Thursday, June 16, 2005

Open Letter

Hello Gentleman,

Two weeks ago a 16 year old was shot by sheriff's deputies when he tried to put the stolen truck he was driving into reverse. He was hit sixteen times. That is one bullet for every year of his wasted life. The news cameras were on the seen as his friends, dressed like they were going to a BBQ, carried his body to his final resting place. I couldn't help but to be overwhelmed by the words of his father looking into the camera and giving all young brothers notice that they were being hunted. That may be true, but he also should have said there is no way he should not have known where his son was that late at night. Where was his acceptance of responsibility in the matter? When I was 16 there was no way I would have been far away from home in a stolen truck that late at night. The reason is really pretty basic; my daddy would have killed me instead of the sheriffs.
Sunday is Father's Day and I am always intrigued at how little fanfare there is for it compared to Mother's Day in the Black community. There's good reason for it. Fellas, we are not taking care of business like we are supposed to. We are not reinforcing the image of a positive male presence. Sure, mom can teach you manners, and respect but it's ten times more powerful if you see a man that looks like you doing some of the things she is trying to tell you about. If she tells you to respect women and be an honest man, it does no good if daddy beats her up and steals the rent money to get high. Boys and girls feed off of what they see other people around them do. If there are brothers around to validate the words then the actions are set in motion. As a good friend told me this week concerning her son, "no matter how manly I tell him he is, it takes a man to activate that masculinity."
I had one of the best mothers a man could have. Allot of my characteristics are hers. She thought me allot about life and being a good man and a good person. As a man however, there are some things I learned were ok for a man to do without losing a hint of masculinity because of my daddy. I learned it is ok to be educated. It is ok to dance. It is ok to show affection. It is ok to play with your children and have a good time. Every now and then it is ok to be a little silly. It is ok to cook, clean and even sometimes follow your wife’s lead without feeling like less of a man. Clifton taught me all of that and I didn’t have to go around the city looking for him to do it. Every day for 25 years when I woke up in the morning he was in the same house. I am 31 years old and still learning from the man. I am blessed. Not only did I have my daddy with me every single day of my childhood, I also had my grandfather and uncles to show me things and give me lessons in life. While I had one great dad and 5 or 6 other strong men around me, most young brothers don't have one. It doesn't even have to be their biological fathers. If only a few brothers in the community would take some of their cousins, nephews, friend's children, or neighbors under their wing and helped them out things would be much better. There have been toomany years of us sitting back and letting everything that's going on spiral out of control. We can't wait until our sons are in their teens running wild to step in and try being in charge. By then, they have no respect for any type of authority. That's why we have young boys shooting at the police over a traffic stop and beating up their
teachers. They have no fear of anything. We can't wait until our daughters are 16, expecting their 3rd child and sliding down the stripper pole to try and step in to show her what real love from a man is supposed to be. It's too late by then.
We have too many excuses black men. Being a father is basic stuff. The notion you have to be a college graduate and make 50K a year tobe a good dad is not true. All of that stuff does is enhance your material possessions and has nothing to do with how your kids will turn out. Too many of us are sitting around all day feeling sorry for ourselves and punishing everybody around us for our own shortcomings.
My grandfather lived 89 years as a black man in the South with little education. He was married for 68 years and raised 5 children successfully. He passed away seeing all of his kids, grandkids and great grandkids living productive lives. In the 30 years I shared the Earth with him and got the privilege to talk to the man, I never heard him make an excuse for anything. He could have looked around one day at his five children, thought about the fact that he might need to work day and night to feed them since he only had a fourth grade education and just packed up and left. He could have been focused on all the personal things he wouldn't be able to do since he had to provide for them and left. He never did. As a matter of fact he raised some of his grandchildren too. The point is that a real man makes no excuses about being responsible. He just gets up and does it. Your reward is in the lives that your children lead, and if that's your only success in life that should be enough. We have let outside forces dictate to us what makes us a man. We don't walk as tall as we should because we feel the need to be validated by someone or something. We have to validate ourselves. No one can do it for us. Our women can't do it. Money can't do it. Television can't do it. Only we can do that. One thing we need to do is stop placing an emphasis on being cool with everything. Everything we do is not cool gentleman. We are now accustomed to being negative and ignorant. If you need some help distinguishing what is cool and what is not let me help you. It is not cool to curse around or disrespect the elderly. It is not cool to either have a baby and not take responsibility or have one and abuse it. It is not cool for grown ass men to prey on little girls and take their innocence. It is not cool to run around with your pants by your knees exposing yourselves to all the sisters. It is not cool to be violent or kill another brother over anything except the safety or your family. It is not cool to be a brother on the DL infecting the future mothers of our race; and it is definitely not cool to celebrate being uneducated, addicted or incarcerated. We are cheating ourselves out of so many great things that life has to offer. Many of us are so content with nothing it erases all hope in things getting better. Our flaws and shortcomings are not pre determined. Some are not our fault but it does not matter. Just like Walter Harris, all you have to do is get up and do it. Our women will help us if we put forth the effort. No sister wants to sit around and carry the weight of an adult male that is not making an attempt to carry himself like a grown man. We have to carry and conduct ourselves as men first and everyone else will give us the proper respect. That means taking care of our own homes and neighborhoods. As my daddy likes to say, in this world we live in, you will only be given a small space to rule and you have to do what you can to make it the best it can be. The bottom line is that until we take care of our own, no one outside our community will ever respect us for the kings we were born to be and there will be more fathers like that deceased brother's father trying to figure out what went wrong. Until we do better, the hunting continues.


Dedicated to my daddy, Clifton Joseph Harris

Rest in Peace Walter Harris and Leroy Baker

No comments: