Tag Archives: Foolish Floyd

Floyd Redefines What a Black Business Is

My friend Floyd, I guess that I can comfortably call him my friend, gingerly slid into his seat at This Is It in a manner that was so unusual that it caught my attention. Compared to his present state, Floyd had certainly seen better days; Floyd moved not like a man who was stricken with illness, rather his slow and deliberate movements resembled those of a man who found himself on the losing end of a physical altercation.

Floyd’s slow movements were so disconcerting that they distracted me from my delicious plate of Chicken and Dumplings. Although I now wished that I had noticed his condition before his sliding into the booth, I motioned toward the kitchen area and told Floyd,

It’s on me. What do you want?

Floyd, at nearly a whisper level, a clear sign that it was difficult for him to speak, communicated,

I wouldn’t be mad at you if you got me some of those chitlins’.”

Although I momentarily paused as I wanted to find out what was wrong with Floyd; I figured that issue would remain after I returned with the chitterlings. With food in tow, I made my way back to our booth and set the plate in front of Floyd.

Predictably, Floyd’s present condition did not prevent him from intentionally aggravating me. He purposely waited until I had not only sat down but also picked up my fork to resume eating before asking like a meek child,

Could I get a little Sweet Tea to go with this?

Floyd’s request, although ill-timed, would be honored, however, not before I shook my head at him and let out a prolonged sigh; in many ways the most frustrating aspect of this entire episode was that I knew Floyd well enough to know that he was going to wait until I sat down before making another request. I mumbled several words under my breath as I rose from my seat to retrieve Floyd’s ‘Sweet Tea.’

During the walk to and fro, I decided that today was not the day for me to fool with Floyd regarding what was going on in his life. Today was not a good day for Floyd to dilly-dally around.

As I sat the ‘Sweet Tea’ in front of Floyd, I jumped right to the crux of the matter.

Floyd, what in the world has happened to you?

Apparently, Floyd was in his usual mood to be coy and elusive, positions that were as aggravating as they were unnecessary. By feigning ignorance, ‘Foolish Floyd’ was raising my ire to a level that would have surprised him; as I previously mentioned, today was most certainly not the day to be fooling around, I was quite simply not in the mood for his silly banter.

What do you mean?

My response to Floyd’s attempt at being difficult was to stare straight into his beady little eyes angrily.

Okay, Okay, Okay!!!! I had a little incident about a block from my house; one that I definitely did not cause. I was on my way to the store when a mob of those Revolutionary niggas attacked me.”

Floyd knew very well that his easy use of the ‘N-word’ always sent my mind into a spiral. With a mouth full of chitterlings and coleslaw, Floyd continued.

You know that I am on a fixed income, so every penny counts. Like this place right here, I would never be able to afford eating here on the regular. It costs too much.

I jumped right in on this point as Floyd paused to deposit more food into his greasy mouth,

But Floyd, you do know that it is critical that we support Black businesses like this place, the Breakfast Klub, and Mikki’s Soul Food, because not only do they provide an awesome service, but also they reinvest their profits into the community, not to mention all of the people they employ. Those people are someone’s mother and father.”

By the time I finished my soliloquy on the virtues of circulating the Black dollar, Floyd was shoveling yet another forkful of chitterlings into his even more greasy mouth. Although I wanted to continue expounding upon the desperate need to support Black businesses, Floyd held up a coleslaw covered finger as if he were asking me to cease my diatribe.

It was after Floyd swallowed the massive amount of food he was holding in his mouth as if it were some oversized storage unit and chased it with a gulp of ‘Sweet Tea’ that he began to speak again.

Now you know, of all people, that I understand the need to support our own. Have you forgotten my experience at ‘Cookie’s Corner Store’? You remember how I acted when our people by-passed a Black business in favor of an Arab store? Remember, who was charged with a ‘hate crime’ for defending a Black business?”

I must relate to being a bit surprised, if not overly impressed, by Floyd’s response because he was correct on all accounts.

I was just informing you of my fixed income status, nothing more and nothing less. If anything, it is economic constraints and common sense that makes my supporting Black businesses difficult.”

Floyd’s use of the words ‘common sense’ was apparently today’s bait being used to usher me into a raucous discussion regarding the desperate need to support Black businesses at all costs.

Now let’s get back to why those Revolutionary niggas, your kind of people, jumped on ol’ Floyd.

I responded to Floyd’s offer to return to my earlier question with little more than a slight nod of my head.

As I said before, I am on a fixed income, so every penny counts. I have to watch my money closely, or I will run out before the month ends.”

Although I knew that I shouldn’t, I chimed in with a question.

Floyd? What in the hell does that have to do with you being beaten up?

Annoyed by my interjection, Floyd stared at me before stating,

If you would give me a minute then I could tell you! So just be quiet for a couple minutes, please.

“I have a routine that I adhere to; I purchase the same groceries from the same corner store located around the corner from where I live. I don’t have a car to make it to a real grocery store. I am not getting on the bus with no damn groceries; that would create an entirely different issue. So I bypass all of that and go to the corner store closest to my apartment, it just happens to be owned by some Arabs who are always helpful and polite to me. I don’t bother them, and they respect me.”

Floyd apparently read the skepticism on my face. I knew from prior discussions that Floyd lived in the predominantly African-American 5th Ward, in fact, he didn’t live far from where we were dining. It was difficult for me to believe that the area was devoid of opportunities for Floyd to do business with his own people.

I already know what you are thinking. And you are right. There is a Black corner store right across the street from the Arab store.”

Why not simply shop at that store and support your own people, Floyd?

“I have two good reasons that I don’t shop at the Black store. Reasons that I wished that I could have shared with those Revolutionary niggas before they attacked me for shopping at the Arab store. Number one, I am on a fixed income and the Arab store is much less expensive. Number two, I know that fool who owns the Black convenience store, he owns a gang of them, and he is most definitely not re-investing his money back into the community, he is putting it into his damn pocket as he heads to his plush pad in River Oaks; over there with the white folks.”

“You do know what made me see the light in regards to not blindly supporting Black businesses don’t you?”

I just cringed at what I knew was coming, my own words. Floyd laid out in front of me an editorial regarding this matter.

THE JORDAN RULES:

HOW MICHAEL JORDAN UNRAVELS ‘BUY BLACK’ CAMPAIGNS

            Racial uplift plans began prior to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Most certainly since the slave era ended in 1865, African-Americans have attempted innumerable plans to improve the community by addressing its financial shortcomings. A diverse group of leaders from Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, T. Thomas Fortune, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Martin Luther King Jr., Madame C.J. Walker, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, have all advanced slightly different formulas that promised to lift African-Americans out of the economic chains that have held them so firmly.

            Generally speaking, the vast majority of these programs are relatively simple in that they call for the rise of a Black entrepreneur class that creates businesses to serve the needs of the African-American community. The rather simple formula calls for the African-American community to support these businesses with an unbreakable loyalty. According to most Black Nationalists, the circulating of the dollar within the African-American community is the only reasonable means of economic improvement. Such thinkers are most certainly motivated by Malcolm X’s famous quote of, “You run down your own community when you give your dollar away.”

            Often ignored in such economic formulas is a final step that calls for Black businessmen to honor the African-American community’s unending loyalty by re-investing their monies in new businesses, philanthropic endeavors, depositing their money in Black banks who will then issue loans to aspiring business owners, and the hiring of community members. Failure to do such destroys the entire racial uplift campaign as it is doing little more than enriching individuals whose wealth is not ‘trickling down’ to the masses that it was built upon. One of the greatest examples of such is the basketball icon Michael Jordan.

            Although one can have a robust argument regarding who is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Innumerable names appear in that discussion: Oscar “the Big O” Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell,  Julius “Dr. J” Irving, Larry Bird, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and the list goes on and on. However, there is one arena that is indisputable in regards to the aforementioned basketball legends, that being, who has been the most financially successful player away from the court. Michael Jordan, a six-time NBA Champion, stands without peer in regards to off the court financial success. Jordan’s unprecedented off the court financial success is attributable to the sneaker empire he has built with the aid of Nike.

