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Troy

Who has filled the intellectual void after James Baldwin?

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According to Toni Morrison it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.

His latest book, Between the World and Me, was supposed to come out in September, but has been pushed up to July 17th.  It is unusual for a publisher to move a in this fashion but given the demand for the book decided this was the right move.

between-the-world-and-me.jpg

According to the Wall Street Journal, "To build support for the book, Spiegel & Grau in May sent advance-reader copies to a small group of influential people interested in the subject, including Mr. Legend and Mr. Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, Mr. Jackson said."

AALBC.com I was not on that short list.  Mr. Jackson is a Black man.  As far as I know he is the most senior Brother in Publishing.  I did however pick up a copy of the book, at Book Expo, one of two I came away with that day.  I had to wait in line like everyone else to get a copy (this is shameful in my not so humble opinion).

Both Coates and Mr. Jackson have been to my home.

A luta continua...

 

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I consider Paul Coates, Ta-Nehisi's father a mentor.  He really is a deep, conscious, and passionate Brother, who influences many by example.  I was speaking to him yesterday, asking for some help on an unrelated issue, and naturally the conversation turned to Ta-Nehisi and his phenomenal success.  I thought about this post.  

Actually, I regretted sharing my feelings here, and almost deleted the post after I made it, but I decided not to remove because the reality is; it often is between me and the world, or at least it feels like it is.  I mean think about it, here we have a book like this and Black book platforms (at least AALBC.com) is not on the leading edge in the promotion or marketing... well you see me point.

I expressed my frustration with Paul, who of course completely understood where I was coming from and actually took some responsibility for it.  While I was frustrated with an entire system which results in the exclusion of an AALBC.com in the promotion/marketing of this book, Paul actually took on personal responsibility (did I say he was a great man). At any rate, he gave me additional insight in the process which helped me understand why these things happen and he said he would call the publisher and see that I'm contacted when the big promotional push starts in the fall.

While it feels like it is me against the world, it never really was.  If there were no one in my corner AALBC.com would have failed long ago.

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I just read an article "Cornel West Delivers Blistering Takedown of Ta-Nehisi Coates—Michael Eric Dyson Responds" in The Observer which referenced this Facebook post (shared below) which was apparently made by Cornel West.  However you feel about West's comments that fact the Facebook (and other major media) will use this to enrich themselves irks me.  The very idea that a Cornel West and all of the intellectuals and so called intellectuals who chose to comment and feed into this frenzy irks me to no end --shesh.

To Ta-Nehisi's credit he has stayed out of (and above) this social media crap.  Further despite Morrison's compliment, Coates, himself, has never elevated himself to the level of James Baldwin.   

West's assessment of Coates, in my opinion, is unduly, unnecessarily, inaccurately harsh.  Paul Coates who I just wrote about above was a Black Panther.  This is the sensibility under which Ta-Nehisi was raised.  I think West knows this, or he should.  I do know West is keenly aware of Coates profound article "The Case for Reparations."  West can't reasonably describe anyone with the intellect, sensibility, and desire to write the "The Case for Reparations" in the manner he has.

My initial reason was that West's Facebook account was hacked.  If anytime is to be taken from West critique it is that fact that we do indeed live in an "...age of superficial spectacle..." and we do "...we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin."   All of this can be true without tearing down Ta-Nehisi.

I also get why Dr West might be frustrated.  If you consider the example I initially described; whose genesis is grounded in the fact that a successful and important book about the challenges of the Black community, completely ignored the web's largest and oldest website dedicated to Black books.  So while books like this are produced the likes of an AALBC.com continues to struggle, and the Black book community, as a whole continues downward spiral.  

Books are a great start, as the educate and inform, but something much more profound needs to change.  All of the arguing on Facebook simply enriches Facebook, while Black owned properties are collapsing.  West message of a need for a people's movement was completely lost, by the white noise he generated. 

-------------------------------

By Cornel West

In Defense of James Baldwin – Why Toni Morrison (a literary genius) is Wrong about Ta-Nehisi Coates.

"Baldwin was a great writer of profound courage who spoke truth to power. Coates is a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power. Baldwin’s painful self-examination led to collective action and a focus on social movements. He reveled in the examples of Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Angela Davis. Coates’s fear-driven self-absorption leads to individual escape and flight to safety – he is cowardly silent on the marvelous new militancy in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Cleveland and other places. Coates can grow and mature, but without an analysis of capitalist wealth inequality, gender domination, homophobic degradation, Imperial occupation (all concrete forms of plunder) and collective fightback (not just personal struggle) Coates will remain a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times. How I wish the prophetic work of serious intellectuals like Robin DG Kelley, Imani Perry, Gerald Horne, Eddie Glaude commanded the attention the corporate media gives Coates. But in our age of superficial spectacle, even the great Morrison is seduced by the linguistic glitz and political silences of Coates as we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin. As in jazz, we must teach our youth that immature imitation is suicide and premature elevation is death. Brother Coates continue to lift your gifted voice to your precious son and all of us, just beware of the white noise and become connected to the people’s movements!"

 

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Cornel West is becoming the angry old man screaming, "Get off of my lawn!" I wish I had a more eloquent phrase, but this is really how I feel. In the last twenty years the greatest movement for Blacks has been Hip-Hop (which really hasn't moved at all and has actually digressed). West and Smiley had the hearts and minds of Blacks for years and only accomplished the lining of their pockets through speeches and books. There hasn't been a real movement of any sort that has empowered Blacks from our intellectuals/leaders. As a matter of fact the Black community has taken more steps backward since West has come into prominence. 

Coates, like Jeff Johnson and Kevin Powell is attempting to stimulate the dialogue for the next generation. A goal that is much tougher to attempt in today's media market and culture. The sound bite generation that we are in now need immediate motivation and inspiration so guys like Eric Thomas, the hip-hop preacher, are very successful because they create the clips that can be shared and made viral. Coates, may not be attacking capitalism and Obama as West wants the world to do, but he is stepping into the arena and gaining traction which is needed sincerely for our generation of 30 to 55 year olds who are straddling the line between Malcolm and Martin  and Sharpton and Jackson and now Dyson and West (damn look at the drop-off!) We need new voices. The problem is even our new voices fall on dead ears, or in this case the same old ears which keeps the dialogue above where it needs to be.

