One of the most common refrains I remember from the many Sunday School sessions I participated in at Mount Calvary Baptist Church was a partial warning embedded in Proverbs 23:7; “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” This scripture has not only transformed into the popular saying of “as a man thinketh, so shall he be,” but also was created to remind the parishioners of Mount Calvary Baptist Church to be mindful of the language they use in the public arena. This lesson admonishes African-Americans to never behave in a manner that would lead to a black eye being cast upon the race. Such an occurrence would validate the saying that ‘a little bit of bad (your individual behavior) will tear down a whole lot of good (all of the race’s achievements).’
As an African-American male there is an ever present fear that my image will be tarnished by the actions/activities/words/conduct of any African-American, however, that concern is particularly daunting in regards to fellow African-American males. This fear leads me to speak against such foolishness. They fail to realize that their niggardly behavior is an anomaly amongst persons of African descent. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly rare for me to be anywhere public and not witness/hear behavior/language that makes me pause.
Somewhere along the way disrespectful behavior and nearly indecipherable boorish language became synonymous with being an African-American male. It appears that there is an extreme imbalance between the numbers of educated, articulate, and socially adjusted African-American males and their adversaries who not only fail to possess any of those qualities, their absence of social graces or civilized behavior is on full display when they attempt to take the best of our race to task for proper diction and enunciation, not to mention their educational achievements and pursuit of legitimate careers. Although it appears obvious the more assured path to success, unfortunately, the niggardly road that is increasingly sought out and traveled by African-American males appears to be the more seductive of the two roads.
Making matters worse is the reality that the aforementioned behavior extends well beyond mere language and actions. The alluded to incivility now affects the manner that many African-American youth and young adults present themselves. It appears that for this latest generation there is little understanding of the purpose of clothing. For many of our young men, even those on collegiate campuses, there appears to be an endless contest to determine who can show the most underwear without their pants falling to the ground.
Although many of our youth would prefer that my generation turn our heads and ignore their displays of incivility, unfortunately, I am unable to ignore their offensive language, inappropriate dress, or gross absence of common sense for one simple reason; this nation’s dastardly record on racial matters has inextricably linked me, and my socially adjusted child, to their foolishness. Although there are few certainties regarding race in America, one thing is certain, African-Americans, regardless of differing educational levels and economic strata, are inextricably linked together. Hence, the incivility that far too many young African-Americans have made an integral part of their existence stains not only the uncivilized horde, but also millions of other African-Americans that the horde has no linkage to.
Although I commonly resist the assertion that there is little hope to be found among African-Americans, it does appear that the pride that our ancestors imbued themselves with has slowly eroded to a point of non-existence among many, certainly not all, African-American youth and young adults. In past times, there was a pride to be found among African-Americans. The alluded to pride was expressed through myriad ways; posture, walk, talk, academic achievement, and physical appearance. Considering the contemporary plight of African-Americans one is left with many unanswered questions. Quite possibly the most significant query that must be answered is this; is it too late to reverse this well-developed culture of inefficiency and uncivilized living? I pray for all of our sakes that we can reverse it, because if we fail at this endeavor, both they and I are doomed, because we are inextricably linked together.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race & Culture, 2015