I am certain that there are many who believe that Ervin “Magic” Johnson rivals Jordan in post-athletic career earnings, those people are wrong. According to Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker, the Jordan “Jumpman” brand “…transcend(s) sport and culture across gender, age and geographies…(opening up a) world of opportunity…”

            Jordan has been able to accomplish something that seems impossible by increasing endorsement dollars after retirement. In 2004, the year after Jordan retired from the National Basketball Association, the six-time NBA champion earned $28 million dollars in endorsements. Today, the Jordan brand was raking in more than $100 million in endorsements; more dollars than any active NBA player. In fact, one could combine the endorsement dollars of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and still not equal Michael Jordan’s total.

            According to the initial theory of racial uplift, the African-American community has proven their loyalty to the Jordan Brand by spending millions, if not billions, of dollars purchasing everything produced with the infamous “Jumpman” logo on it. Unfortunately for the African-American community, Michael Jordan has proven to be a non-factor in racial matters. I am reminded of Jordan’s stance of neutrality when asked which political party he belonged to; Jordan slyly declined to answer the question before quipping, “Republicans buy shoes to.” There is no doubt that Michael Jordan is neither a Civil Rights activist nor interested in practicing socially responsible individualism. He is quite simply a Capitalist interested in earning as much money as humanly possible.

            I think that there is much to be learned from Jordan’s refusal to aid in the uplift of his people despite their loyalty to the Jordan Brand. Quite possibly the largest lesson to be gleaned is the harsh reality that current ‘buy Black’ economic programs are going to be woefully insufficient if Black business owners are absent a commitment to uplift the race that matches those who are religiously supporting them. Unless Black businessmen have a developed sense of loyalty to the race, ‘buy Black’ campaigns will never improve the economic status of the community one iota, it will simply lead to the financial prosperity of a class of Capitalists who have no desire to aid others.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2015.

As I am certain that you know, I wanted to chastise Floyd regarding his not supporting a Black business, however, there was little that I could say. To my shock, ‘Foolish’ Floyd was correct in his assessment that any African-American establishment that does not re-invest a portion of its earnings into the community in some fashion does not qualify as a Black business. Put simply, such businesses are mere Capitalists using the fact that they are “Black owned” as a marketing tool to fleece African-Americans.

I simply sat across from Floyd, partially impressed that he had taken something I wrote, digested it and then applied it to his life. All I could muster was,

Well, well, well.”

Sensing that he had won this particular verbal joust, Floyd annoyingly stated through not only a thick Southern accent but also a mouthful of Chitlins’, “And yet another victory for Floyd.”

There was little left to do after fantastic food and great conversation than to exit This is It. However, as I rose to leave, Floyd quickly asked me.

“Bruh, let me have $50. I told you that I am on a fixed income.”

He laughed hilariously as I reached into my pocket to retrieve the funds. I simply shook my head and thanked God for blessing me with such a good friend.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015

Chapter Excerpt from the book, Foolish Floyd: The Life and Times of an African-American Contrarian. 

Currently available at Amazon.

FLOYD: THE BESTOWER OF GIFTS

You know, now that I think about it, one of the more entertaining aspects of my relationship with Floyd is witnessing the lengths to which he will go to prove a point. I am telling you that when it comes to proving a point, Floyd has a serious problem.

Although he has gone through Herculean efforts to prove his point before, none of those efforts rival Floyd’s efforts to disprove my belief that the present state of Black male and female relationships is hopelessly flawed. I both wrote about this matter and explained it to Floyd.

Put simply; my observation goes as follows. Women, in general, are programmed by God to find a mate and live happily ever after. From my estimation, this wiring characterizes the makeup of the vast majority of women. My point to Floyd was that African-American men have historically taken advantage of this wiring and often treated their ‘sisters’ as if they were some prey to be stalked, hunted, subdued and then released back into the wild. My relatively sophisticated theory also posits that repeated disappointment has led to our ‘sisters’ altering the manner in which they engage their ‘brothers.’ They have quite simply tired of being used, abused, and jilted by Black males and have likewise altered their expectations of ‘Black love.’

It was the above observation that Floyd was desperately seeking to disprove via his dating life. Floyd had apparently been seeing someone. I suspected that it was the ‘river-hipped’ woman that he met during our night out at ‘Grooves,’ however, he refused to disclose the mystery lady’s identity; citing some superstitious reason about jinxing his ‘relationship’ by debuting it too soon.

I must tell you that Floyd was apparently going ‘all-in’ on this one. He even related that he purchased, out of his meager fixed income, gifts not only for the woman but also a grandchild that she was raising. I hoped that Floyd’s generosity was born of love and not a desperate attempt to disprove my theory.

Considering that we had much to discuss regarding the after-effects of Floyd’s impaling by cupid’s arrow, we agreed to meet at a local soul food jointed called Josie’s Place located at 7473 N. Shepherd Drive. I laughed inside as Floyd swiftly agreed to the meeting place as he planned to be in that area shopping for his new love. Knowing that Floyd did not have a vehicle, I knew that he must be particularly smitten with this lady as it most certainly had to be difficult to navigate Houston’s sprawling environs with such restrictions.

I must give it up to Floyd; he arrived at the venue promptly at 1:00 PM as promised. Making it even more impressive was the fact that Floyd was towing around several bags. After entering Josie’s Place, Floyd and I quickly ordered and were promptly served plates that included Turkey Wings, Fried Fish, Corn, Greens, Cabbage, and Macaroni & Cheese.

It was after settling into our seats and consuming the better portion of our ‘Soul Food’ meals that I tongue-in-cheek asked Floyd,

What’s in the bags? Is it Floyd’s love potion?”

As expected, Floyd’s response dripped with sarcasm.

“You see that right there. That’s why we as Black people can’t get ahead. Whenever we see someone doing good, we gotta try and knock them down. And if you must know, these bags right here contain gifts for my woman and her grandbaby.”

Although I knew that it was equal parts mean-spirited and spiteful, I could not resist harassing Floyd.

Oh, so now you are claiming this woman? Don’t tell me that Mr. player, player, got his nose opened wide? Never thought I would see such a thing when a player like you retired from the game. Say it ain’t so Floyd.

Floyd just stared at me while consuming another morsel of food.

So what did you get everybody?”

It was then that Floyd reached into a bag and pulled out a very nice bracelet for his newfound love.

“You know it is nothing big, just a Lil’ Sumthin, sumthin for her. So when she looks down, she’ll think about Ol’ Floyd.” 

All I could say was, “That’s nice Floyd. What did you get for the ‘grandbaby’?”

It was then that Floyd reached into the larger bag and completely blew my mind. He retrieved three Barbie dolls from the bag, each doll more whiter than the last one. I just cringed inside as I could not believe that in the 21st Century African-Americans were still purchasing white dolls for black children. Apparently, Floyd detected my soul’s consternation.

“Now what’s wrong with the gift? That little girl loves to play with dolls.”

“It’s not the gift. Well, it isn’t, and it is.”

“Now what in the hell does that even mean? It is, and it isn’t. Man, make up your mind. Just come on with it, why don’t you like my gift.”

“Floyd, do you remember my column titled, Black Doll Matters? The editorial where I commented on the desperate need for our community to take every opportunity to build our children’s self-esteem.”

The article that I am alluding to read as follows.

BLACK DOLL MATTERS

          While recently tooling around the internet, I came across an approximately forty-second video of white parents giving their two white daughters Black dolls that apparently arrived as gifts “from Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia.” It was clear from the moment that the two children, no older than five years old, realized the contents of the package that they entirely disapproved of them. This point was driven home by one of the two little white angels throwing her black doll on the floor prior to falling to the floor hysterically crying while her mother burst into laughter.

          Although I would love to attribute this moment as equally inconsequential and meaningless, the truth of the matter is that it reveals much about the importance of dolls in the lives of girls, regardless of their race/ethnicity.