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Well Malcolm and Martin came from and worked within Black organizations.  West and Dyson came from Academia, which never served Black people. Sharpton and Jackson, while they have their own organizations, those organizations are dependent upon and serve at the largess of white folks.  Coates as was Baldwin are writers, not organizers.

The reason Malcolm and Martin were so effective is besides being eloquent speakers, they came from Black independent organizations who worked more to help Black people, rather than enriching themselves. We don't have those types of organizations any more. 

Edited by Troy

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I generally side with West, but he is confused on this point. He gives Morrison, an Obama booster, a pass and then spanks Ta-Nehesi with a dishonest appraisal. In less than 60 seconds online it is easy to demonstrate that Ta-Nehisi has, in fact, criticized Obama on several occasions. See, for example:

How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America

kzs

 

 

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Troy,  We began this discussion on facebook.  I appreciate your comments here.  I am not sure if we are in a spiral.  Where we ever what we think we were.  I contest that we lack the consciousness but not the technology and capital.  Facebook is a billion dollar corporation not simply a good idea.  People work everyday to sync data, create algorithims, and create ways to connect with people, sell advertising slots, gain further capital, and the list goes on and on-I forgot sell data, create revenue.  Karibu was poorly capitalized up until the end, highly leveraged-but with what my partner and I put in it, far more aggressive than most folks. We showed well, but it was labor intensive.  In the end hundreds of thousands of people got access to back books-that's a good thing, but the personal cost was high.   When the consciousness becomes important, I take it as a sign of ones own personal worth and the difficulties of competeing.   You give me the capital and I can compete.  Isn't that part of what Coates got at wtih reparations.  How can we create strategies, invest and create models without the capital.  I would agree we lack the community infrastructure to share the wealth, but that is just our path.   I think content distribution is it-it will replace the bookstore.  It intersects with journalism.  Both industries need an overhall that is the opportunity.  All of it, for me, is like a lab.  I don't invest my money in it currently, I use the free platforms, watch, study and the like.  It is daily rhythm and practice.  Tell me a way i can direct more traffic towards you and I will. 

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Kwame, you are right below I added a link an excerpt to the article your referenced from The Atlantic which is worth reading in its entirety.

When asked about policy for African Americans, the president has said, "I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of all America." An examination of the Obama administration's policy record toward black people clearly bears this out. An examination of the Obama administration's rhetoric, as directed at black people, tells us something different.

Yesterday, the president addressed Morehouse College's graduating class, and said this:

We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you've learned over the last four years is that there's no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: "Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness."

We've got no time for excuses—not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven't. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that's still out there. It's just that in today's hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven't earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame.

This clearly is a message that only a particular president can offer. Perhaps not the "president of black America," but certainly a president who sees holding African Americans to a standard of individual responsibility as part of his job. This is not a role Barack Obama undertakes with other communities.

Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people—and particularly black youth—and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that "there's no longer room for any excuses"—as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of "all America," but he also is singularly the scold of "black America."

Edited by Troy

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Brother Yao, thanks for coming here from Facebook.  I really do dislike engaging on Facebook simply because it cannibalizing my efforts here and those of others who run indie content sites. You've been a soldier in this fight longer than most; I appreciate your support and wisdom.

Interestingly the conversation was launched by Ishmael Reed.  Despite his rhetoric on the platform he too has fallen into the trap that is Facebook.  

All of Ishmael Reed's terrific contributions, which I could never afford to purchase, are freely given to Facebook!  Reed's contributions and many other like his concentrate power with Facebook which of course makes them richer and more effective at killing their competition--and all other websites are Facebook's competition.

In exactly the same way the Huffington Post got many of our brilliant writers to write for free, in exchange for the priveledge of being on the Huffington Post, making Ariana millions while sites like AALBC.com had to PAY for the same writers.

Today Black writers all say friend me on Facebook and follow me to Twitter.  Facebook get tons of FREE promotions  many writers barely mention their own websites.  Increasingly many don't even have a website.  Do you think Ismael Reed would ever write, "check me out on AALBC.com?"  He knows this site.  

Image if an Ishmael Reed only posted here, instead of Facebook.  What would happen? Would his contribtions fuel AALBC.com efforts and allow me to continue to do an even better job of selling an dprmoting Reed's work?  Would it help the Black book ecosystem as a whole?  

I think Black writers, in their own self interest, should stop giving Facebook free content.

OK lets assume content distribution is the alternative to the bookstore.  I don't agree with the premise because I don't think they are mutually exclusive (it is not an either or proposition, white folks have both).  The problem with using Facebook as a content distribution platform is that we do not control what or how that content is distributed.  

I've observed over the years, as an active Facebook user, that while my "fans" have quadrupled, my engagement has gone way down --even with promoted (paid posts). Basically Facebook has created a platform that costs increasingly more to get to reach people.  

As far as engaging with actual readers it is far less effective than a simple newsletter.

I appreciate you asking what you can do to drive more traffic here.  Well by posting here you've already done that Brother--thanks! 

If you initiated and joined in our conversations occasionally, and encouraged other to do so.  I could not ask for more. 

 

 

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It's very inspiring to see new voices show up and I hope you both continue to come to the boards and make it a part of your daily browsing habits as I have.

I know we have moved off topic in a way, but it does speak to the idea of reparations and the cohesiveness of Black America that Coates is writing about something that simply will never happen and we are discussing it. 

Solving the problem of wealth and media information in the Black community is a fairly simple thing to do in theory. The problem is the convenience factor. Black folks simply aren't willing to give up the convenience of social media to take it upon themselves to visit 5 indie websites per day. More specifically 5 black indie websites per day and they are out there: http://huria.org/blogs/

Am I saying that visiting these blogs will fix black wealth? No, but it's a start in creating an old school webring which gives small biz people eyes on their products. The issue is then how do we convert those eyes into dollars. As Yao said you need capital, but to get capital you have to create a plan that shows how money will be generated and unfortunately Blacks do a very poor job of gathering together to build sustaining media outlets and businesses. Huffposts, Examiner, and tons of other sites work because they have pulled advertising money in due to the amount of content produced on the site by people of considerable status for free.

Troy is right in stating that black people won't do this. I've attempted even in Memphis to get groups of people to write for my blog and every time those people leave or never write and start their own and within months the blog hasn't been updated and basically falls flat. That is our ultimate problem, we don't know how to sacrifice and we only want what is convenient. I mean consider how much Medium is going to IPO for, or be sold for, in the near future, or Periscope, or Meerkat. All of these platforms don't even pay for content and as we all know content is king.

Facebook's platform is so easy to navigate that it becomes a seamless part of routine. Although I log in to AALBC and anytime I come back I can read or see information and then comment, I've seen other people say it's too difficult to log in and comment here. It's not hard it, it's just not as convenient as clicking the app button and scrolling through the feeds and information.

So let's get back to the point of how to create platforms for the distribution of books/information that benefits Black folks. I have a website, at the bottom of that page and in the sidebar is something connected to AALBC. Since AALBC is the longest running Black purveyor of literature, I have to decided to give it prominence on my site. I also make sure to visit and share information from the site. If Troy creates a platform for us to list and sell books with a percentage of sales going to AALBC ala Amazon or Ebay, I would be willing to do that. I would also be willing to write articles or share articles from CBP on AALBC as a writer. All of these seemingly small things will drive traffic to the site. Imagine having a roster of 30 writers of influence (which I'm not) who are willing to create content for AALBC  1 day per month. Book publishers would die to have ad space on the site and the ad revenue for AALBC would increase. This would also create more eyes on content and the information would be shared between all of those networks of writers.

This is just a semi solution post. There is a lot more for us to do and to discuss but I hope this kind of continues the dialogue.

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I don't usually agree with black conservative, Thomas Sowell, but something he said a while back did resonate with me.  He deconstructed and dismissed "intellectual academics", saying something to the effect that they were self-appointed and enjoyed the luxury of never having to defend their opinions because they never stated them as facts but relied on their superficial credentials to get them over. 

I also am very receptive to the advice of Buddha who said no one has an obligation to believe anything anybody says. Shakespeare spoke of the "sound and fury of idiots saying nothing".  Words, words, words.  I'm right, you're wrong.  Blah, blah, blah. Cornel West is a malcontent who thinks all wisdom originates with him.  

It is my further observation that a lot of living people are getting by on their reputations, and that the passage of time elevates dead leaders to the status of icons who happened to be at the right place at the right time.  Martin and Malcolm have become sacrosanct but they were not infallible. They were master of rhetoric who had their fingers on the pulse of their followers. and they were adept at manipulating the truth.  When I hear people aggrandize James Baldwin, I ask myself why, since I was around during his heyday, don't I think of him as anything but an accomplished author?  He and Malcolm and Martin and militants like Angela and Stokely and Eldridge were certainly very visible and much in demand on the popular talk show circuit that during the early days of TV played a big role during the civil rights movement. The controversy these high-profile personalities brought to a discussion panel was a boon for ratings and they were as entertaining as they were informative.  Baldwin, in all of his drama queen charisma, was at his best throwing hissy fits that fed into the white guilt of slack jawed liberals. Yet to me, he never voiced anything  that wasn't obvious when it came to race. But his ability to communicate apparently vaulted him into the ranks of being a visionary.  So be it.  Bottom line is that clever leaders bedazzle with rhetoric that rivets their followers and intimidates their adversaries. Hello, Obama.  But, in the process, not a lot gets done. Change occurs but by the time it comes, the sought after goals no longer apply to the problems which have morphed into something that calls for a different solution.  

When it comes to FaceBook, nobody is forcing people to haunt this site and scroll around for something to captivate their interest.  Why has the traffic slacked off to the discussion boards?? Why, indeed. Nobody is forcing people to stop frequenting them. People like what they like.  As H.L. Menken said, nobody would ever go broke betting on the stupidity of the American public.  

 And how surprising is it that in the Internet Universe the big monopolies crowd out small independent entrepreneurs?? The purpose of going into business is to best the competition.  The more money you make, the more powerful and ruthless you become. Nobody cares about playing fair, and the old cliches about green power co-opting black power still apply. The object is to be all you can be, and this applies across the board.  That's how this cruel world works.

That's my 2-cents.  Fortunately for dreamers, I am the voice of the past, not the hope of the future. zzzzzzzzz

 

Edited by Cynique
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Cynique, we really do need the voices of the past, for perspective.  Your self-described "2-cents" is priceless.  One day I will have the resources to encapsulate your wisdom in such a way that more people can benefit from it.

"People like what they like" is a point I'd like to explore.  I agree people like what they like, but they can only like something they know about. Even if they are aware of something it may take some effort on their part before they can begin to appreciate it.  

Imagine someone who would potentially gain a lifetime of enjoyment from the card game Bridge, but they were never exposed to the game and only learned to play War. Sure they'll have fun playing War but how much deeper and fun would their card playing experience be if they learned to play Bridge.  Our ignorance of what is available is constraining our experience.  Corporations are not interested in providing us with depth--that cost more money to create

But I will take it a step further, the very nature of the way the web works make us believe anything more profound that War is a waste of time.  If you introduce Bridge to a War player, they won't even be interested in learning the more difficult game.  They have become so arrogant in their ignorance that the refuse to believe that the extra effort required to learn the game of Bridge is worth their energy.  

Corporations have figured out that people prefer (find it easier) to look at pictures and videos, so words are diminished in favor of these visuals--so this is what we get.  But how much less are we learning as a result?  How much less rich is are our experiences?

I find Twitter boring because it is, by necessity, shallow.  However this shallowness has become the very nature of the web,.  We have been conditioned to believe that no one wants to or will  invest the energy required to write, or even read, something longer than a few words.  

