I have a dear friend for over 25 years. I love him but since we have been adults he’s been pissing me off. See, my boy is scared of being an adult. Every time it seems he is close to getting things in order he intentionally does something crazy to go right back to square one. I can’t describe how I felt when he called me Saturday morning asking me to come and pick up some of his personal belongings from where he was staying. Before I headed over to help him I wanted to know exactly what these people who have treated him like family could have done to make him so pissed off he was willing to take his things and sleep in his car. He gave me some of those vague reasons about people messing over him and he won’t be disrespected and all that jazz. After about twenty minutes of conversation he finally got to the real reason. He said “Cliff, seems like my life has been more difficult since I started walking the straight and narrow trying to do this responsible thing instead of hustling. It was more fun when I was doing what I wanted to do.” That’s when I had to snap a little and reply “who in the hell told you this responsible shit was easy and fun?” I love my boy but I wanted to kick his ass. Just how long did he think other people would make it ok for him to act like a teenager. It’s not my job to make things comfortable enough for you to go out and live the care free life that I can’t. Especially when you are grown and have kids. Stand up and handle your business.
While I was pissed with him I understood at the same time. You can be fooled by these cats out here who seem to be stuck in adolescence but I am not. They know exactly what they are doing. The hardest thing in this world to be is a responsible man with a regular or little income. It’s easier to act like you don’t care so people will leave you alone. The pressure is great because when you try to make everything work without the proper resources the main person that will have to suffer and sacrifice is yourself. I don’t care what you see on television, there is no fun in that. I love and respect my dad for everything he ever did for me. There hasn’t been a day in my life to go by where I didn’t think he was there for me. I was blessed to have him around and we talked about everything. Not once do I ever remember him telling me the joyous feeling of getting up every morning and jumping on his truck with his college degree to work for people he was probably smarter than just to come home and still be short of money. He did it everyday but the reality of it is that somewhere along the line he could have easily left and lived his life without half of the stress he endured trying to support a wife and five kids. He did it and he was great at it but it wasn’t a carnival either.
That’s when I realize how little progress we are going to make without being totally honest with ourselves. We have to change our measurement of manhood. I feel like I am part of that group of real men stuck in the middle of the spectrum who know one speaks for. You have these rappers and entertainers marketing how cool it is to get out here and hustle for a living destroying your community instead of working for an honest living. The real hustle is doing it without hurting anyone. At the same time you have these elitists like Cliff Huxtable and Barak Obama acting like it’s too easy to make it right. They speak as if all these cats have to do is wake up one morning, decide they are going to get a good job, knock on their kids door and reunite the family after years of neglect and that’s going to turn the world into a paradise. If it worked like that then there wouldn’t be this crisis. Stop simplifying what is really a complicated situation. We would do much better telling these cats the truth.
Start when they are old enough to listen to you. Tell them that they may have to buy their clothes from Wal Mart instead of the fashion store if they don't have enough cash. Tell them that they may have to train themselves to give that last hundred dollars to pay bills and stay home for a few weeks until you get caught up again. Tell them that you may have to take more crap than you normally would on a job because your goal is to make sure you get that check to keep the lights on. You might have to work two of them. Tell them about all the issues that are going to come up they didn’t cause but still have to take care of. Tell them about all the friends who are not doing what they are but seem to be having all the fun and getting with all the women and you have to ignore that. Tell them that the woman they fall in love with may have never seen this kind of man before you and she might treat you like a dead beat and wait for you to walk out everyday without even taking notice of what you are trying to do for her and sometimes her kids. Tell them that you may do all of this for years with nothing to show for it and as rough as that may sound you still have to try and keep moving forward. That’s the kind of man I fix a plate of food and buy a drink for. Now, if you can work through those rough spots here and there life actually gets easier and rewarding. Too many brothers never get to realize this because they are too busy trying to live up to some cosmetic image and can't focus on making things right.
Dr. Huxtable and Barak should add that to their speeches. I guess that's just too much everyday black man reality for most folks. Even black people don‘t want to deal with it. Meanwhile, we have too many cats like my boy who is 34 years old but wants so bad for people to treat him like he’s 17 so it’s ok for him not to have to do the stuff he should be and messing up my Saturday morning moving furniture.