          I am old enough to remember a time when it was so rare to find African-American dolls at local toy stores that it was considered a given that African-American girls would not have dolls that reflected their beauty. However, my sister and cousins were fortunate to have Kathryn V. Jones, my beloved mother, in their lives. My mother, a real race woman in every sense of the word, fanatically sought out Black dolls for not only my sister, but also my cousins as Christmas and Birthday gifts.

          During the 70s and a major part of the 80s, white manufacturers apparently did not think that such items were worth the trouble of making, meaning held the potential for significant profit. That decision by ‘mainstream’ toy companies facilitated what is akin to a self-imagery desert for young African-American girls in regards to dolls. Things were so bad in regards to Black girls and dolls that many within our community celebrated the issuing of a Black Barbie doll that possessed the same features as the standard white Barbie.

          Dolls are one of the gateways to the future for Black girls as it allows them to not only play out the present but also their understanding of what is possible in the immediate and distant future. Without dolls that reflect them, African-American girls predictably turned toward television to find women they wished to emulate; there is no need to even delve into the dangers of such an occurrence.

          I find it perfectly understandable that two young white girls would resist receiving African-American dolls, in their imaginary world where Black girls not only do not rock but also are not desired. That is their prerogative. My concern is the Black girls, our daughters/nieces do not have a similar reaction when it comes to there being a dearth of Black dolls for them to play with and imagine a world where they can be the leader of a nation, college, or business; identities that are far greater than being a ‘baby momma’, one of the many negative things they are currently learning from watching ‘reality television.’

          We so often talk about the idea of Manhood as African-American men. However, those discussions frequently avoid any discussion of creating a space for our young girls to pursue their full potential. I have come to learn that allowing their imaginations to fly through the bluest sky’s one could imagine is probably the manliest thing that we can do for the little angels that God gifted us.

James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016.

“Let me get this right; you have a problem with the gift because the dolls are white? Man, that is not only stupid but also makes you a racist. You do know that you’re a racist right? I just want to hear you admit it!”

“Floyd, I am not a racist; far from it. What I am is a Black man living in America who recognizes that we need not only to recognize but also counter the thousands of images directed at Black girls and women that tell them that they are less than. That’s what I am, ‘nothing more and nothing less.’”

I knew my use of one of Floyd’s favorite phrases, ‘nothing more and nothing less’ would get under Floyd’s skin.

“Nah, Nigga, you a racist!!!!!!! It is people like you who remind our kids that they are Black from the moment that they come into the world and create all of these societal divisions.”

“Now Floyd, you know good, and well that is not true. Whether I say anything to an African-American child regarding Race, they are most certainly going to at some point realize that they are Black in a white world. It’s just one of the hazards of being Black in America, an inevitability of sorts. That is the reason it is so important that we build our children up, especially our girls, with dolls that look like them. You don’t see white folk lining up to purchase Black dolls for their children. Why don’t they? Just answer that question.”

Floyd quickly responded with the following,

“I neither care nor am I concerned by what white folk is doing with their children. It simply ain’t none of my business. But I do see your point; maybe I should have purchased her a Black doll.”

I have learned that I am no more of a gracious winner than Floyd, so I immediately chimed in with an extra insult to drive home my point.

“In the future, just make it a personal policy not to purchase any images that don’t look like somebody that you are related to.” 

Thinking that my work with Floyd was done for another day, I sat back and relaxed as the full weight of the ‘Soul Food’ I consumed during our discussion began to settle upon me. It was at that moment Floyd chimed in,

“I’ll make a deal with you; I will take these dolls back and exchange them right away, to prevent my damaging a young Black girl’s self-esteem, under one condition.”

“What’s that?”

 “I need a ride back over to the store and then one home.”

I could do nothing but stare at Floyd and that developing ‘Foolish Grin.’

“C’mon man. Being on that bus is hell. There are all kinds of fools…”

Before Floyd could get his complaints out, I rose and motioned for him to follow me. I would rather go through the inconvenience of driving him around town than hearing his moaning and complaining. It was most certainly the lesser of two evils.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

“Foolish” Floyd, Paul Mooney, and the “N-Word”

I am confident that you recognize that although Floyd and I are from the same generation, we are distinctly different in our thoughts, ideas, and principles. Unfortunately for our ‘friendship,’ those differences have a tendency to clash without the slightest provocation.

Probably the most noticeable difference between Floyd and me emanates from our use of the English language, particularly the use of what I, and most respectful individuals, commonly refer to as the ‘N-word.’ Floyd feigns ignorance whenever this topic arises and informs all who raise this issue to him,

“I have no idea what the ‘N-word’ is. Now if you mean Nigga, be straight about it and let me know that is what you’re talking about. I understand that type of discussion, but the ‘N-word’ I don’t even know what that even means.”

Floyd is so committed to his use of the ‘N-word’ that he, and trust me when I say that he is not alone in this regard, has attempted to apply logic regarding his use of what is akin to the nitroglycerine of the English language.

According to Floyd, and a legion of like-minded brethren, “Nigga,” is markedly different from “Nigger.” The alluded to individuals have done their best to educate the ‘ignorant masses,’ meaning people such as me and you, regarding this most important matter. According to such thinkers, “Nigga” is an unmistakable term of endearment, while “Nigger” is offensive, derogatory term that only racists spew during angry rants for negative reasons.

Now that I think about it, rare is the occasion that I have been in Floyd’s presence that he has not used the ‘N-word.’ Floyd seemingly emanates from the Paul Mooney school of thought. Mooney, a famed comedian who counts the greatest comedian ever to live, Richard Pryor, as his best friend, is known to say that he says ‘Nigga’ a hundred times each morning because it makes his teeth white.

On a more personal level, the most offensive aspect of Floyd’s habitual use of the ‘N-word,’ at least in my presence, is the reality that he knows my position on this matter. I cringe every time the word exits his crusty lips; largely out of embarrassment for what it reveals about Floyd’s view of his fellow African-Americans and what such language conveys to those outside of our community that already possesses skeptical views of us. I hope that you can understand that my embarrassment level regarding Floyd’s use of the ‘N-word’ exponentially increases when he uses such language in front of what is commonly termed ‘mixed company.’ Unfortunately for me, Floyd is slightly sadistic in the following way; he enjoys seeing my reaction to his inappropriate use of the English Language.

Now I would be a bit remiss, if not hypocritical, if I did not reveal that I have been known to use vulgarity from time-to-time, however, I have consciously attempted to rid myself of the burdensome, historically-loaded, ‘N-Word’; unfortunately, to no avail. It seems that individuals such as Floyd have an uncanny ability, through their actions nonetheless, to routinely pull such sentiments out of me.

I am quite confident that you are going to doubt the sincerity of my attempts to rid myself of the ‘N-word’ when you learn of my birthday plans for Floyd. I was planning to bless Floyd on his birthday with a trip to The Improv, Houston’s premier Comedy Club, to hear the infamous Paul Mooney.

I had come to learn that the enjoyment of great comedians such as Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Mom’s Mabley, Whitman Mayo, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Paul Mooney, Bill Cosby, etc. was an arena that Floyd and I were kindred souls. I must tell you that it is in the realm of comedy that I shed, without any sense of embarrassment or contradiction, my abhorrence of the ‘ N-word.’ As you well know, African-American comedians use the ‘N-word’ frequently and within every context imaginable.

So on Saturday evening, I picked Floyd up from his place and made my way toward I-10 West (The Katy Freeway). The moment Floyd stepped out of his front door, it was evident that this was a special night for him. Not only were we celebrating Floyd’s birthday, but also he was about to see Paul Mooney, his “favorite comedian this side of Richard Pryor” perform for the first time. And trust me when I tell you that Floyd had his finest threads draped on him, he was as they say ‘open-casket sharp’ with what appeared to be an 18-piece Lavender suit. At first sight, I laughed aloud at Floyd’s ensemble; he looked like a live Easter egg or something. I thought it was a bit much, but hey, it was Floyd’s day and as the saying goes, ‘If you like it, I love it.”

Floyd talked incessantly during the drive regarding not only Paul Mooney, but also the rare comedic genius known as Richard Pryor. Floyd was a walking Wikipedia of facts regarding the comedic duo; which spurred what I considered a natural question.

