Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why Can't We Be Friends? (Part II)

Well, Buffalo congratulations. You're no longer the only pro sports team in America to play a game with no fans in the stadium. Of course, it took a national crisis for this particular instance, where in the case of the Bills, all it takes is for them to play more than 1000 miles from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

In case you missed it, the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox now have the dubious honor of being the having played the only game in an empty stadium. And, in case you missed it, the reason why the stadium was empty is because Major League Baseball  felt is was unsafe for the fans to come to Camden Yards for a ball game. And in case you missed it, that's because people in Baltimore, where Camden Yards is located are setting cars on fire and looting shopping centers. So now, because some ignorant fools want to answer violence with violence,  we have to put our lives on hold and can't even enjoy something simple like a ballgame. In case you missed it.

And in case you missed it, you should go back and read part one of this blog post, because it gives this part context. It's the yin to this yang. Or is it yen? Whatever, you know what I mean.  The emotions that these things stir in me are strong. I had to get out of bed at 3:00 this morning and remove some profanity from part one of my first blog post. If you happen to be one of the 12 people that saw it, I apologize. But the feelings come from a place that I'm just now coming to understand. Sadness. I love my country, perhaps I'm an idealist, but I believe in the American dream, and to see it violated saddens me deeply. To turn on my television, and see people so angry that they're taking to the streets in violent protest... Well, it made me weep. And it's frustrating. What do we do?!? It seems like the only people that can fix the problem are the problem!?! Who do you call to protect you from the police? And it Pisses. Me. Off.  When white people turn on their televisions and see black people in the streets setting things on fire and looting stores, what do you suppose they're going to think?

Again, If you read Part I, (Last chance. If you didn't, do it now) you know where I stand on the system being broken. But that's only half the story. Fair or not, we can't control the system. All we can control is how we respond to it. And we can't expect it to help us, especially if we don't stand up and help ourselves.

And perpetuating a culture of violence is not helpful for anyone. We already have enough obstacles to overcome in 21st century America that we don't need to create more, and yet we do. Who are our black male role models? Celebrities, and athletes! Ask a 15 year old black kid who Chris Brown or Drake is, and I guarantee you they'll know the name. Can we say the same about Cornell West or Ben Carson? I'm not so sure. Hip-Hip has it's place but it's entertainment, not an aspiration. And men like Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, while they're musicians, they're also successful businessmen, who worked their butts off to get themselves out of the ghetto. Maybe we should give a little more attention to that.

No, instead we glorify drugs and violence while objectifying women. The problem with that is a rap song only lasts five minutes. A felony conviction lasts forever. And what happens when you make role models out of gangsters and thugs, and men that call women bitches and hoes? You get boys that want to be gangsters and thugs, that call women bitches and hoes. And why wouldn't they? It worked for Jay-Z, and he landed Beyonce!

And that violence and misogyny goes far beyond our music. Perhaps your heard about Demitria Latrion Powell the 28 year old black woman arrested in Flint, Michigan for child abuse. If not let me fill you in. Powell allegedly found a Facebook page her son created, her 11 year old son, mind you. And on the page, he calls himself a thug, or something along those lines. So Powell and her mother decided to whip the boy viciously. Which is bad enough in and of itself. But they also thought it was a good idea to give someone a camera and have him record it. Who, you ask? The boy's father. Who wanted to participate but had just spent ten years in prison and didn't want to violate parole(on camera). And yes, it get's better, while they're beating this boy, they say "call child protective services if you want to" and then they post it on FaceBook for the world to see. And I imagine if you're not familiar with this story (or black) you're completely dumbfounded. Well, you might want to get a clean pair of shorts, because that's still not the end of the story. The video was shared on FaceBook over 1000 times before someone actually DID call child protective services. There were just as many people commending those women for beating up an 11 year old boy as there were condoning them. And those of us black people over the age of 25 or 30, even if we don't condone it, we understand it. Because if it didn't happen to us, we all know people it did happen to.

And, I have to ask again, to what end? I'm willing to bet his father was raised the same way, and look at the good it did him. So we have another black boy growing up without a father. And once again, his mother didn't like his actions and her first instinct is to give him a "whuppin' " Okay, fine. But don't be surprised 15 years from now when your son gets mad at his girlfriend, and his first response is to give her a whuppin' because you taught him that all conflict can be solved with violence, and his father wasn't there to teach him how to respect women. And yes black men, there is a reason why black women have a reputation for being 'bitches'. Because we have a well earned reputation for mistreating women.

Brace yourself, here comes another disturbing video This time, we have an unnamed gentleman, who apparently is distraught because his daughter has been missing for three days. When she does finally turn up, you know, to show how relieved he is, he gives mom a camera beats the crap out of her, while holding her by her hair. All the while calling her a bitch and a ho.  Oh yeah, and because apparently, it's the "in" thing to make grotesque videos of you abusing your children and have them go viral, he put in on  FaceBook for the whole world to see.  And again people came out of the woodwork to defend these animals!  Here's the interesting thing, Apparently pops was distraught, because he thought his daughter was "dead in the woods" somewhere, while instead she was out having a good time with some fellas that she knew. Hey dad, a little tip. Spend more time teaching you daughter how beautiful she is, and how she shouldn't give herself to a man that didn't treat her with the love and respect that she's due. You know, instead of beating her up when you're mad.