A picture is worth 1,000 words right? Corporations in an effort to maximize revenue drive this mantra particularly as it pertains to content targeted to Black people.  White people have the same pressure, but they enjoy a more diverse set of websites that speak to and reflect their culture and images.  Black people have whatever white folks find most profitable to provide.

Sadly the most profitable Black owned websites have follow the same lead.

Yesterday a new contributor to the forums, Gabe stated on the conversation "The 10 Best Damn Black Websites Period!" I just posted a new conversation about this website here.

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Here West elaborated on his critique of Ta-Nehisi's latest book and his being dubbed the next Baldwin.

----------------

"My response to Brother Ta-Nehisi's new book should not be misunderstood. I simply tried to honestly evaluate the book at the level of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Since I believe there will never be another Baldwin -- just as there will never be another Coltrane, Morrison, Du Bois, Simone [as in Nina], Robeson or Rakim -- the coronation of Coates as our Baldwin is wrong.

His immense talents and gifts lie elsewhere and lead to different priorities. He indeed tells crucial truths about the vicious legacy of white supremacy as plunder on a visceral level, yet he fails to focus on our collective fightback, social movements or political hope. Even his fine essays downplay people's insurgency and resistance.

The full truth of white supremacy must include our historic struggles against it. His critical comments in his essays about the respectability politics or paternalistic speeches of the black president in power (absent in his book) do not constitute a critique of the presidency -- pro-Wall Street policy as capitalist wealth inequality, drone policy as U.S. war crimes, massive surveillance as violation of rights, or defense of ugly Israeli occupation as immoral domination. For example, none of the black or white neo-liberals who coronate Coates say that 500 Palestinian babies killed by U.S. supported Israeli forces in 50 days or U.S. drones killing over 200 babies are crimes against humanity. Yet they cry crocodile tears when black folk are murdered by U.S. police.

Unlike Baldwin, Coates gives them this hypocritical way out -- with no cost to pay, risk to take, or threat to their privilege because of his political silence on these issues. I love Coates' obsession with Baldwin's beautiful prose, and Coates does have beautiful moments too. Baldwin's beauty is profoundly soulful, wise and eager to inspire others.

Coates' beauty is deliberately nerdy, smart and draws attention to itself. Hence, Coates' obsession with beauty weakens the Baldwin-like truths of resistance to be told or the Baldwin-like goodness tied to social hope. Like a Blues man or Jazz woman, Baldwin offers his whole blood-drenched and tear-soaked soul in words and sounds to an incomplete world, whereas Coates offers his well-crafted words with a sad spectatorial self to a doomed world. In this Age of Ferguson, we indeed need different voices, yet the most needful voices should be Baldwin-like all the way down and all the way LIVE!" --Dr. Cornel West, July 20 at 6:00 a.m.

---------------

Of course it still irks me that Cornel's camp posts this stuff on Facebook. The very idea that they would continue to enrich the plutocracy is completely incongruous with his mission.  I mean West could post these things here and enrich an AALBC.com.  But I guess the thinking is that more people will read it on Facebook.  The tools of the oligarchy will never serve us...

 

Another Brother surprisingly active on Facebook, Ishmael Reed, shared the following in reaction: "black opinion in the east is owned by billionaires conde nast (the new yorker), right winger and ALEC supporter Brian Roberts (msnbc) and and chris hughes (the new republic) they set the trends and a large part of black intelligentsia sheepishly go along with the trends that they set.your problems began before this controversy. you denounce farrakhan and they'll let you back in." --Ishmael Reed, July 20 at 6:29 p.m.

 

Why is it lost on Brothers, like Reed, that posting his opinion (one I strongly agree with) on Facebook actually makes the condition he described worse?  Image if I had to visit the Chicago Defender's website or the Amsterdam News website to read his reaction.  Again I guess the thinking is no one would engage him there.

I know the quote from West is from three weeks ago, but I was think about his comments and decided to go see if he had anything to add.  This past weekend I was in St Louis and got to hear Walter Mosley speak.  Mosley mentioned West's reaction to Coates and essentially said that West was jealous that the younger Coates was getting attention that he felt he deserved.  Now I think Mosley is a brilliant man, but his explanation of West's reaction seemed far too simplistic.  Besides, West is only 62 years old!

 

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IMO, Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, etc., are vehicles that provide their posters and pundits with a broad, diverse audience, and this exposure offers an added bonus of a trickle-down effect that makes their opinions the subject for discussion on second-tier forums.  Yes, these "perks" are trade-offs that involve a degree of exploitation but this, too, impacts on a broad cross section of users; not just Blacks. The movers and shakers of America's media exist in a rarified atmosphere that thrives on power and control.  In a perfect world, things would be different and nice guys wouldn't finish last. This is a bitter pill to swallow but - it does regulate one's predisposition to think that Life is fair.

Cornel West imagines himself an Oracle and his ego gets bruised when upstarts don't conform to the criteria he has established making himself the standard by which other pretenders should be measured. With the exception that West is brilliant, his mind-set is not that different from Donald Trump's.

   

Edited by Cynique

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Chris, perhaps Mosley is right (at least based upon my paraphrasing of what he said).  But I think it is actually more complex than that.  I think Reed's advice to West above is more indicative of the problem that frustrates West; "You denounce Farrakhan and they'll let you back in."  

Listen no one reasonable, Morrison's blurb aside, would suggest Coates is the equivalent of Baldwin. Indeed no one would even suggest that Coates is West's intellectual peer.  

However since we control nothing the folks in power can appoint anyone they like.  They have anointed Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I think this, fundamentally is what West takes issue with.  

Sure, West has been further marginalized as a result and because of this, it is easy to say this is the only reason for his reaction.  I think this is a mistake, because the man has decades of demonstrated commitment to the Black community.  It is hard to read West's Race Matters and assume his reaction is that simple.

West was one of the few progressive Black men or prominence to critically critique the Obama administration.  Black people vilified West for that saying he was jealous.  Again it is not that simple.  

If we allow voices like West to be shut out, who then will speak honestly to Black peoples concerns? Al Sharpton, President Obama, who?