“Floyd, If you are so into Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney, how come you have never seen them live?”

“Ain’t had the opportunity. Meaning whenever they were performing close to where I was at, I didn’t have any money. Hell, I wouldn’t be going tonight if you weren’t paying.”

Floyd then sheepishly asked,

“You are paying, right? Don’t get me down here this close to seeing my main man and then I can’t get in the building. I promise you I will act a certifiable fool if you do that to ol’ Floyd. You know that Floyd deserves better than that.”

I just laughed and related to Floyd that his acting a fool wouldn’t matter to me because I would already be inside listening to Paul Mooney.

Floyd responded as I knew he would,

“Just like a Nigga”

For some reason, I didn’t cringe at his use of the “N-word,” maybe because I understood that it held no negative connotations in this context. We were two friends only kicking it on our way to see our boy.

We arrived at The Improv, picked up tickets I had already paid for because I wanted Floyd to be front-and-center, it was his night after all.

Having seen Mooney several times before, I must relate that he was in rare fashion as he traversed across racially charged topics that ranged from notable figures such as Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, O.J. Simpson, and Ben Carson to “ordinary every day Nigga shit.”

As previously mentioned, Mooney was in rare form; however, there were two particularly memorable moments.

The first occurrence was when a white couple rose from their seats and walked up the stairs to exit the venue, witnessing this, Mooney stated,

“I still got my magic. They must have thought that they were coming to see Andy Rooney, not Paul Mooney.”

The overwhelmingly Black audience burst into uproarious laughter.

The second memorable moment was a particularly personal one that was so hilarious that I nearly cried from laughter. Towards the end of his performance, Paul Mooney apparently spotted Floyd. At that moment, Mooney displayed the quick-wittedness that makes him such a great comedian. He stated,

“Awww shit, look at this Nigga over here. What motherfucking color do you have on Nigga? Nigga, please stand up so that we all can get a good laugh, oops, I meant to say. Good look.”

To my amazement, Floyd rose from his seat and did a slow 360-degree turn that gave everyone in the building an opportunity to see all 18 pieces of his suit.

“Now I know that we are in Houston, Texas, and Y’all can be country as fuck, but that Nigga right there has got to be straight out of the backwoods of Mississippi. That’s the only place they wear shit like that; trust me, I Know what I Talk about.”

The entire crowd was laughing and hollering uncontrollably, so much that Floyd felt the need to respond to Mooney,

“You Goddamned right!  Greenwood, Mississippi, in the house.”

Of course, Mooney would not let Floyd have the last word and told Floyd to,

“Sit your loud country ass down. I bet you that Nigga got slave-catchers still after his ass. Out here dressed in a 54-piece Lavender suit around civilized people. Lavender, Nigga? Really, Nigga?”

I must tell you that tears were running down people’s faces by the time Mooney ended his roasting of Floyd. Above and beyond everything else, this moment made Floyd’s night complete; it was a memory that he would never relinquish, even if he were the butt of Mooney’s jokes.

Although we wished that Mooney could have stayed on stage for several more hours, the truth of the matter was that he gave us nearly three hours of cutting-edge comedy for which we were all eternally grateful. Mooney even added a final touch of class to his performance by meeting and greeting every person who desired to purchase a DVD of one of his concerts.

I previously noticed that at opportune moments such as this one where he would be able to meet Paul Mooney, Floyd, like so many other African-Americans, would fumble such an obvious opportunity. So I was not surprised when the venue lights were turned on, Floyd quickly stood up and headed for the exit as if he had somewhere pressing to be. He would have exited the building had I not physically impeded his progress and walked him over to where Mooney was selling his DVD’s and taking photos with fans. As we approached Mooney, he burst into laughter at Floyd and jubilantly yelled,

“My Mississippi cousin!!!!!! Nigga, what do you have on? Who in the hell let you come out of the house like that? Just kidding brother, you know that I had to give it to you. It’s all part of the show.”

To my amazement, Floyd, who has so much to say about any and everything, fell silent as a church mouse. I explained to Mr. Mooney that it was Floyd’s birthday and this was his first time seeing him perform live; and that Floyd was the world’s biggest Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney fan.

Mooney, the classy gentleman that he is, responded,

“Well alright!!!! Now I know a Nigga that like two shit-talking Niggas like Richard and me can speak. He ain’t mute is he?”

“Fuck Nah, I ain’t no motherfucking ‘mute.’ I got plenty to say, Nigga.”

Mooney laughed enthusiastically and told Floyd if he keeps talking like that he was going to have to take him on the road with him.

Before the night ended, Mooney took a gang of photos with Floyd, he even put Floyd’s Lavender suit coat on in a few of the photos as well as gifting Floyd a DVD and the hat, which he graciously autographed, he had worn during his routine. A ‘star-struck’ Floyd was overwhelmed by the entire experience.

The night was truly a special one, yet it was not over. I planned on taking Floyd to a late dinner at FOGO DE CHÃO.

I have always heard that it is much better to give than to receive, this night certainly validated that famous axiom. Floyd could not stop talking about either The Improv or Paul Mooney. My plan to ensure that he had a grand birthday was turning into an absolute success. Before long, we were turning off of Westheimer Road and into the parking lot of FOGO DE CHÃO.

After being seated, it took Floyd a while to understand how things worked inside of this venue. Having never dined at a Brazilian Steakhouse, Floyd had a difficult time comprehending that the wait staff would bring rolls of meat, any meat he desired, and cut it tableside for him at his request.

Once Floyd got the hang of the way things worked, he behaved as if he were an old-pro and began ordering every type of meat imaginable. Apparently, Floyd became so comfortable with his environs that he took the opportunity to return to his favored past time; aggravating me.

“Now you cannot tell me that you didn’t enjoy Paul Mooney, even with him using Nigga so much. I am telling you that with all of the problems that our people have, we are spending way too much time focused on that one word. It is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. There are so many other things to worry about: drug abuse, murder, poverty, teenage pregnancy, schools, domestic violence, and the list can go on and on.”

I knew that I had to respond to Floyd’s opening statement immediately.

“But Floyd can’t you see how so many of those things flow from how we term and therefore envision ourselves?”

“Nigga, please. Using the ‘N-Word’ ain’t got a damn thing to do with domestic violence, high school dropouts, and poverty.”

I protested Floyd’s assertion and insisted that this stuff were indeed linked together.

“Floyd, you do remember the piece that I wrote about this matter in African-American News & Issues, don’t you?”

Floyd admitted that he remembered the article that follows,

MY NIGGA:

THE POWER OF WORDS ON THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MIND

I don’t wanna be another nigga,
Waitin’ with my hands out,
Broke in the hood, they give a damn ’bout
Braggin’ to my homie bout the hoes I fucked
Drinkin’ bottles after bottles, plus I smoke too much.
I never had a job that would pay me well,
I took what I could cause they gave me hell…
 I barely go to church but I say I will,
I bow my head right before I eat my meal
The world’s fucked up and they claimin’ I’m to blame
It’s a damn shame cause
I don’t wanna be another nigga,

Big K.R.I.T.

One of my core beliefs is that “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” Put simply, watch what you say as those words are living projectiles that not only impact the world around me but also go a great measure towards determining my future path. My parents and mentors repeatedly told me to watch my word choice, particularly when it came to cursing, because, ‘a little bit of bad will tear down a whole lot of good.’

We all realize that America holds its African-American citizenry to a different standard. Most cruel are the reality that the antics, of one African-American, have the ability to malign the entire race. Despite their best attempts to deny it, African-Americans are inextricably linked together. One’s public persona, from dress to speech, reflects not only that individual, rather it is extended to cover one’s family and race; especially if that image carries any negativity. When African-American elders are commenting upon the pride they exhibited during earlier moments; they recall their posture, walk, diction, and physical appearance. One abhorred being caught ‘showing one’s color,’ meaning damaging the African-American image, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

The realities mentioned above are one of many reasons why YG’s hit single, “My Nigga,” is so disturbing; particularly its impact upon the image and psyche of African-American males. Although I find it particularly difficult to believe that there is anyone on the planet who has not heard this recording by now, if there is such an individual, here are a sampling of the chorus.

