“Some Black Folks Are Already Post-Past Racial”

            “Now, don’t go out there and embarrass your family, or your race!” ….As a youngster growing up in in the 50’s and 60’s I was often given that charge before leaving the house. There was this sense back then that your personal behavior reflected not just on you; but on your family in particular, and on Black Americans in general. Growing up in Brooklyn you would always meet elders who may have had little interest in Baseball; but spoke with great interest and admiration for the pioneering major league baseball player Jackie Robinson. There was a sort of “race pride” that was more protective and inspirational, then militant. It was a social improvement movement not an exercise in political action; and it was not anti-anything; it was simply the hope that Black Folks could and would do better in America. It was a belief that each generation sacrificed to empower the next generation to “do better”; better meaning educationally and economically. Neighbors, church members and elder family members encouraged you in the pursuit of education, by slipping  you a dollar bill (a dollar was a lot of money in those days!) into your hands for academic achievement, for recitations, for memorizing the books of the Bible, for books read (never for dancing or sports). As a voracious reader of books I was a prince of hope for the neighborhood. That meant I had a large and dedicated snow shoveling and bottle redemption clientele (no plastic bottles back then, and each bottle redeemed generated a nickel; which was half-way to my purchasing a 10 cents comic book). I did not understand it then, but the community was sending a message: “this is what we want from and for our young people”. I was however old enough to understand that like the great Jackie Robinson; I was not in the “game” for myself.  And even now, many years away from those learning moments in Brooklyn; I can still see the faces of those family, neighborhood and church elders who expected that I would one day become: “A Credit (not deficit) To The Race”. I can never, it seems, escape that haunting urge to serve my community. And even after I officially became “Black” in the late 60’s; I could still hear and heed the challenge of a Deacon Philip Walker to do some good, and uplift the Colored or Negro people as he called them; Black or not, I knew exactly what he meant. That primary directive first delivered by my mother to not embarrass the family or the race; and, its underlying directive of “don’t Betray” the same, set the tone of my life, for life. As an educator I have often reflected and I must admit, with a bit of misguided envy at the young people I encountered who were not laboring under that awesome weight of personal responsibility to the Black community. I wondered if their personal freedom to act purely in their own self-interest was a curse or a blessing, I now think it was a curse on them and on all of us.  And this brings me to the sad stories of two young men in the news this week; one Rep. Jessie Jackson Jr. and Paul Winfield, the mayor of Vicksburg Ms.  Mr. Jackson pleaded guilty to: not stealing from the rich to feed the poor; rather he stole luxury items to simply enrich himself and his immediate family (we have moved from “don’t embarrass” to, “do enrich” your family). The mayor of Vicksburg was arrested and jailed this week by the FBI for allegedly taking a $10,000 bribe for a city contract. My first thought; what a waste of an opportunity to do some good; a wasted opportunity to serve. My second thought focuses on the Black children of Chicago and Vicksburg; what are they thinking today? I now live in a city (D.C.), where Black appointed or elected official have plundered the public’s funds; and appointed and enriched family members and friends. In too many cases they are not just forgiven; but hailed as community heroes; who in some cases were “tricked or entrapped” by “the man”. It seems that these individuals have no thoughts that are visited by spirits of the elders who struggled to provide us with the opportunity to help the least and the left out of our society. They seem unmoved and untouched by a history and heritage of struggle and sacrifice. Their Focus is the enrichment of themselves; they hear nothing of the long line of sorrowful hope that begins in the dreams of our enslaved ancestors; they hear nothing but the sound of their own twisted greed blowing wastefully in the wind of time.