I completely disagree, on several levels, with West's approach regarding Coates, but I can not attribute his reaction to simple jealousy alone.  Again it is not that simple.

Of course those in control of the media would be happy to have us believe such a simplistic rational it serves their agenda and we are simple enough to buy it.

Cynique given that way West is portrayed in the media, I could very easily see why you might say he is no different than Donald Trump, but again I've seen him in action far too many times to draw the same conclusion

 

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I love Cynique's statement, "making himself the standard by which other pretenders should be measured." That literally sums up my thoughts on this. West may have created a dialogue and he has spent an incredible amount of time building his persona and portfolio, but I don't think for a second that he did so selflessly with only the regard of Blacks as his goal. He may have initially, but his pauper appearance belies and incredibly wealthy guy who has more in common with those he rails against than those he "fights" for.

He collects very big checks for his lectures and discussions on race and diversity. When another person encroaches on this area, the alpha will always become defensive to save its territory. Coates is affecting West's pockets. In my eyes it is very simple. Most things in life are really simple, we choose to assign complexities. 

Race is about control. Racism is about control. It is that simple.

West's commentary is about losing footing. It is that simple. Why do I say this? I realize the unfortunate fact that in the Black community only 1 of us is chosen to be the voice of the people. That's how the greater society keeps us in our place and we allow it because we give all of our power to the media. West realizes that as Coates becomes the flavor of the month, his light begins to dwindle. That is all this is about in my view.

I won't address the fact that Facebook dominates the conversation. Anywhere the people are will be given importance over everything else all of the time. We can only keep pushing. We are all Sisyphus.

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Why, Troy, do you always bend over backwards to excuse or support Cornel West, yet give such short shrift to Obama who is not exactly a lightweight? Or Al Sharpton who is a gritty black spokesman.They are also examples that are not so simple to explain away.  Just because Obama and Sharpton eskew the intellectual rhetoric and theory that West spews doesn't make them totally ineffective.  They, instead, pick their battles, antagonizing and frustrating and exposing Conservative Republicans as the fools that they are. Cornel West with all of his bedazzling didactism  doesn't get any better results.

Also, why do you implicitly discredit Toni Morrison's assertions about Ta-Nehisi Coates, and dutifully embrace the substance of Cornel West's critique of him, while apologizing for the style of it.  It's like your being acquainted with him has turned you into a Cornel West groupie and you think he can do no wrong.  Which doesn't make you that much different from the die-hard Obama fans who disgust you.

Edited by Cynique
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Chris, my friend, the devil is always in the details. Life is never simple.  

Racism in America may be about power but most racists here are actually ignorant and powerless. In fact, it is our collective unwillingness to understand these complexities that prevents us from fixing many of our problems, including the issue of race.

Of course West has a profit motive--and he should-- but it would be naive to suggest that is his only motive.  West, like you and I could be doing a great many other things to make more money, but only shallow, greedy people are motivated solely by money.  I do not think West is that shallow.  

Sure if West sees perspectives like his as being important, and his perspective is being shut out by the power that be I understand his reaction.

Cynique, it does not take too much bending over backwards to support West, I've seen him in action too many times when there were no cameras around.  The man strikes me as genuinely interested in improving the position of all poor people.  I will not dismiss West's contributions for single bizarre Facebook post.  

I think there is a big difference between my support of West and blind support of Obama.  I have been highly critical of West's treatment of Coates.  Obama sycophants behave as if Obama is beyond critique.

But let me flip the question to you Cynique;  Do you (or anyone out there) believe, as Morrison suggests the Ta-Nehisi Coates is the only brother with the capacity to fill the "intellectual void" left by Baldwin's passing almost 30 years ago? 

To even take seriously that there was an intellectual void since Baldwin passed is absurd on it's face.  

But again, since we do not control our narrative the voices of people Dr. Yosef “Dr. Ben” Ben-Jochannan, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Ivan Van Sertima who were very much alive and kicking when Baldwin passed have been relegated to obscurity.  It is not just West's voice being marginalized.  It is anyone's voice that is for the people.

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You know, Troy, the longer I live, the less impressed I am with people who I am supposed to put on a pedestal and regard with awe, and I am even less fazed by the self-appointed critics who tell me I should put such people on a pedestal and hold them in awe.The words of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Cornel West, TaNehisi Coates are supposed respire with brilliance and wisdom and expertise. Or are they just the dense verbiage of the anointed literati passing off their opinions as fact? 

Cornel West cares about the poor.  Does he put his money where his mouth is?What is the narrative in regard to the black experience, which is very diverse.  Who are the "people"?  Them or us?  What is control and is it better than chaos?  Do black lives matter? Or do they degenerate into anti-matter? Who knows? Words  words words. Meaningless sounds and syllables which if repeatedly uttered, morph into gibberish. 

So, screw Morrison, Baldwin, West, and Coates, et al.  Their garrulous angst and analyses don't solve problems.  Problems solve themselves because life is a state of flux and nothing stays the same - except change.

Tuesday, August 18th will be my 82nd birthday and, to me, America is a toilet, Americans are pissed off, and I don't give a shit. Can you say Existentialism???   :P

Edited by Cynique
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I can only hope to capture language and place it on the screen in the way Cynique does!!!!! Troy, complex issues are often very simple. I don't say this lightly. I say this with a lot of life experience in this very short time on Earth. We truly do love to make things a lot more complicated than they actually are. We do it every day. I do realize that there are factors which shape how things happen, but in general we can't control those factors. That doesn't mean it's complex, it just means there are factors we can't control.

 I don't know West, but I have seen him in action at conferences where he earned 50K to speak about racism. Every man has a right to earn, and I can't say what he does away from the camera, but in front of it he's just another person telling everyone what he feels is correct.

The only thing we can agree on here is that the media controls who establishes Blackness in America.

There are thousands of intellectuals around. We meet them everyday. They are our college professors, local small biz people and those who allow us to live our lives on a daily basis. Anyone who provides me with information that makes my life more compelling is an intellectual. There has never been a void. There has simply been a shifting figurehead for Blacks in America. Black folks are the inhabitants of the Matrix and the greater society supplies us with The One. We accept it and those of us who don't know how to look for information accept The One without questioning. That is the way it is and the way I think it will always be.

