that point, she acquiesced.
I could care less what Rand Paul, or John Stossel had to say, and in fact I didn’t hear what either one of them had to say anyway. I learned years ago, by reading works from New York theologian Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, that all of us experience what he referred to as 'a consciousness of kind; and all of us includes black people.
Unconsciously, and even consciously we all apparently make judgments about the people that we encounter ..., furthermore we all discriminate, even when it comes to what we like to eat, wear, drink ... For the most part, we are more comfortable with people who are like us in one way or another; individuals who think like and who have something in common with us. In other words, there must be some common denominator or common ground between us in order to be comfortable with someone else.
In the famous best-seller entitled: I’m Okay and You’re Okay, published about 2 decades ago, the author referred to what Dr. Lincoln referred to as 'consciousness of kind' as ‘transactional-analysis’. Transactional analysis is that conscious and at times interplay that is taking place in one's subconscious. A non-verbal decision is being made, wherein either party judges whether their counterpart is okay or not okay ...
And having said that, people of the same kind, whether it be by gender, race, national origin, profession ... are often shaped by a similar value or belief system. These individuals often feel comfortable within their cohort group be it race, ethnic, gender-based or otherwise ...
Blacks often forget that the whites who hate other whites typically do so and did in the past, when they held values that differed from their own. Oftentimes, they will and would mistreat them just as badly as if they had been in a different racial group let's say.
That Stossel and Rand, whatever they said before, felt that non-public organizations should have the right to hire whomever they cared to hire, is in my opinion, their right. It doesn’t bother me one iota, the way that they feel. In fact, I wouldn’t spend a night worrying about it - you cannot legislative morality ...!
What bothers me more is the work that was done in the Civil Rights Movement, by those icons, female and male ..., who suffered and fought for a principle - a principle that is not being upheld nor sufficiently pursued by my particular ethnic group, black people!
For many blacks, it was whites who needed to and need to learn from the civil rights movement, when factually; many blacks do not and did not take what they needed to from the civil rights movement themselves! For too many their attitudes were, at the time and still are,” okay you read the law, now give me a job".
What too many minorities overlooked was their defended right to independently stand up and to pursue their own course in life, rather than assume that solving the problem of interference from other groups outside of the black race would solve the whole problem.
Too many blacks, in the aftermath of the civil rights movement failed to take exercise their own entrepreneurial spirits - even when they lacked the capital. What happened to social capital, micro-economics and working together, or simply starting from scratch? Blacks failed to realize that by simply depending on the Civil Rights Laws to solve our problem was not enough to provide them with a source of income.
There was something else that was required in order to benefit from the hard work that was done by all of those who participated in the civil rights movement, blacks, whites, Latinos, Chicanos, females...
In terms of self-owned businesses, black businesses currently lag behind Caucasian, Asian and Spanish businesses in sheer numbers.
What Rand and Stossel's comments should inspire in black Americans, in my opinion, is this, to get up and the job done, particularly, those who still need to rid themselves of the massa complex. Why? Because the majority of white Americans are not against us, if they ever were. In fact, most of the opportunities that most blacks, including myself, have enjoyed have come, arguably, due to the largess of unbiased white Americans.
These seminal figures hired us, taught us in school, financed us, died for us, encouraged us (not because of some mandate), but rather because they had compassion in their hearts and viewed us as individuals of worth, just as they would any other individuals.
We spend too much time concerning ourselves about what someone said, someone, who may truly not be a racist, as opposed to simply having an honest difference of opinion, be it referred to as interposition or nullification. They are entitled to their opinion, or should be, in the same manner that black Americans are, including choices about who to hire …
That Mr. Henry Ford Jr., former president of the Ford Motor Company often referred to his black employees as his ‘nigger employees’, the same as the former Owner of the Cincinnati referred to her best players as her ‘rich niggers’, didn’t stop anyone from working at Ford or getting a job with the Cincinnati Reds. We simply need to overcome the obstacles. I have overcome many of them myself and know of numerous other individuals in all of America's minority groups who have!