My nigga, my nigga
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga?

The word ‘nigga’ is repeated shocking thirty-one times during one chorus. Black America’s soul should be troubled by not only the verbal flurry but also the fact that it has entered the impressionable minds of droves of African-American youth.

As someone who has been addicted to rap music from the first time that I heard Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message;‘ I thought that it might be a chance to address YG’s recording, not with a denunciation of it, that is not only easily accomplished, but also predictable, rather I have decided to offer an artistic alternative to a listening audience that desperately seeks close association with the “N-Word”. Unfortunately, many of these individuals believe that YG’s record, and similar recordings, epitomize what rap music is. So, please consider this a desperate attempt to fight the blaze of ignorance that YG, Rich Homie Quan, and Jeezy began and Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Meek Mill fanned with their remix, with an alternative vision. Please click on the following links for an alternative understanding of the N-Word, Nigga, and nigger from several generations of African-Americans.

Maybe the rappers mentioned above will trip upon this posting and learn something regarding the power of language and come to understand that their financial wealth is insufficient to hide their intellectual and moral poverty. I am confident that time will impress upon them that no amount of cash is capable of masking such poverty. One of their own, Jay-Z, a self-proclaimed rap God, once issued an admonishment that is particularly applicable here when he related, “you can pay for school, but you can’t buy class.” A lesson that I hope the entire hip-hop community learns before the power of their words leads to more incarceration, death, and destruction of their own.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture 2015.

“Floyd, I refuse to believe that you cannot understand how the use of that word affects how our people, especially our youth, male as well as female, see themselves. It frames their entire existence.”

“No! What frames their whole life is the home they were raised in, the school that they go to, the church that they attend. That’s where I learned who I was.”

“And who are you?”

“A strong Black man who ain’t about to take no shit off of no white man or ‘Nigga.’ That’s who Floyd is. Period! Point blank!”

“But what about the children who were not raised in a loving home? Who life’s circumstances have led to their attending an under-funded inner-city school with downtrodden teachers? Who has never attended church or had a suitable male role model? What about them? Hunh?”

“Well, they had better hope that God is still in the business of taking care of fools and babies; because they sound like they are in for a rough life.

However, that has absolutely nothing to do with the word ‘Nigga.’ Think about it this way. Let’s say that I, Paul Mooney, and every other ‘Nigga’ that you know stopped using the ‘N-Word.’ It wouldn’t make a bit of a difference. We would still be as poor, uneducated, and jailed as before.

Man, I tell you, the more education some people get, the dumber they seem to get.”

I am confident that Floyd saw my eyes tighten, a sign that I was about to tear into his ignorant ass. However, before I could leap into a furious tirade, Floyd cleared up his comment.

“Now don’t get all mad about what I said, hey, don’t take it personally. I wasn’t even talking about you, at least not directly. What I mean is this.

Did you see in the paper where the NAACP bought a casket, opened it up, wrote the word “Nigger” on a single white piece of paper, placed it inside of the casket, closed it up and then had a funeral for the ‘N-Word,’ burial and all? Now what kind of sense does that make? That’s what I am trying to say. Some people, regardless of their education, are just plain stupid.”

“I do understand what you are saying, Floyd. However, Civil Rights groups are well meaning in regards to trying to point us in a new direction where we no longer demean each other and stop teaching our children to do such things.

When was the last time that you listened to a group of African-American youth talking, and you didn’t hear the ‘N-Word’? And don’t you dare try and tell me that they are using it as a term of endearment.”

Floyd looked across the table as if he were exasperated with this entire conversation and related the following,

“I can’t speak for no one else but myself, however, when I use it, I am using it as a term of endearment. Now tell me honestly, do you think that I am disrespectful toward you when I call you ‘My Nigga’? Honestly?”

“Nah, I don’t think that at all.”

“Yet, you still believe that this one little word, ‘Nigga,’ holds power to liberate our people? That’s foolishness. What will liberate us is shopping at Black-owned stores, voting, and valuing education. If we mastered all of the little things, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation for the one-millionth time.

But because the problem is so damn big, you and the rest of the ‘Negropeans’ choose to pick on your own. Nah, quit being a coward and address the source of our misery and suffering. Go and talk to the white man and leave us little people alone. We are doing the best that we know how to.”

All I could think was that Floyd was correct in his logic, something that was in and of itself startling, yet, I knew that I would never be comfortable with the use of the word Nigga in any context; or at least in public around mixed company.

“And another damn thing. Maybe, you ‘Niggas’ should stop using it behind clothes doors if you want everyone else to abandon it.

Haha, I sense yet another victory for Floyd. On my birthday nonetheless.” 

I just stared at Floyd as he bathed in one of his most lopsided victories. I promised to myself that it would never happen again; even if I had to strangle a ‘Nigga.’

 Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLOYD QUESTIONS IF EDUCATION IS WASTED ON SOME BLACK MALES

After you have lived enough life, you will learn that experience, and personal observation is powerful entities as they affect following thoughts and observations in a sneaky way. If one is not careful, personal experience will be the only thing informing how you view people. The only problem with such an occurrence is that your experience is in a word, limited. Put simply, if you are not careful your limited exposure will color your views in a most unreasonable fashion.

Now I am confident that you are wondering what I am talking about; such a question is understandable as I would be asking the same thing if I were you. And I realize that it is a bit difficult for you ‘to pick up, what I am trying to put down.’ However, I guess that what I am alluding to is that I felt a major conflict approaching between Floyd and me; a conflict that was most certainly going to boil over during our scheduled meeting at Hank’s Ice Cream.

The source of our disagreement, Floyd had somehow, someway, began questioning the utility of education for African-Americans. I considered this latest line of thinking that Floyd hinted at during previous discussions particularly disturbing, especially for a man of his age.

I must tell you that I hated having any disagreement with Floyd, especially when we were planning to meet in a public space; anyone who knows Floyd will tell you that he has no problem pitching a tent and behaving as if he is the featured presentation in a three-ring circus. There was no doubt in my mind that if provoked, Floyd was going to behave as if he were an absolute fool.

When asked about their favorite ice cream, most Texans will begin to tell you about Blue Bell Ice Cream. And I must be honest with you, when I first arrived in Houston, I thought that Blue Bell Ice Cream was heaven sent, that is until I tasted Hank’s Ice Cream. There is no reasonable comparison between the two. Put simply, Hank’s Ice Cream puts Blue Bell to shame.

I soon learned that not only was Hank’s Ice Cream a superior product but also it was an African-American owned business started by a very industrious man named Hank Wiggins in 1985. Hank, a graduate of Prairie View A & M University, hailed from Caldwell, Texas, and met financial success in Houston, Texas, by opening up what old-timers would call a jitney shop, today we call it a Taxi Cab service.

Apparently, Hank made ice cream for his family for years and always expressed a desire to open an ice cream shop to his wife, Okemah. It was a mid-eighties economic downturn that provided Hank an opportunity to realize his dream of opening an ice cream shop.

For me, Hank’s Ice Cream shop possesses everything that I desired in business: quality product, Black-owned, and reasonably priced. What was there not to like?

After watching the clock in my office, it was with utmost glee and exuberance that I left the office at approximately 11:30 and headed toward Main Street. Hank’s Ice Cream shop, located at 9291 Main Street, was this week’s meet-up location with Floyd at high-noon for yet another battle.

Upon arrival at Hank’s Ice Cream shop, I entered a venue that I always wished could serve as the standard template of hospitality and service for every African-American business. The notable welcoming environment that one finds at Hank’s Ice Cream Shop is not only comforting but also one of the greatest tips of the hat to its creator who has since transitioned to be with the ancestors. It does not take one long to glean an understanding that the employees of Hank’s are several generations of the owner’s remaining family members.

