Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Aren't You Happy At This Time Along With "Black America"?

After reading Ebony Magazine and so many other sources of information that purport to capture the heart beat of "Black America" my mind was taken back to a real life event from my past that I will now describe.


Back during college I had a very good friend named Walt. Walt was from an inner city high school in Philly and came to college via a remedial education program as did a significant number of other Black students in attendance did. This program allowed those students who's prior academic background did not prepare them to effectively compete in the mainstream flow of college. It instead allowed them to fortify their basic skills during their first 2 years before being released into the standard classes. They were assigned academic advisers and other resources throughout their time at the university. All of this was done in the name of minority retention.

I was admitted through the normal channels. My aspirations at the time was to bulk up my own academic skills and transfer to the school of engineering. Though I graduated high school within the "National Honor Society" the school asked that I take an algebra course and a trigonometry course in order to fortify myself. One of my biggest joys as a freshman was to take both of these courses and receive a solid "A" in math, a subject that previously I did not "get" on the first go round. Because I was a freshman that was not yet attached to the social scene in college I committed enough of my time to sit down and understand the mathematical challenge that was before me I was able to get good grades during my freshman year.

As I blossomed in the social area I decided to pledge a fraternity. My friend Walt decided to go on line with me. We were cool with each other because we both were from Philly. Our experiences pledging and afterward as brothers allowed me to better understand him than ever before. Walt was already struggling as a student after one year past him as he ventured into the world of fraternities. I would later learn that in joining the frat he was able to receive a sense of accomplishment through this channel that he was not receiving as a student, his shaky academic foundation not serving his transition from "Philly-cool operative" over to an educated young Black man who can articulate what he can do to help a particular business prosper.

From a relative stand point the semester spent pledging took all of us down a notch academically. I was a B+ student who was aspiring to be an "A" student that instead was knocked down to a C student. My friend Walt was already a "C" student and after pledging he had failed a number of his classes. The first dagger was placed in his college career. A fraternity that had "scholarship" as part of its key operational mandates clearly did not "mean it" when it came to its pledge program. For too many individuals the Black fraternity pledge process provides the tipping point OUT of school at a time when their organizations need more Black men who have solid credentials behind them. Admittedly the 4 major Black frats have changed substantially for the better in this area in the past 20 years.

For Walt, this change in character of the organizational mandate did not come soon enough. After "going over" our college mission had been consumed by our fraternity. I know personally that my own goals became an extension of the chapter's goals. I wanted to have the organization's reputation and membership to be greater than our competitors. That extra time that I had been committing to focused and uninterrupted studies of my school work began being committed to the fraternity. From the party planning, to the step shows, to the issues with the little sisters - these things, along with the socialization with my brothers became my priority for the duration of my college experience.

In my case, at least, I was able to use my own knowledge and street smarts to make it through my classes. With my time being substantially diverted from exclusive studies I vacillated between a B- and a C student. My friend Walt did not have such resources to tap upon. He was already an "at risk student" as he entered the fray. All of these choices to consume these other social options that were available to him only insured incrementally that he would never see graduation day.

Walt was always good at basketball. A substantial amount of our junk talking centered around our skills on the court. Walt had always aspired to become a walk-on for our school - a major, division 1A team. He'd always kept in touch with the players on the team, making sure they knew who he was. While they all had scholarships and were highly recruited, my friend Walt both struggled with finances and academically.

Our junior year in school arrived and our collective friendships via our fraternity experiences had been strained through various conflicts. Yet we survived. I had since moved out of the adopted "frat house" which was really a series of rented houses which had enough brothers in it to become a central hang out and thus the label. I chose to get my own apartment whereby I could insert myself into the fraternization when I wanted to rather than have it all around me as a permanent fixture. For my friend Walt who remained in the mix the storm clouds had all formed as an array around him. The academic problems, the problems in the relationship with his long time girl friend, the financial problems with the brothers who spent their rent money on alcohol - all of this served as a fatal blow to his hopes of ever graduating from college. I saw it. I am not so sure that he did.