When I was at Stanford, and a member of the Executive Board for Afro-American Staff and Faculty, I served under our very capable female President, Dr. Judith Little, along with Dr. Michael Britt, Henry Organ … One of our black staff-members came to me one day to complain about the infusion of southeast Asians in America, individuals who were as he put it, ‘coming in and taking away our jobs’.
On other occasions, it was the white man, that he referred to that was inflicting injustices in the work place on black Americans, taking away our jobs... My colleague was a large black man, but frankly he was a frightened black man.
On one occasion I asked him this question in the form of a statement, "you are really afraid of the white man aren’t you, and to you he is this big giant, isn’t he"?In my opinion, my colleague saw every white as a Goliath like figure, a figure similar to the 10 feet tall Goliath that was written about in the biblical texts. My colleague forgot that David, who was later to become the King of Israel, that was a stripling at the time, was neither afraid of Goliath's girth nor his height. In fact he killed him and garnered the respect of his fellow countrymen.
My colleague and friend took umbrage, of course, at my comments and lashed out at me. He explained that I had forgotten about our history. I pointed out that I knew more about our history than he did, but on the other hand, our history inspired me to move forward …, and I explained that he was living his life in fear, as if he were actually till living in the past.
He stopped speaking to me for 4 months, that is until he met an African nationalist who happened to be visiting the United States at the time. One day they drove past me in another car, unknown to me, and he told the visitor that I was a former misguided friend of his. She engaged him in his folly, asking him why? He explained to her, his feelings and rehearsed a couple of conversations that he and I had in the past. He was stunned when she responded, ‘well, in my opinion he is right and you are wrong”.
She pointed out to him that all that I was saying was, “yes, we all know what occurred in the past and in reality, sometimes in the present, but that we could not just sit there and complain, rather we must get us up and overcome”. How do I know this, he called me to apologize, somewhat, for his previous innocuous behavior.
This is the reason why Mr. Rucker’s email resulted in my writing back my email tome. Black Americans, in my opinion, need to look inwardly in order to determine what is it that we need (individually and collectively) to do for ourselves; what we ought to be doing to accomplish our objectives; and then ask why aren’t we doing anything to propel ourselves as a collective to where we believe that we should be in the 21st Century?
I suspect that we spend too much time wondering about what a few alarmists and perceived massas' have to say, as opposed to coming together, as we often talk about doing, in order to do what we need to do in order to help ourselves, as opposed to huddling in fear in the shadows of the big house and its past and current occupants. And what is it that we need to do in more detail?
We need to learn to cooperate among ourselves (the ones who are not - and there are many that do), and to become entrepreneurs and provide opportunities for ourselves and our children regardless of what anyone else has to do or say about it. And this should be the case whether what we perceive to be discrimination is real or not.
For, if we don’t, we will continue to have these reactionary and overblown fear responses into the next century, that feeling that massa is about to come down from the big House and hang us up by a noose. That kind of undeniable fear still lingers in the psyches of too many black Americans – it is a deeply ingrained fear.
If I could have, I would have preferred to see a letter from Mr. Rucker saying to blacks and all of those who support us, that the comments by these two icons reflects the feelings of many Americans, and that it is certainly within their right to feel and to believe as they do, and so what, all of us have a right to our feelings too!
Afterward, he should have asked this question, what are you going to do about your plight, given that one day sooner or later; the related plank in the civil rights legislation might be overturned or redacted? Perhaps, we ought to be sending emails to each other asking one simple question, "if not now, when will we support each other and pursue our joint and common destinies of success and overcome the barriers, particularly the ones that are self-imposed"?
Frankly, I have to say this; no I want to say this. In the past 2 to 3 years of my life, and there were some exceptions within my own black community, the individuals who have treated me the best (and they did so from a sincere heart have all been mostly white). On the other hand,
The individuals who have treated me the worst, with deference, slander, threats, and misrepresentations of my character, alienation, lies, and attempts to destroy my character … have all been black.And too boot, the majority of these individuals, with few exceptions, were members of my own family and some purported friends or individuals who claimed that they wanted to help me, and worst yet, all of these individuals claims to be Christians. Frankly, I’ve never witnessed anyone of them going after a white person who in fact committed an injustice against them; they preferred rather to go after a black man who had not done anything to them. This is sadly a common practice in the black community.