I always return to the same spot in these conversations...Real solutions happen at the grassroots level and while West and Coates may describe what is happening and keep Whites happy they ultimately accomplish very little for the people who need it most.

Edited by CDBurns
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I'm glad and honored Cynique still shares her words and wisdom on this site.  

Chris I guess it is my technical self that feels nothing is simple and that the world is complex.  Raising a family, maintaining this website, navigating this world in such a way that one's life is fulfilling are all complex endeavors.  

Sure there are aspects that one can not control, there are even factors we are unaware of, but all of this adds to the complexity.  

Is ending racism simple Chris?  If so, what is the simple solution?

I know West works at the grassroots level.  I also know he often speaks for free.  As Ish Reed suggested, West indeed be out because he is not making white folks happy, by embracing Minister Farrakhan, criticizing President Obama and the like.  In the old days they assassinated you today they just marginalize you..

Check out Michelle Alexander's review in the Aug. 17, 2015 New York Times Book Review

I had to read “Between the World and Me” twice before I was able to decide whether Coates actually did what I expected and hoped he would. He did not. Maybe that’s a good thing.

It seems Michelle is effectively saying Coates Between the World and Me is no The Fire Next Time; stopping short of saying he is no Baldwin.

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The simple solution is one I've used at schools and in business discussions. Try for the first time in the history of Blacks to maintain a strong family unit. There has never at any time in our history been a strong family unit. Societal and political factors play a part of course, but if you want schools to get better, all it takes is parental involvement. I know this because I've taught at the poorest school in Mississippi 50 kids in each class and I saw those kids perform and many of them are now in college and doing very well. I've taught in one of the most economically challenged and diverse schools in California and I saw those kids all pretty much refugees overcome through family. They of course weren't Black, they were African, Latino and Asian but their families were powerful, broke, struggling, but committed. 

As poor as they were, those kids actually had families. Stop worrying about the world and get back to building. We absolutely can not control anything outside of our family. 

So my answer to ending racism... f--k racism and keep it moving and rebuild families. If it's bringing granny back into the home, or having two moms, people have to start loving these kids man. A loved kid can accomplish incredible things. That is as simple as it gets. I have to ask you why is that Cynique's generation kicked so much ass and ours isn't? I know damn well things were much, much worse and the resources were twice as limited so tell me Troy why aren't we doing better with so much more available to us?

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Chris the reason why aren't we doing better, "with so much more available to us", is simplewe don't have much more available.  There is the illusion that we have more available, but the data tell a completely different story. 

Plus, don't for one second think that kids are loved less today than in Cynique's time or before.  Most parents love their children.  They may be ill suited to raise them properly, and must navigate a hostile environment, but the problem is not a lack of love.  

Man the game is rigged.  Perhaps in a much more profound way than it was in Cynique's day.  Do you realize that our parents generation could, with a high school diploma earn enough with a single salary to raise a family.  Today two college educated parents with two jobs struggle to do the same thing--especially in our larger cities like New York.

Do you know that college in our parents day was relatively inexpensive or even free--and the quality of the education was better!  Do you know that kids who manage to go to college often come out with crippling debt and that a private school education is $200K or more?!

I know you know we lock up more Black men and women today as a percentage of our population than ever before!  Police are killing us at a rate higher than all than any period after slavery.

Chris, I would not be so convinced that we have so much at our disposal than Cyniques generation.  I would argue than things are far worse today.  Bringing back granny into the home will not change a thing.

Cynique, would you have preferred to raise your family in 2015? 

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I get what you're saying, but don't agree. There is no way in the hell that I would drive through Mississippi 40 years ago. Now I do a ton of business in Mississippi. In regard to two college educated people, the only reason two people can't live well is because they have made decisions to both have jobs so that they can have more things. No one is willing to sacrifice their educations for the betterment of their families. My wife has a terminal degree and so do I. She has been a stay at home and god knows we've struggled very hard while I was in education, but we made it on one salary. A professor's base salary of 30,000 a year so all that you are saying to me falls on dead ears because I've lived it. I've just recently become comfortable and it's because of my sneaker business. 

We aren't willing to sacrifice, or move or relocate. We want to stick to our guns and tough it out, or work two jobs to have more things. When the reality is if we sacrifice the hedonistic things we have we could save more and do more. I didn't live through Jim Crow, Sharecropping, Civil rights, but I have to imagine that things were far worse for us then, than they are now. Hell with a smart phone and time, you can learn and read almost any book in the world. How we use what we have now is the issue, but to me we definitely have a lot more than we have ever had at our disposal. I mean take for instance the poorest school in every district has books and computers. What more do you need?

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Ok, I'll buy that argument, but only to a point.  Because in reality it is not either or but a combination.

Now NY City has is home to over 2 million Black people.  Someone making $30K would have to spend ALL of that salary to have a decent place to live.  Throw in a 2nd person and a couple of kids and you are living in POVERTY--I don't care how frugal you are.  If you double that by sending the 2nd parent to work you are better off but not not twice as better; cause now you're in a different tax bracket and qualify for less aid, have the additional expense of child care, commuting, etc, you see my point.

But using your logic every Black person living in NY City, making under 30 grand a year ,needs to go to someplace to live like Mississippi.  Of course the devil is in the details and this is much easy to say that to do.  First you need car outside major cities and second you need a job. The last time I looked job prospects in many of these lower cost of living locales were not looking too bright especially for brown folks.

Also people are sacrificing now.  There are millions of people who will never travel abroad (the majority of American's have not even bothered to get a passport), stay in a fancy hotel, or even eat a fine restaurant.  Their kids are at the mercy of the shitty public schools. The best part of the day may be watching TV or goofing around on social media with a beer or a joint...

Man you are I are smart and have decent educations, plus you have the added benefit of being fiscally responsible, but the vast majority of folks in this country will never know what it means to make more than $100k a year or even have the capacity to enjoy Toni Morrison's Beloved.

