Is It Really About Race? Part II


Ann Coulter

Jada Pinkett-Smith

Wicked Wisdom

Phillip Thomas Duck

Alisha Yvonne

Laura Schlessinger

Dr. Frederick K.C. Price

James Patterson

Eric Jerome Dickey

Jackie Collins

L.A. Banks

Brandon Massey

Kendra Norman-Bellamy

“You have to be twice as good to be considered half as good as the white man,” I heard my mother and her friends say when I was just a little boy in Toledo, Ohio. Though I didn’t quite understand what they were saying, their words rung in my ears like the Liberty Bell. I think I was about eight-years-old the first time I heard the saying that has almost become extinct, at least in the pursuit of excellence among my younger African American brothers and sisters. As I said, when I heard the words, I didn’t know what they were talking about although young white men speeding by in their cars in our neighborhood had called me nigger.

It’s interesting to note that I have forgotten many of the racial slurs that white men have hurled at me as they sped down our block, but I have not forgotten what my mother and her friends uttered. They had spoken with such conviction and concrete resolution that I knew, without having had their experiences, that what they were saying was the personification of a truth they had actually lived. As I listened to them, each person sitting at the card table would give specific examples of black people who had been systematically discriminated against for no other reason than the color of their skin.

They grew angrier and angrier as each person drank Rolling Rock beer and told a vivid personal story. I was fascinated, but I still didn’t have an understanding of what they meant. What I did understand, however, is that when they said, “You have to be twice as good to be considered half as good as the white man,” they were speaking with pride—Racial Pride! At that time, my mother was in her late twenties. I presume her friends were around the same age. Yet, many African Americans who are the same age and older as mother was in the turbulent sixties and early seventies, don’t seem to have racial pride.

When I was growing up in one of Toledo’s ghettos, black folk had more of a sense of community. Back then, the adults watched the kids. If they heard you swear, you were scolded on the spot. And believe me; you prayed to God that they didn’t tell your parents. Back then, an adult had the authority to tell you to stop doing this or stop doing that, and we listened and obeyed them. Why? Because if they told our parents, we knew a good butt whipping would soon be forthcoming. We had earned it. Why? Because we knew better than to embarrass our parents. After all, how we conducted ourselves in public was a reflection of their parenting skills. But more important, we knew that what we were doing, whatever it was, was wrong. Today, I see, both black and white children swearing in public as if they were reared in a barn.

When I was growing up in the ghetto, it seemed like everybody had the authority to beat my behind, and did. In school, the teachers and the principals paddled our little fannies all the time! And you know what? We deserved it. And guess what else? We weren’t abused! Out of all the whippings I received, only one of them was undeserved. My mother was wrong only once. But, although she was wrong the one time, I had gotten away with other things, so, I still deserved it.

Looking back on it, I thank God for my mother who didn’t take the garbage that many parents take from their children today. Most of today’s children would not have survived in my mother’s house. She expected too much. She expected the dishes to be washed, the garbage to be taken out, the floors to be mopped, the stove to be cleaned, the carpet to be vacuumed, the beds to be made, and the furniture to polished—EVERYDAY! If it wasn’t done by the time she got home from working a second shift job, she would wake us up and make us do it right then. It didn’t matter if it was a school night. It didn’t matter what time she came home. We knew what our responsibilities were in her house and we suffered the consequences, whatever they were, when we broke her rules.

I remember one time, my sister, and I decided to act a fool at K-Mart. We believed that our mother wouldn’t straighten us out in public, not after we had been taught not to embarrass the race. I don’t remember what my sister and I was doing that day, but I do remember my mother beating our behinds right there in the store in front of God and white folk. It hurt and it was humiliating.

But we knew better, my sister and me. We made a decision and suffered the consequences of our actions. And guess what? None of the white folk reported our mother for child abuse. Why? Because at that time, kicking butt and taking names was allowed. I remember seeing white parents doing the same thing to their children in K-Mart. Perhaps corporal punishment was a good thing. Maybe it should be revived and reintroduced in the home and the public school system. A leather strap tends to straighten out the hyperactive and it humbles the bold. I remember being both hyperactive and bold, but when I felt the sting of a paddle (the Ridiline of the day) on my backside, I got somewhere, sat down, and closed my mouth for the duration.

My how things have changed. And with the changes have come a generation of people, who may have never heard, “You have to be twice as good to be considered half as good as the white man.” And if they have, they don’t seem to have the racial pride that was instilled in me and other African Americans my age. The same holds true for white children. They don’t seem to care anymore either as evidenced by the recent mass murders around the country.

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, released a song titled, I’m Black and I’m Proud. I remember singing it along with the Godfather, as did many of my contemporaries. In the turbulent sixties, African Americans were coming out of the shadows of racial injustice and standing up for the first time as a collective. Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others were bringing about change.

I remember money pouring into the black community. Suddenly there was a Black Knights Men’s clothing store, a black grocery store, black owned and operated restaurants, record stores, and the Sepia Theater. Door Street was full of businesses. But at night, black prostitutes congregated on the corner of Door and Junction streets, where white men in fancy cars purchased them like they were still on an auction block.

Then, in 1968, Dr. King was murdered, a riot ensued, and Door Street became a wasteland. I remember seeing black men pull a black pimp and his white prostitute out of a sky blue Thunderbird and beat both of them.

The people chased and beat white men who were there to patronize black prostitutes, broke into white owned businesses and wrecked everything. My sister and I looked out the window, down onto the streets, gunfire was everywhere. Storefront windows were being shattered; beer bottles were being tossed and crashed hard against the paved streets. After a while, the National Guard was called in and I watched them in their pretty uniforms, caring the flag, marching up and down Door Street until order was restored.

Today, when I drive down Door Street, I find myself looking at the parking lot where I used to play football and basketball every summer. It’s all gone. There’s no trace of the Sepia, formerly the World Theater, ever existing. Archie’s carryout, where I worked from time to time, is gone. The restaurants too. Everything! And with it, a certain amount of racial pride.

Thirty years later, many white folk have boldly coined a phrase—playing the race card. The first time I heard it was during the O. J. Simpson trial. Members of the media had accused attorney Johnnie Cochran of dragging race into the trial when he pointed out that Mark Fuhrman was a racist cop who had admitted to wanting to gather all black people and burn them. What this phrase says to me is that black folk have lowered themselves to the point of screaming racism for everything. Is there any truth to it? Yes! The problem, however, is that racism is still with us.

Just as some women claim they’ve been sexually harassed and were not, some African Americans claim racial prejudice when there is none, have and are making it difficult for actual racist acts and slurs to be taken seriously. To illustrate just how bad it has gotten, a Hispanic man told a white man that a black man is playing the race card. When the Hispanic man was asked about his remarks, he replied, “I’m just trying to make everybody happy.”

This is what a lack of racial pride has brought us to. I wonder what the Asian community thinks of African Americans. What one Hispanic man thinks, or any other minority thinks about African Americans really doesn’t matter, unless they’re in a position to hire, fire, or approve a loan application. What we think of ourselves and how we conduct ourselves in public does. Much of what’s wrong in the black community can be fixed by black folk. The question is do we have enough racial pride left to do anything about the problem?

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