There is never, ever a good reason for a man to hit a woman. And if this girl is getting this from her father now, what are her relationships with men going to be like going forward? And so, the cycle continues.

Sadly these are not isolated incidents. Google father beats daughter and a whole list of videos will come up. Dad found sexts on girls phone. Dad caught girl twerking. And we've all seen the video of the woman smacking her kid around for rioting in Baltimore, yes? She's become a national hero! So we have a boy, who's out in the street rioting, meeting violence with violence. Where do you suppose he learned that? Do you think that was the first time his mother smacked him around? I'm guessing not. And so she's telling her son it's wrong to riot and be violent, meanwhile she's smacking the kid upside the head.

And the whole idea of beating your children so they respect you is not only misguided, it's cruel. It doesn't create respect, it creates fear. When your child is afraid of you, their going to do whatever it takes to keep from making you angry. They'll lie, and keep things from you and build walls that don't need to be there. Fear is not an effective parenting method, you'll have children that act out, and resent authority, and you may have a strong willed child (like me, for instance) that learns to overcome their fears. Then what? What happens when the threat of a whuppin doesn't work anymore? And, eventually fear turns into anger and resentment. And anger leads to violence. And the cycle continues.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them

Proverbs 13:24 (NIV, Emphasis mine)

It wasn't until I was an adult that my father and I began to have conversations and I got to know him as a man, as a person, and not just the man who gave out the whuppins. And the conversations and interactions we have now, if we could have had them 25 years ago, I imagine our relationship would have been a lot different. My father is a respectable man. And when I look back now, at some of the things I've done, as a son? I'm ashamed of myself, because afraid or not, I was disrespectful and there were plenty of times when I deserved to be punished. Strongly. Stern discipline is important, it's biblical. People love to quote that, when they're about to beat their kids, but for some reason nobody seems to remember the second half. It's not my place to say whether you should spank your children or not, but if you do, you're supposed do do it from a place of love and care, not a place of anger. The Bible does not give you license to beat your children, and using scripture as an excuse for child abuse is despicable.

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. 

(Ephesians 6:1-4 NLT)

This is a command to the parents and the children. Children honor your parents. It's a recurring theme in the Bible, and Paul lists parental disobedience along with murder and blasphemy. Ouch.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 

(Romans 1:28-31 NLT)

Of course, Paul is talking about the Romans. From Rome. In the first century. Of course it doesn't sound too far off of what we'd find if we turnd on the tv or the radio, is it? Don't we want better for ourselves? Our children deserve better. They're not born knowing how to honor their father and mother. That's something that has to be taught. And that part about provoking your child to anger. I don't know about you, but if someone made a video of me getting beat up and put it on FaceBook, I think I might be a little angry. Just sayin'

And of course the media jumps on these things, and the stories blow up. Thus perpetuating the violence culture and the racist society. Again, if I'm a white father and I see a man doing that to his daughter. And I see other people defending it? Unless I know other black people, which a LOT of people don't, that may be my only exposure to black culture. Rock on! My father worked a full time job and served in the army reserve for 30 years while me and my brother and sisters were growing up. That, is an example. My cousin Loyd served in both Iraq wars. The list goes on but we don't hear about those, and that's the problem. We have to control our own destiny, and we have to stop giving the news media stories like Demitria Powell.  And for God sakes, when someone does something that terrible and pulls their head out of their ass long enough to film it, don't open your mouth and defend them!

People died so we could have the right to get an education. Our grandparents, aunts uncles and parents faced attack dogs, and fire hoses and all sorts of other unthinkable things so we would have the rights that we squander today. Yes, we live in a racist society. Yes, as a black person, you're more apt to be arrested convicted and incarcerated than a white person. Suck it up and get over it. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is how you respond to it. And the race card only takes you so far. Eventually you have to step up and take personal responsibility for your actions.

Black America needs to make a change. We as a people need to put our collective foot down and say enough is enough. We want better for ourselves, and we're going to do what it takes to get it. We are a strong people, we're tough. And I believe, once we get our ducks in a row and decide that we're going to change things for the better, then we will. But we have to clean our house first. First and foremost, we need to stop hurting each other. Stop meeting violence with violence. And let's stop teaching our children to solve their problems with violence by using it as a sole means of discipline.

I watched this video last night too, and I wish I could meet these guys. When I heard that rival gang members were planning on uniting in Baltimore to kill cops, I was disgusted, but not surprised. Violence culture. But then my friend Ben McKnight directed me toward this video.  Ben and I have been friends for over 20 years. After Heather, there's nobody that knows me better than he does. Ben has an optimism, and the ability to see good in people that I envy. After all I just said, to hear these men say what they're saying is proof to me that we, as a people can overcome this trial.

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