Shoot I wish less people had smart phones. They are not used as tools to enlighten they are used by corporation to generate revenue.  People spend the majority of time using facebook.  Some folks are--even folks of modest means are spending well over $100 every month to a damn smart phone and "upgrading" them every year or two.

And don't get me started on computers in the public schools.

Man I'm beginning to rant, but this is serious stuff and it pisses me off to see us in this condition :angry:

What more do we need? Man I don't even know where to begin.  Maybe I just need to spend more time in FL... I did not get to go this summer.:(  

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Believe it or not, this is a subject i don't have an opinion about.  Some things were better in my early days and some things are better in the twilight of my life.  Upon reaching 82, what is interesting to me is the realization that during the time and the places and the years that I have been around, all of the calamitous things that were happening in the country and to black people did not have a great impact on my day to day personal life, which has always been stable. It's like I have been observing the world from the vantage point of a spectator.  My detachment is not something I'm proud of, but for some reason whoever was president, whichever war was being fought, whatever shape the economy was in, or whatever racial issue were trending, I was always able to stay under the radar if I so chose, which I often did.  Other times my involvement was limited strictly to commentary. Racism never greatly inconvenienced me, possibly because i didn't aim for the sky but led an uncomplicated mid-level existence. The angst of people like Ta-Nehisi Coates strikes me as the breast beating of a black man lamenting because he's not white. One thing I hate about black conservative Republicans is that they are like carbon copies of white people.

The things that have shaped my nonchalance undoubtedly include how I've actually never been called a nigger to my face.  Any racial discrimination I encountered I blew off  because it was always subtle and because I was never particularly interested in integrating with white people, or being where I wasn't wanted just to break racial barriers.  I left the boat-rocking to the social activists, who I would encourage with words of approval. Oddly enough white people would reach out to me, almost as if my indifference to them was a challenge.They tended to want to make me an example of how unprejudiced they were. Maybe they perceived my nonchalance as non threatening.

 Within my own race, my color or anybody else's color was never a big deal to me and the fact that I didn't suck up to white people was something other Blacks seemed to appreciate.  I wonder how  atypical my black experience is? I have not ruled out the possibility that the way I have dealt with being black is a defense mechanism because I never wanted to give whites the satisfaction of thinking their acceptance mattered to me. But,  even as a child,  I always felt that racial discrimination was white people's loss not mine.

 

 

Edited by Cynique
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Cynique would you care to elaborate on the things that you feel were better in you day than today and vice-versa.

It would be interesting to know how typically your life is.  I'd be willing to bet it is more typical that and certainly nicer than someone growing up in a modern day ghetto. 

I have dealt with overt racism on many occasions including being called nigger and having rocks thrown at me by white people because I walking in the the wrong neighborhood. Whether it was interactions with police or in corporate America; I experienced overt racism first hand.  But I have also experienced generosity from white folks too, 

On the other side of the coin I have been robbed (as a kid with my mom) by gunpoint, knifepoint, have had my car stolen and broken into numerous times, and I have had a place I was living broken into,  I've been jumped by gangs as a kid (narrowly escaping both times by running). Relatively speaking I was pretty lucky compared to some of my peers fared much worse.  All of these crimes were done against me by other Black people (the car stuff I can't be certain about, but white folks don't generally come into the hood to break into cars).

In my day there were more jobs and the schools were better.  People coming out of da 'hood had a fighting chance.  Today, looking around, it appears to be much more difficult for the kids coming behind me, despite technology, despite a Black president, despite Black Twitter, and despite a lack of Jim Crow laws. 

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You might find it interesting that when I re-read my post, the first thought that came to my mind was that I forgot to acknowledge that the life I described as living could be summed up in one word: "sheltered". I obviously led a sheltered existence, tucked away in a little Chicago suburb where my formative years were insulated by the apathy and naiveness of the 1950s. As time passed, and the protest movement became full blown, instead of taking the dive and getting in the swim, I stood on the bank and watched, and analyzed.  I can only attribute this reaction to my core personality which tends to be that of a passive-aggressive individual.  So on further consideration, I would not judge my black experience as being typical.

Some of the things that were better back in my day were how schools were places where kids actually had a respect for authority and an appreciation for smartness, and teaching the fundamentals was a priority as opposed to elevating test scores.  How a sense of shame still existed and a teen aged girl getting pregnant was not celebrated by planning a big shower equivalent to a sweet 16 party or how doing a stint in jail didn't give you "street" credentials.  How pop music was romantic and dance-friendly, not the angry, profane accompaniment for booting shakin.  How reading books was still a pass time and being a good conversationalist was an asset. And the absence of TV reality shows and their air-head participants.  And how important the family unit was and how, indeed, a village raised a child, and beefs were settled with fisticuffs that ended with a handshake and perhaps a friend for life.  How people took pride in a job well done and didn't have a problem with giving a day's work for a day's pay, just glad to have a job. How when it came to race relations, black folks voluntarily "stayed in their place" not so much because they were intimidated by white people but because their place was so much more fun and hipper and - better...Then there were the role models and martyred heroes.  They were not murdered rappers or offenders with warrants whose resumes have to be sanitized.  The police?  Well, unfortunately, they have always been hard on Blacks as has the justice system. Most of all, how drugs had not ravaged the hood, and spawned an escalation of crime and violence. 

What's better nowadays is that the standard of living has improved thanks to the conveniences and technologies of the computerized age. Then there's the breaking down of racial and sexual barriers when it comes to certain fields of employment. I'm trying to think of more things that are better now but, -  too much of what comes to mind are superficial things that have not improved the quality of life, just made shallow pursuits more accessible

When it comes to politics and racism, the more things changed the more they became the same.   

Edited by Cynique
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Troy and I had similar childhoods/young adult hoods. I was a part of the first group of kids that were bussed to all white schools in Memphis. I went to jail/juvi in the same week, lol. Not as a rite of passage, but because of my inability to deal with my own smarts. (confusing I know) Even with all of the things I've gone through, having a gun put to my head and a misfire, being stolen from, to stealing, selling things I had no business selling, I made it out okay.