Over the years, it has been mostly whites who have built me up, supported me in one way or another, welcomed me into their homes, permitted me to stay in their homes while they were away in other countries or states, bailed me out in stressful times, purchased beautiful and luxurious gifts for me, provided me with automobiles to drive, helped me to get a leg up …
I’m not so sure, historically or based upon my own experience, that anyone is or has been tougher on black people (something that you might be wondering if I’m doing now), than black people have been on themselves, before and after passage of the civil rights legislation.
It was not white people who physically attacked and robbed the late civil rights icon, Ms. Rosa Parks at her Detroit home, this beautiful icon who appeared for us at SU.
The fact of the matter is that I love being black and I love my people. I simply wish that the ones, who refuse to do so, would learn to cooperate with the rest of us who are trying to do something meaningful.
I was watching an expose on television, roughly a decade ago. In it, the interviewer listened to a young man black from New York City explain his urban plight. He said that a group of black men, who he did not know drove past his home several days before. They looked at him as if they wanted to kill him. He went on to say, I cannot understand why it is, that other black people want to kill me and I haven’t done anything to them – it was not a white person that he was referring to!
I also wish that individuals, like some that are members of my own family and others that I have encountered, and I observe and read about examples of them all over the country, would learn to deal with their own self-hatred, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem fear of their real or perceived massas' and grievances …, would stop blaming other people for their own short-comings and whereby take it out on people of their own race.
A month ago, I was walking through a parking lot with a friend, when a car being driven way to fast could have easily put both of us in the hospital, if I hadn't seen him coming in time. I looked at him, as he zipped by as to say, what are you doing? He drove down to the corner and did a u-turn. He raced back and lept from his ‘raggedy hoopty’, and confronted me face to face.
I looked him in the eye undaunted, having grown up with that kind of bullying before and said,” so you were going to run down a man and a woman crossing the parking lot, and now you want to fight. He did not back down, he said cynically and among other things, ”I will get my mama to come down here and to kick your ass”! I told him that he had better go and get his mama, because he wasn’t going to do it.
As he continued cursing and raging, I told my friend, who had backed away to "come on and let’s go". I turned my back on him and walked away as he hurled curse words and insults towards me.
My friend asked, "weren’t you afraid of him given his size"? I’m 6 foot 2, and he was bigger and wider than me? I told her, "he wasn’t going to do anything" and that "he simply came back to run his mouth". My friend was too concerned about what he said, in the same manner that too many black people are often too concerned about what someone else has to say to or about them.
I wasn’t looking for a fight, I was simply trying to show him how he simple he was, given his initial behavior, nearly running us down, and his feigned desire to fight and to carry on as he did in such an inane manner, when the only problem was that he could have run over us (had I not seen him before taking another step into the intersection. All he had to do or say was, you’re right or I was not thinking.
Black people and other minorities, it might be more prudent, I believe, for us to learn to focus less on an imagined or perceived enemy who may simply have an opinion that differs from our own, and rather to focus upon what we need to among ourselves in order to survive from enemies without and those that are within.
The strength of most communities is the result of a shared sense of consciousness and support by individuals in different cohort groups, be they ethnic or otherwise. That sense of oneness does not exist in the black community, well until it comes times to vote. When it's time to vote, we typically vote in a bloc, hoping that the person or person that we vote for will solve our perceived problem.
Most black Americans know that the individuals who are sticking it to them the most, on a daily basis, are oftentimes are own black brothers and sisters. Again, blacks need to stop being afraid of massa and shivering in fear every time a Rand Paul ....says something undesirable and to again rid themselves of ‘the massa complex’, and confront our problem that is inherent within the black community.
Black Americans need to raise us and build something so strong that even without the support of civil rights legislation or anyone or anything else, we can still thrive as a community.