It did not take long before I had not only secured a towering vanilla ice cream cone that took me back to my childhood years. I found a seat in the corner of the establishment and began ravenously consuming it as if nothing else mattered. There was no work splayed before me, as is the usual case, Hank’s Vanilla Ice Cream demanded and received, my singular attention.

My singular focus caused me not to notice Floyd when he entered the establishment. Before beginning what I already sensed would be a round of extreme foolishness, even Floyd was compelled to secure some of Hank’s delicious ice cream before taking a seat.

In a few moments, Floyd, dressed in neatly creased khaki’s, an electric blue button down shirt, and his signature shiny shoes, plopped down across from me and began to lick his towering ice cream cone of Butter Pecan. As is his usual pattern, Floyd started in on me very quickly, but not before flashing that damn ‘Foolish Grin.’

“You see that right there. That’s how I know that you ain’t got no style. With all of these flavors, you picked ‘plain Jane’ Vanilla. I tell you, no style at all. None at all.”

Although I was enjoying my ‘plain Jane’ ice cream, I knew that I needed to respond to Floyd’s jab or run the risk of him considering my non-response as a sign of weakness. Prior experiences with Floyd had convinced me that if he were nothing else, he was an intellectual bully who eagerly pounced upon those unwilling to engage him. I responded with a short quip of,

“Nah Floyd, you looking at this thing all wrong. Before there was any such thing as Butter Pecan, there stood Vanilla. Before Chocolate, there stood Vanilla. Sometimes you need to pay homage to your foundations.”

After hearing my response, Floyd’s only response was a playful, “Oh, Nigga please.”

Both Floyd and I knew that the conversation we stood on the precipice of having was a long-overdue and controversial one that had stood like a sore spot between us. From my perspective, there was no point in dancing around the matter; during such moments I always preferred to jump directly to the heart of the matter. However, for strategic reasons, I needed for Floyd to broach the topic.

In a blatant attempt to bait him into the apparent discord that had grown between us regarding of all things, education, or more directly the utility or transformative nature of education for African-American males. I feigned ignorance and asked Floyd,

“So why did you want to meet? What’s up?”

Predictably, Floyd anticipated my move and slid me a copy of African-American News & Issues opened to a recent editorial that I wrote with a particularly harsh tone aimed at addressing a pernicious issue currently affecting African-American males. Although he has repeatedly used this tactic, I honestly did not foresee Floyd using my words against me regarding this matter.

THUG UNIVERSITY:

REFLECTIONS ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES NEW MILLENNIUM EDUCATIONAL PRIORITIES

One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood,” meaning lower-middle-class, working-class, and poor neighborhoods occur when someone has been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It is at this moment that others affectionately relate that he/she is on his way to ‘college’; albeit, not to pursue a traditional Liberal Arts degree, rather, a B.A. in criminality or possibly an M.S. in the robbery of black folk. All agree that the convicted will return from “college” a slicker confidence man or bolder burglar. Many of my peers chose such an educational path.

Fortunately, many career paths and opportunities, including initiatives to save African-American males offer realistic alternatives to incarceration. The alluded to actions serve as a constant reminder of the national crisis facing African-American males. Personally, such initiatives facilitated a host of “firsts” for me: my first collegiate visit, my first academic conference, and a similar program — the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) — paved the way for graduate school. Such outreach programs made the mentorship I received from Dr. James N. Upton during my undergraduate tenure and Dr. Paulette Pierce as I pursued my first Master’s degree at THE Ohio State University all the more necessary. The mentorship mentioned above was critical to my academic success as I learned how to “be” inside of collegiate classrooms, academic conferences, workshops, and symposiums.

Consequently, my current station as a tenured professor is a bit surreal. I am now on the other side of the desk and charged with mentoring the next generation of African-Americans. Unfortunately, I am finding this process, particularly in regards to African-American males, increasingly difficult. Put simply, this latest generation of Black men does not appear to be particularly interested in academics, politics, or intellectual thought. In fact, I have watched as many of my current students have done their best to transform institutions of higher learning into an entity best termed ‘Thug University.’

The stages I lecture upon on a daily basis have provided a clear view of the drastically altered demeanor, preparation, goal structure and behavior of many African-American males. From my perspective, the driving force behind this transformation is a flawed understanding of Black manhood.

As previously mentioned, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male.’ Such programs operated out of the belief that there was a desperate need to provide “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education. According to those fighting on our behalf, the most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion into said higher education institutions was institutional racism; meaning, that institutions of higher learning operated in a manner that individuals such as me, a first-generation collegian, would never gain access.

I am confident that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their foe, institutional racism, unconquerable. They never imagined that a decade later a more menacing enemy would arrive; an enemy that makes institutional racism appear juvenile. The latest opponent in the battle to save African-American males is a ‘siren’ that has mesmerized Black men. This enemy is best termed Thug Culture, a lifestyle propagated and delivered to our young people by contemporary rap stars.

For a significant population of Black male collegians, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values, aspirations, and worldview than Du Bois, Baldwin, Hughes, King, X, Newton, or Obama could ever hope to. Mentors of today’s African-American males are in for a rude awakening if they believe that mere exposure to collegiate campuses is enough to repel the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent influence of today’s rap artists on the values and goal structures of African-American males.

Such an assertion pains me as Rap Music is dear to my heart. In fact, I was politicized by eighties Rap Music; Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions Edutainment, Brand Nubian’s One for All, X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards, and Paris’ The Devil Made Me Do It significantly altered my mind. However, the youth culture of my generation was not only politically progressive but also created by African-Americans to serve Black interests. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

Things have turned so sour within some urban enclaves that African-Americans have begun to fear their own. The Notorious B.I.G. stated as much in his tour de force, Things Done Changed “Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at ‘em now, they even fucking scared of us.”

Why should previous generations of African-Americans not be concerned about this latest expression of manhood considering its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, immorality, and anti-social behavior? All characteristics, I might add, that are foreign to the way that persons of African descent have historically lived.

African-American male collegians who are in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to historical manifestations of Black manhood. Their entire existence contradicts esteemed traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well-dressed brothers who occupied leadership positions in their public and private lives. Today, the smooth suave and debonair African-American man have been replaced by young people whose lack of style, and trust me style is not achieved by one foolishly purchasing overpriced gaudy European clothing, is rivaled only by their inability to articulate a coherent thought.

Surrounding African-American collegians desperation to be included in ‘thug culture’ is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions for niggardly behavior?’ Apparently, the payoff for African-American male collegians is the opportunity to earn ‘street credibility’ among Common Street hoodlums whom they desperately seek to emulate.

If nothing else, I wish that the young men I view from the stage realize that they are the best that our Race has to offer and they’re allowing the “streets” to influence their cultural values significantly and goal structures make as much sense as a tail wagging a dog. Young collegiate brothers, you are supposed to be the head and not the tail in regards to setting the values, priorities, goals, and future direction of our community. Hence, you are now center stage, the spotlight is shining on you, and we are eagerly awaiting to see if you will assume your rightful position as the next generation of educated “Race men” or will you prove cowardly and continue down a path of aberrant behavior that none of those who came before you would either recognize or celebrate.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Although I did not necessarily have to read the editorial, hell, I wrote it. I most certainly knew its contents. To appease, Floyd, I reviewed the words that I had pinned during a particularly frustrating moment in my life; frustrations that flowed from the seeming inability of many African-American males decision to not ‘turn the corner’ toward success.

“Now what is your problem with me questioning if education is of any use to these fools?”

I initially attempted to explain to Floyd that he was focusing on the most unfortunate and damning aspects of what I wrote.

“Nah Captain, I am focused squarely upon what you wrote. Those are your words. Even you question if education is wasted on them.”

“Well, there are times, trying times I might add that leads one to question exactly what level of impact education is having upon some African-American males. I simply think that we have not done the best job of balancing educational pursuits and maintaining our cultural identity.”

“Cultural identity? What cultural identity? Oh, you mean what these fool call ‘keepin’ it real?’”

I hated it when Floyd mocked my position in such a manner. However, there was nothing that I could do about it at this particular moment; he created a significant, nearly impossible to overcome, advantage when he used my writings against me.