Troy, I will use what Cynique just wrote and say that what she has expressed is why I don't believe in the argument that things are worse. The time she lived through can't be compared to any part of what we are encountering. We have lanes available that were not available. As she said kids respected school and took advantage of the little they had. Today kids don't. I don't buy that it's the system or crappy schools. All a good teacher needs is a willing student and a book. My 20 years of education taught me that.

In regard to leaving the big city and coming down south... MAN THERE ARE JOBS EVERYWHERE, people in the south make a very conscious decision to not pursue employment or to not take jobs they consider demeaning. I can only speak for the tri-state area of Memphis, North Mississippi, and West Memphis Arkansas. North Mississippi has one of the fastest growing areas in the country with a lot of jobs. Memphis is the distribution hub. It's the only place I've witnessed a 60 year old woman get 5 jobs in the last 3 months simply trying to figure out where she wants to work in retirement. The jobs she took were young people's jobs primarily and the only reason she didn't keep the job she liked was due to the hours. (This is my mother in law I'm talking about). I'm not saying living in San Diego or New York on 30K is something that can be done, but I lived in San Diego with a wife and a son on 30K. We lived in an apartment, we didn't save much money, and we lived in a gang neighborhood, but we lived okay on one income. Was this because I had the best childhood? No. We simply learned that we couldn't get all of the things we wanted. We sacrificed. Others around us struggled more because they wanted the new car, the trips and the nice things that represented living well.

We are obviously looking at things from two different points of view. I don't care about racism and politics. I don't think it stops me as much as I stop myself. I also look at people in poverty as unwilling to adapt and change because I've been so involved in those communities. I can give all the breakdowns in the world, but the best example I can give is my next door neighbor. They are an Asian family who immigrated here. 3 families lived in the same house. They all worked crappy jobs (nails, auto repair, cell phone sales). They all paid the same amount on the mortgage. These three families paid their mortgage off in 3 years from low paying jobs. Two of the families moved out and another family immigrated in. They moved down the street into a foreclosed home. Those three families paid the mortgage on this foreclosed home and paid it off in three years. They moved to a third house and did the same thing with the last immigrated family. In the ten years we've been in Memphis these folks have become owners of three properties. They took a loan against the first house and started their own business. There wasn't a white man, or the system or any of that which prevented them from doing what they did. They cosigned for each other and helped each other and they lived below their means.

Black folks can't even live in the same house bro. When I was a kid we had 6 people living in a 2 bedroom apartment in the projects. That would never happen today. We no longer live near each other. The nuclear family and extended family is dead. This takes me right back to where I was when I say, fix the family and many of our problems go away.

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Thanks Cynique.  It seems I'm just old enough to remember the things you are talking about. Shame, respect for elders, romantic music, etc.  I really wish we could bring back shame, it seems we live in a world where pretty much anything is tolerated, save shooting a lion.  Thank God child molestation is still frowned upon, if you are not too big a celebrity.

Speaking about good conversations I was at a wedding last Saturday and you could easily spot the different generations.  Younger folks (under 40) were buried in their cell phones the whole evening. When one woman's battery died, she found an outlet and every few minutes or so went back to her phone.  As far as I could tell, they enjoyed the wedding by sharing photos and engaging with folks that were not there.  They also laughed and shared unrelated photos and jokes, (all via facebook).  I would have prefered we all were truly present with each other, but I guess younger folks find that boring...

On a related issue, I've noticed how couples don't dance together as much anymore.  I've been to three big events in the last two weekends and at all the events either the women danced in groups, or everyone (women mostly) did a line dance.  Will the Electric Slide ever die?

I've also noticed in many events, whether it is a wedding, publishing event, whatever, women outnumber men.  Perhaps that is why women have taken to dancing with each other.

I know that is a serious digression, but feels somewhat related...

Chris, what specifically is wrong with the family that you would like to fix?

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My primary problem is the lack of investment into kids. Not financial, social and emotional investment. Parents and the neighborhood used to be invested in the kids. You honestly couldn't walk two houses without having to speak to an elder. When I say family it's not just the nuclear family that I'm discussing it is the extended family as well. Parents no longer hold kids accountable. Parents use the same language and mannerisms as their kids. Parents just aren't truly present in their kids lives. Although my mom worked two jobs, she was present and I knew I was loved and I actually heard it, although I wasn't reinforced to follow my passions because she didn't know what they were. The parents I see and hear today will tell their kids to F--K off and that they are done raising them at 18 before they ask their kids what they love. Kids today can't show respect or care and consideration because their parents don't teach it. What I want is an investment into the kids out of the parents. I want the parents to know what their kids are capable of. This will require, once again, someone staying in the home, mom or dad, and learning what the interests are and nurturing it. When someone is available and present kids are less likely to end up in bad situations. This will also require people to find away to be together for their kids which is a completely different subject.

Edited by CDBurns
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OK I see why I was not with you; I was still focused on the family.  What you are really describing Chris is the culture; which families reflect.  You do have families today doing all the right things, but those efforts are thwarted, or at best best diminished by a culture that works against everything we need for a stable and strong family.

So while we can debate about which generation had it easier than the other, the one constant is that we always operated in a hostile environment. 

What is indeed different is the culture which results in many families ill equipped to deal with the environment--I'm with you on that. Lack of education and a low class mentality would cripple anyone in a the environment we are in today.  The folks running around today would never have survived the Jim Crow era...

Cynique made a good point about a teen aged girl getting pregnant.  I remember when that was embarrassing, people were ashamed of it.  The pregnant teen would be sent down south. Today it is baby showers galore, but the crazy thing is that the public school system facilitates the behavior by providing free onsite childcare in some of the school public schools!  

While we made fun of the brainiacs, or kids who "talked white," but God help you if you got left back! The ridicule would be relentless, No one wanted to repeat a grade. That meant you were stupid. Today there are schools where the majority of students flunk, not just a few classes, but and entire grade--and it is no big deal; because it has become par for the course.

I could go on and on with examples but our culture is screwed and trust me rich white folks know it. I believe that is why they are hoarding wealth.

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