The October of our junior year provided some great news for my friend Walt and for our frat and those who knew us. The grand news was that Walt had been accepted as a walk on for our basketball team!! Chapter brothers from near and far heard the news about Walt and called to tell of their happiness for him and how they would look out for him on television and such. To our friend Walt this was a major point of accomplishment. He learned that if he worked hard enough for something - he could finally achieve it. Everyone was proud of his accomplishment. Everyone except ME, seemingly.

During the height of his excitement we had a chance to have a private conversation. He told me that he had received so much unchecked praise and congratulations from everyone else but noticed that my response was dramatically different - as if I was not happy for what he had achieved. I told him "Walt - I know you as good as anyone else knows you. We have been close friends since freshman year. In my view your pursuit of basketball is but one more diversion that stands in the way of your academic pursuits. Walt - I am no less happy for you in achieving your goal than anyone else. I just care more for your complete self than those other people. I know that you are struggling in school. It was education that you and I had originally come up here to focus upon. I know that you first used the frat and now basketball to mask your frustrations with your academics. In truth all of these things are threats to your academic career. My reaction to your acceptance on the team was indeed different because unlike most of the others - I want you to graduate".

This was not what he wanted to hear. But this is what he needed to hear. After the one season with him having made the team, participating in practice and getting some time in one game, the season ended and the final nail in the coffin came down. My friend Walt was suspended from school for lack of academic performance. He began to work full time in order to stabilize his finances and focus on getting back in school. I allowed him to live with me and he slept on my couch for about 4 months until the end of the school year was upon us. He departed school, returning back to Philly. His basketball hopes and his academic hopes shattered and unfulfilled.

So what the heck does any of this have to do with Black America - October 2008?

PLENTY!!!!

Black America, if you read the sources is ecstatic over the prospects of having "the first Black president" in Barack Obama. The final fear that it has is that on election day the long heard claims that "America is too racist to elect a Black man for president" will have all of this excitement come crashing down. From this joy will spring a grave depression if the long heard axiom within Black America comes like a stalker in the night and proves itself to be true.

My previous story parallel today's conditions in that while Black America is overjoyed there are many fundamentals within our community that remain unaddressed. The hype, it is hoped, will smooth over all of these things.

The greatest irony that is fused within my head is that the Thursday that Barack Obama made his Democratic acceptance speech and made some Black people cry is the same day that the Clayton County school system lost its accreditation and made a lot of Black people cry. The first set of tears were symbolic. The second set was a response to something that was far more threatening to their core.

As I read Ebony Magazine and other cheerleading oracles who are telling Black America "Our dreams have been obtained in this one fitful moment" I am fully aware that as they cheer and as they prepare their little black dresses and tuxes for a grand inaugural ball - Black America is threatened at the core, no less than ever before.

My frustration comes in that the people who I most hold accountable for this situation will use this even to proclaim "See we were right!! We told you to stay UNIFIED behind us and Black America will prosper".

Just as I had debated with a good friend several months ago who told me "Most peoples take 300 years to recover from slavery, the Black American did so in 100" - I told him that the election of ONE BLACK MAN should not be mistaken for a HEALED PEOPLE!!! The statistics of Black America says something otherwise. I further told him that SLAVERY'S DAMAGE is not the prevailing damage that we face as a people today.

My inability to celebrate comes from my knowledge that this singular event that is taking place within the "American Political plane" does not provide the logistical infrastructure to fundamentally transform Black America within the "internal racial/community domain". In truth the ideology that Obama brings is likely to further the damage that is in place. The popular leadership is seeking resources rained down upon them from external sources where the masses of Black people will be healed from the national entitlements of health care, education and 'opportunity' that their own economic choices and prioritizations did not deliver to them.

As I perform my left wing media research I have learned the lesson that "Democracy is shown more in the fabric of a nation than anything coming from the presidential palace." This speaks of a bottom up framework for change and prosperity among the people. To do otherwise has them as consumers or serfs.

My opposition to Barack Obama comes from my view that we as a people need to focus upon rebuilding our cultural confidence and not aligning resources so that we are "in receipt of benefit" unable to deliver these items upon our own backs. If an when this system collapses - our ability to continue living at this standard will be fundamentally destroyed.

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