“Bruh, let’s face facts. The vast majority of these fools out here in these streets are more interested in pretending to be some gangster or pimp. It appears that the only difference between the street thug and the college student is where they are doing their dirt. That’s the ONLY difference between the two.” 

“C’mon Floyd, there is no way that you believe that. We have many African-American males in college who are not only brilliant, but also reaching landings that neither you nor I will ever approach. All that I was saying in the editorial was that they should not allow the streets to unduly influence them toward ignoring the fabulous opportunities before them.”

“You know I hate it when you try and hide behind your words and don’t say what it is that you mean. Quit talking about the streets and call it what it is. You mean this damned Hip-Hop Culture. Because that is where they are getting this foolishness.” 

As much as I wanted to disagree with Floyd, I knew that he was correct in this matter. Hip-Hop Culture was a major obstacle facing this latest generation of African-Americans as it seemingly touched every facet of their lives from their appearance and speech to their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Such influence would not be such a major issue if African-Americans still controlled what I frequently term the Nuclear Bomb of popular culture; however, the harsh reality is that we do not control either the images or the messages that are continuously shared with our children on a twenty-four-hour basis.

“It might be time for you to face the fact that these rappers have more influence upon Black men than even you do. Hell, it is not a stretch to say that they have more influence than their teachers and professors, and maybe, just maybe, they might have more influence than even their parents. It’s sad, but true.”

Floyd’s observation stung for one simple reason, he was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, African-Americans affinity for Rap Music which began for the vast majority of our people with either the release of the Sugar Hill Gang’s ‘Rappers Delight’ or Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ did not cease when the culture was taken over by white record executives and companies.

“Now Floyd you know that the vast majority of the things that these kids, and yes they are still kids, are out here doing is due to them following trends and fads.”

Apparently, I had said something to set Floyd off because his face communicated an obvious disdain and disappointment, if not anger.

“Kids? Kids? You think that these fools out here are kids? Well you keep hanging in the city and you will more than likely get a chance to see how kid-like these Niggas are. Man, they are committing violent robberies at the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Nah, they haven’t been kids for a very long time.”

“And whose fault is that Floyd?”

“Damn it, man, can’t you understand that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. All that matters is that it is. And trust me when I say this, it ain’t going nowhere neither. This foolishness is here to stay.”

“It starts in the home and just grows worse and worse. That’s why I am telling you that education is largely wasted upon Black males. They not only can’t hear the teacher, they ain’t trying to hear the teacher.”

Although I never wanted to concede defeat in a debate to anyone, most of all to Floyd, I realized that there was an element of truth in his argument. Someway, somehow, somewhere along the line many African-American males, I refuse to say all, had lost their way and began devaluing educational pursuits and replaced what can be best termed traditional values with gangster fantasies that had their genesis in some white A & R record executives office.

Sensing that I didn’t have a logical response to his assertions, Floyd smiled with that ‘Foolish Grin’ like a Great White Shark circling some much-desired prey. Moving his hands as if he were conducting a symphony orchestra, Floyd stated

“And the truth prevails yet again.”

I shook my head at his foolish behavior and prepared to rise from my seat. Just as I stood, Floyd began to speak.

“Man, I know that you ain’t trying to leave without getting some of this ice cream to go.”

Floyd was correct in his observation; I always got a couple of pints of Hank’s to go.

“Sooooooo, I thought you might want to get me some as well.”

Although blessing Floyd in such a way was not at the forefront of my mind, I shot him an angry look and made my way back to the counter. When I made it to the counter, I heard Floyd shout out,

“And get me something with some flavor. Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Mint; not that bland stuff that you like.”

I could only shake my head at Floyd.

After purchasing both of us a few pints of ice cream, I handed Floyd his portion as we headed for the door. To my amazement, Floyd was walking toward my vehicle with me. Although I was uncertain what this meant, it became clear when Floyd shared,

“Now I know that you are going to give me a ride home. Otherwise my ‘Hank’s’ will be done melted by the time I get there and you know that would be a shame.”

He had gotten me once again! My only recourse was to shake my head before I unlocked his door.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

Floyd Questions His Racial Identity

I am most certainly not attempting to insinuate that I possess psychic abilities. However, there was something that told me I would see Floyd on this hump day. Considering that it was, according to Houston standards, unseasonably cool around sixty degrees in mid-November, I decided that I would go down to the Miller Outdoor Theater, eat lunch, and get some writing done during the quiet and solitude that only ‘cold’ weather can arrange in a Southern metropolis.

As I stated, there was something that told me that my path would someway, somehow cross Floyd’s on this particular day. My intuition was correct as if on cue, Floyd’s shiny bald head came bouncing from the direction of the Houston Zoo.

Before reaching the area where I was consuming the last portions of a double meat hamburger and Stinky Fries from the Hub Cap Grill, Floyd shouted: “What’s happening Cap’n?” The few who had braved the Houston ‘cold’, turned to look at this man who was most certainly too loud in both his clothing and speech for the occasion.

I acknowledged Floyd’s presence with a simple nod that was neither overly welcoming nor overtly unwelcoming. One thing that I knew about myself was that ‘silence was golden’ particularly when writing. Life has taught me that time is not only fleeting but also unrecoverable. Once time expires, there is no recovering it. So I use it wisely.

Without any warning, Floyd stated that he had been looking through a few family photos when “it dawned on me that I am so much more than Black; and unlike these other fools, I’ve got the pictures to prove it. My great-great-great grandmother was an Indian and I am sure that you can tell that I have some white in my family tree as well. So why should I classify myself as Black?

I only smiled at Floyd, a tactic that I knew would disturb him to no end as it conveyed little of what I was truly thinking. As was typical of the majority of our debates, I felt as if I were playing chess while Floyd played a bad game of checkers. The vast majority of times that Floyd brought an issue up, he was most certainly standing alone in his assertions and observations. However, I must relate that on this particular issue, Floyd has plenty of company. If I had a dollar for every African-American who fervently believed that they were the descent of some Native American tribe, I would most certainly have all of my and several succeeding generations permanently solved. Honestly, this belief that they have Native American blood running through their blood is a bit of an obsession for many African-Americans, particularly for those with a “good grade” of hair.

Understandably, Floyd took my wry smile as a sign of skepticism. He knew very well my perspective on such matters; DNA studies had definitively proven that the traits that African-Americans were attributing to Native American blood were actually coming from a hodgepodge of European contributions. One thing that was certain about America was that one would have to search long and hard, far and wide to find a ‘pure breed.’

What’s that actor’s name that you wrote the piece about recently?

I responded with “Who? Taye Diggs?

Floyd slapped his knee as he related, “Yeah, that’s the one.

Floyd was alluding to a recent article I had written about The Best Man actor who was intentionally seeking to distance his child away from the stain that so many Americans, white, as well as Black, attach to the African-American existence. The article read as follows:

C’MON TAYE,

YOU BETTER TELL HIM BEFORE WHITE FOLK DO

When William Edward Burghardt DuBois stated in his magnum opus, The Souls of Black Folk that “the problem of the twentieth-century will be the problem of the color line” within that statement is an implied belief that problematic racial matters would only dog this nation for a century. Unfortunately, DuBois underestimated the staying power of racial animus within not only the United States but also planet Earth.

Make no mistake about it, the most recent scuttlebutt regarding American racial matters emanates from actor Taye Diggs who has stepped into an arena that, judging from his initial statements, he knows little about. This dust-up revolves around his bi-racial son, Walker, and the issue of racial identity.

According to Diggs, his son should have the right to choose which race he will identify with as he is both black and white. Via Instagram, Diggs related that “I am a proud black man. I want my son to grow up to be a proud black man if he so chooses. He has a mother who is white. He has every right to be just as proud of his mother’s ‘blood’ as well. Please wake up, people. It’s not that deep.” Apparently, Diggs fervently believes this foolishness as he recently told The Grio that “I think when you (call biracial people black), you risk disrespecting half of who you are.”

