Friday, May 24, 2024

Picking Us Up…

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( The easiest thing to do when looking at someone beneath you is to look down without attempting to help.

Yet, many of us who claim to be morally righteous fail to do that which would demonstrate our righteousness.

In real life, some of us just want to crush the people who we look down on.

As a people, we have to get to the point where we focus on working with each other even if we disagree with what others are doing or if we have issues with their station in life.

We don’t have to be pitted against each other.

There was no reason for people to pit Malcolm against Martin, but they did.

There is no reason for people to pit Christians or Muslims or Jews against each other. But they do.

And, as a people, we have to get to the point where we focus on bringing others up even if we disagree with what they are doing or what their station is in life.

Historically, white racists come at us negatively and speak to us as “you people.” When we hear someone say “you people,” typically, they only want to look down on and crush “those people.”

Sadly, we see that in our own race today when well-off Negroes talk about poor Black folks as “you people,” which clearly demonstrates a disconnect and a lack of respect.

It’s easy to do, but counterproductive to look down on “those people” who are making mistakes and doing the wrong things, including selling drugs, going to prison and in general falling out of the bottom of society, because any of them can become something beautiful and necessary with the right people, places and things touching their lives at the right moments in time.

Witness the destructive criticism of Malcolm X even when he was cleaning himself up. He was one of the worst pieces of human filth, destroying Black women as a pimp, helping to destroy Black men and women with drugs, and destroying himself with a collection of negative behavior. By the time he ended up in prison, even he embraced his nickname of “Satan.”

Yet, due to a convergence of people, places and things, Malcolm Little the piece of human filth, was able to transform himself into Malcolm X, the beautiful and necessary revolutionary who touched lives inside and outside of his own epoch with speeches, writing and activism. To quote the late Ossie Davis, Malcolm became our “Shining Black Prince.”

And, let’s not pretend that everyone loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because they didn’t–especially when he was coming up. He was looked down upon and maligned by some of our own people who dogged him and called him “sellout.” Some even wanted him dead for the simple act of disagreeing with his methods. Before he was killed, remember that it was a deranged Black woman who tried to take his life by stabbing him in the chest.

My mother and grandmother told me tales of how people hated Marcus Garvey, looking down on he and his followers who were uniting “those people,” and leading an exodus of former slaves back to Africa.

At the opening of the 19th century, Negroes were raging against Blacks who were starting Black fraternities, the NAACP, the Urban League and other organizations designed to uplift our people. Some Negroes wanted to abandon “those people” at the bottom because they looked down on them.

I take it personally when people direct hatred, ignorance and arrogant rhetoric to our brothers and sisters at the bottom, because I, too, came from the bottom.

The college career counselor at my school urged me to avoid college. She said that “you people”–referring to young Black men–lacked the discipline required to do anything productive in life. She did nothing to bring me up, yet disparaged and discouraged me for being poor and allegedly without focus even though I had good grades.

I easily could have taken her advice and answered the call of the streets, because I know many other brothers who did. And, please believe that this destructive program is still going on in our schools.

But a convergence of people, places and things came into my life to convince me to stop listening to folks who criticized me without helping me. And, today, it is one of my great goals to lead other young Black men away from those who would crush their spirits with negativity partnered with disconnect.

That’s why I rage against Bill Cosby’s tired, but recurring attack against Black people at the bottom, choosing only to attack without trying to bring them up with action, instead of empty, criticizing rhetoric.

Cosby’s defenders say that he has a right to criticize because he’s bringing people up.


His philanthropic activities only help the “talented tenth,” which hasn’t been all that productive over the years in terms of bringing us all up. If we see that fewer Black men are going to college, we need to focus on the majority who do not. We need more focus on the “B” and “C” average brothers as well as the brothers who are failing, in order to keep them out of prison, and more focus on getting more jobs to our youth, not on just getting them to college, because college isn’t for everyone. I say this as a college-trained man.

If supporting colleges was truly near and dear to Cosby’s heart, he should have paid more attention to Morris Brown College. While he gave cash to Morehouse, the school that takes students who can not get into Morehouse, was in a cash crisis and losing their accreditation.

While people support the brothers who have made it to college, other brothers who are not making it to college are tacitly being ignored. It is not as simple as them being lazy, or looking for a fast way to money.

And, if anyone’s answer is that they really do have resources available to them, why not take some of their hands and show them those resources as well as how to utilize them?

The brothers who are going to college have already found some of the basic tools for survival.

The brothers who are not going to college are not all losers. Some of them don’t have the resources or don’t know about the resources they do have available to them. Some of them have personal or family challenges that make college a tough choice at the time. Some of them are in trade school or the military, or working on other methods for success. Some of them wouldn’t make it through college anyway and they should be given other options.

The brothers who are going to jail are not all born criminals. Some of them didn’t even commit a crime. Why not give tools to those without tools, instead of chastising them for doing the wrong thing in a world that has limited their choices? Is it really that they are just bad people with bad behavior?

Is it as simple as going to college and being a nice guy? No, it’s not that simple, and you see that when you work with brothers trying to come from the bottom who have meager access to resources, but ample access to challenges. If succeeding were so simple, wouldn’t we all do it?

The brothers who speak poor English and who wear their pants hanging down low are not all gangsters. Some of them are in college and some of them are looking for a way up. Some of them have jobs. Why not take the time to explain why speaking or dressing a certain way can have a negative impact on their lives?

The brothers who are not in their children’s lives are not all deadbeat dads. Some of them are struggling with other issues. Some of them are actually prevented from being in their children’s lives. All of them had partners in the poor decision that brought the children into the world without proper preparation.

These are not excuses. These are real examples of how a convergence of people, places and things can take any one of us to a place that we don’t really desire to be–places that we don’t have to stay. Or, those same people, places and things can take us to a better place in life.

Ask any of those “lower economic people” if Cosby was inspiring or productive–the answer is no.

Ask any of the brothers who are not in college and even some who may be rising beyond their prison background if he was inspiring or productive—the answer is no.

Really, ask some of the sisters whom he told to leave Black men alone if he was inspiring or productive–the answer is no.

So, who agreed with him? A great number of people, except “those people.” “Those people” know that he is looking down on them and they are anything but inspired by being looked down upon.

And, really what is he doing but tossing more negativity into the Diaspora? It’s not a revolution, it’s not fly and it’s neither powerful nor productive to tell people they are bad people and then do nothing to help them become good people. He isn’t giving them a hand up, he’s only putting them down.

Any one of us can talk about how sorry the people on the bottom are. But the only way to make a difference is to bring them up.

The difficulties that we face as a people are real. And, they are far too complicated for any of us to pretend that they are the result of people choosing to be bad people.

There is no problem with chastising any of us who are part of the problem. But the real solution is to give more focus to picking up those who have fallen down.

Written By Darryl James

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