In a conference at the University of California at Berkeley, I introduced the topic of a paper that I had been working on with a group of international black scholars. They were shocked at what I had written and some of them, initially expressed their hubris and displeasure at the title of my paper: The Historical Success and Failures of Black Male Leadership On the Continent of Africa, In the Land Down Under and in the Americas. however, After discussing the paper more at length, most of the scholars acquiesced and confessed that the black problem is clearly prominent on the continent of Africa, where they hailed from, just as I had written.
Somebody has to say it, black people - we have a problem - and the problem did not simply begin here in America, in fact the problem goes back to our historical roots.
For we will kill another black person who looks at us the wrong way and one who gets upset with us because he almost got run over by one of us.
On the other hand, when it comes to whites, those same blacks will quake in their boots if he makes a benign statement of the kind that Paul Rand and John Stossel apparently made. By the way, that paper that I told the scholars about earned me an invitation, in the aftermath, to come to Portugal and to participate in the next African conference with international scholars.
Point of fact, most whites don’t have anything against blacks! In the current American political and economic climate, whites and other ethnics are simply doing what we should be doing and should have been doing, figuring out to how to survive, and to provide a sustainable living for ourselves and our loved ones.
It has been my experience that once you get out of certain pockets, that still remain in America, that most whites empathize, sympathize, admire and feel bad about what their ancestors did and what some present day whites are still doing to black Americans! And oftentimes, we don't help the whites who support us to make the case with our antagonists given some of the bad behavior that takes place within in our communities.
Most white Americans, believe it or not, are very capable of making up their own minds, just as we are able to do as a people. In our case, we made up our own minds about ‘not working together’, those who won’t! Black Americans should be able to trust whites, the majority of them, for many of them did what many black Americans did recently: When exercising their franchises, they voted for our current president, Mr. Obama, a Scotch-Irishman black man.
They believed that regardless of color and ethnicity, he was the best person to perform the duties of the job of President of the United States of America. I didn’t think so. But still, I respected everyone's right share in an opinion that differed from my own. The problems that America faces, were too serious to place in the hands of a journeyman President, witness what is taking place in the Gulf region right now. Like George Bush Jr. and the Katrina Hurricane, where has Mr. Obama been when it comes to the British Petroleum spill and environmental disaster.
In conclusion, I suggest that when it comes to the comments made by the aforementioned, that all blacks should simply get a good night’s sleep, for we have bigger issues to tackle.
Black people should take responsibility for themselves now and focus on the failures that are inherent withint our communities, and rid themselves of the 'massa complex', as opposed to making too much out of what Rand Paul or John Stossel have to say! For when they are gone away, and all of the racists are gone away, at some point the black community will still have to take responsibility for the problems that are inherent within the black community.
We should have done so a long time ago. And instead of depending on a civil rights bill to accomplish for us what we need to to do ourselves, we need to get busy, learn to love each other and to work together.
Peace & Grace
Addenda: A white woman, of Italian extraction, has decided, over the past few months, that no matter what I have to say about it, that she is my girlfriend. Now, I have always explained to my friends and white girls before, that I don't date white girls. Why, because I am a racist? No, simply, because I never cared to. In fact whenever I did date, I had a preference for 'brown sugar girls'. That didn’t mean that I was prejudice, I simply liked and still do like brown sugar women– even though I am simply not interested in dating at this time, and haven't been - I have other things on my plate.
Now here is my dilemma: What do I do with an attractive white female, who is about
'5' "2", has a beautiful body and who otherwise really likes me, when on the other hand, I'm not interested, however, I believe that she would make some other fellow a fine girlfriend? Simply put, I'm not interested in dating right now. But what I have decided to do, without any animus in mind due to race, is to be kind to her and remind her of what I have always explained to her over and over again – find someone else, I’m not interested.
At the very least, the color of my skin doesn't have anything to do with my conclusion, I simply have a right to my own opinions and to do as I please, as long as I am not discriminating against her in a harmful or pejorative manner – it wouldn’t be the first time that a Caucasian female told me that I was racist because I didn’t want to date her! In like manner, Paul and Stossel are entitled to their opinions just as I am to mine.