I had a long IM conversation with a former co-worker that turned into a phone conversation. She and her husband have a foster child, whom they most likely will adopt when the state allows her to. She and her husband are white and the child is black. Among the concerns she mentioned to me was the fear that, because she would raise her adopted child just like she would raise a biological child (private school in a predominately white neighborhood, hockey as an activity, etc.) the child wouldn’t be able to relate to other black people.
This hit a chord for me, because I was that kid that was considered ‘acting white’ by other black kids in the neighborhood, because I was relatively successful in school and spoke proper English (thanks Mom and Dad). I didn’t think much of it as I was growing up; I knew I wasn’t like other kids my age growing up in Flatbush and chalked it up as such. By the time I got to high school, I was around enough people like me that I didn’t have to worry about that too much. Now that I am a grown man; the idea that black children, especially young black boys, are bent by peer pressure to achieve less and act up more pisses me off.
In my opinion, one of the largest problems in the African-American community is the lack of self esteem in our children where a sporting event or the curvature of one’s ass isn’t a factor. Not enough of our children are told they can do anything, so they don’t do anything. And when a child is instilled with self esteem and attempts to achieve, he or she is dragged down like crabs in a barrel by ‘peers’ either ignorant of how to properly act in society or scared that their anti-social behavior would not be seen as ‘keeping it real’. Do you know who is ‘keeping it real’? Wayne Brady. I have no doubt in my mind the Wayne Brady you see on television is the same Wayne Brady you would see at home. That is ‘keeping it real’, being true to yourself and not putting on airs to fit in to a cookie cutter image of what being black is.
I’m not saying all black people should have Carlton Banks (another nickname I caught) posters on their wall. I have enough Jay-Z CDs and Def Comedy Jam DVDs to appreciate urban culture (by the way, the fact that Eddie Murphy: Delirious isn’t on DVD is a national tragedy). But there has to be the understanding the way you interact with your boys at the club isn’t the same way you interact at a PTA meeting.
I apologize for going all Bill Cosby on you. I promise no women were drugged and fondled in the writing of this post.