The Best Man Actor went further and related that “I don’t want my son to be in a situation where he calls himself black and everybody thinks he has a black mom and a black dad and then when they see he has a white mother, they’re like, ‘What’s going on? Are you ashamed?’”

I would love to say that I am flabbergasted at Diggs perspective; however, I am neither surprised nor amused by the reality that yet another notable African-American celebrity is wasting what could be a prominent public platform to represent his people solely because he has little to no comprehension of American racial matters. Frankly, I have come to expect such asinine thoughts from individuals such as Diggs who bask in what must be a blinding Hollywood spotlight that blocks the view of African-American celebrities regarding racial matters.

The central problem with Diggs’ contention is that none of us are allowed to choose our racial/ethnic identity in America. Although it may be soothing to Diggs’ Negro soul to think that his child will be the first African-American person to escape the large shadow of prejudice, discrimination, and racism; he will ultimately realize that not even money has been able to preclude what many terms the stain of blackness. This socially constructed concept, meaning Race, is much more complicated than someone like Diggs could ever imagine.

In the utopia that individuals such as Diggs have created in their minds, Race does not determine the life chances and opportunities that a person will have available. Unfortunately for the eternal optimists, their fantasies do not hold much weight in the real world.

During a recent trip to Ghana, I had the pleasure of meeting with several Ghanaian collegians attending the University of Ghana. I soon found that they had little comprehension that when African-Americans emphasized their ‘blackness’ that it was not a physical description rather a political declaration that reflected the historic solidarity that our ancestors had to exhibit for sheer survival.

What individuals such as Taye Diggs fail to comprehend is that the multiple racial identifications that our people have undergone — Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American, African-American — has frequently been a reaction to the pernicious white world supremacy that they have faced at every moment of their existence. Diggs should have enough sense to realize that not even his financial resources will be sufficient to protect his child from prejudiced people and discriminatory behavior.

Considering that it is best if we hear life-changing information from loved ones, there will come a time when Diggs should have a heart-to-heart talk with his son regarding racial matters. Failure to do so will leave him at the whim of a cruel world that has historically proven eager to denigrate Black children without the slightest provocation.  Nearly every African-American below the age of 50 has an interesting story regarding when and how they learned that they were Black, especially if that information came from an outsider. And if Taye Diggs is not careful, his child could very well grow up devoid of a racial identity that is needed to navigate the prejudice, discrimination, and racism that every Black man is bound to experience in America.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture

Considering what amounted to an opening statement in a makeshift debate, I already knew that Floyd found little problem with Taye Diggs’ decision to de-emphasize the racial identity of his child. Hell, I suspected that Floyd was seeking to do this for himself as a fifty-something-year-old. It always amazed me at how eager African-Americans are to add something, really anything, to their racial classification as if that would make them immune to the hellish existence that so many African-Americans experience in this nation. They fight with all of their might against their social classification of being Black. Apparently the heat of racial identity was so significant upon Tiger Woods that he went so far as to create an entirely new racial category that only he belonged to, Cablinasian — Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian, that only he belonged to. I mused to myself, only the Lord knows what tribe ‘Foolish Floyd’ was going to try and induct himself into.

Quite possibly the most annoying aspect of this matter, particularly as it applied to Floyd was that he was way too old to be entertaining such foolishness. In fact, his foolishness reminded me of a so-called movement started by notable African-American youth who attempted to use their fame and notoriety to care what amounted to as a new racial classification for themselves that could be called, “not quite that Black.” I was so disturbed by this awkward turn in American racial politics that I was forced to editorialize about it.

Out of the Mouth of Babes:

The Identity Crisis of Young African-Americans

One of the most important things that any of us are forced to answer is the question of who am I? It is a question that reflects so much about each of us from our historical background, ancestry, heritage, upbringing, socialization, and where we project ourselves in the future. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rash of notable young African-Americans, or Blacks, who have publicly renounced their African-American status.

The alluded to individuals include a roster of notable African-Americans: Zoe Saldana, Keyshia “I’m biracial” Coles, Tiger “Cablinasian” Woods, Devyn Adbullah, and Raven Symone, to name a few.

It appears that these Negroes are obsessed with distancing themselves from the Race that they were born into at all costs, including sounding like a complete idiot before the entire world. The Face model Devyn Adbullah went on national television and related to Wendy Williams, “I don’t really consider myself as a black girl model. I know what my ethnicity is, but I’m fair-skinned and I feel like I have an international look”. A shocked Naomi Campbell, who also serves as a mentor to this young lady responded with the following litany, “What the f*ck does she mean? That’s a disgrace! She’s a Black girl.”

Considering the daily attacks that African-Americans are under around the globe, Devyn should recognize that not even her so-called ‘international look’ will be sufficient in preventing unprovoked racial attacks in America, Europe, the Caribbean, or South America.

Ms. Adbullah is not alone in her pontificating about Race matters, particularly her non-desire to be included with the masses of African-Americans. Former Cosby Show star Raven-Symone has emerged as the latest to miserably fail at ingratiating herself to whites by distancing herself from a disbelieving African-American community. In a cutesy attempt at being profound during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Symone relates, “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American…I’m a colorless person”.

As if such statements were not daunting enough, rapper Childish Gambino took to the airwaves and related during a recent interview on the Breakfast Club that he wanted to transcend Race.  Apparently, Childish Gambino believes that his commercial success as a rapper will somehow make him, to use the concept of Raven-Symone, ‘a colorless person’ no longer hindered by the stigma of Race. Songstress Keyshia Coles also joined in on this most unfortunate discussion of Race by hesitating to accept an invitation to perform at the Black Girls Rock event because she was not certain that she was Black. Coles relates that she is bi-racial, not Black.

Although it would be easy to simply disagree with such statements, I actually feel that such statements are particularly revealing on several levels. The most revealing aspects are what it reveals regarding (a) the lack of historical context that these young people exist within and (b) their gross lack of understanding of the genesis of Race in America. Each of these young people appear to be screaming, hollering, begging, and pleading with the Black or African-American community to let them go, not to claim them, they are throwing a childish temper tantrum and screaming, in our face nonetheless, I am not, nor do I desire, to be one of you. Unbeknownst to them, it is not our community that either created or over-emphasized the issue of Race in America. We have had to collectively react and scramble for our own survival when faced with the social construct of Race.

Unbeknownst to these feeble-minded babies — Raven-Symone, Childish Gambino, Devyn Adbullah, Zoe Saldana, and Keyshia Coles — W.E.B. Du Bois’ construct that the problem of the twentieth-century is the color line holds weight even in the new millennium. Considering the repeated murder of African-Americans in this nation’s streets, it is darn near suicidal for someone to think that they can navigate this pesky Race issue alone. However, I am certain from your public statements that you will not take a Black man’s word for it, so please go and ask the nearest random white person what you are, and I am quite sure that they will not hesitate to point you blackwards.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture

I was absolutely certain that Floyd had read that particular editorial, however, he consciously chose to ignore it in what amounted to a desperate attempt to escape one of the most difficult location’s a human could find himself on the planet Earth; being Black in America. It was this never-ending stress and strain of existing in a nation that considers racial exploitation essential to its prosperity and longevity that has caused African-Americans to seek an escape from the looming omnipresent shadow that racism has cast. This reality of race in America is one that often caused African-Americans to blame themselves, and their kind, for a social status whose construction that they had very little to do with.

Why is it that everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, has to deal with race. If we simply stopped focusing so much on race and racism, it would simply go away.

I had heard this argument so many times before that it nearly drove me insane. The disgust that I was certain was now written across my face failed to dissuade Floyd from continuing to run toward an intellectual dead end.

I have a very good friend named Tom, he’s a white fella. And I’ll tell you what, when I see him, I only see a person, a human being, and not a color. Furthermore, when he looks at me, he doesn’t see a Black person. He only sees a person. Not a black man, but a person.

I recognized Floyd’s argument as an antiquated argument that called for people to ignore racial constructs with the hope that they would eventually dissipate. This argument was so pervasive among racial apologists that I did not have to give my response much thought.

Floyd, what would happen if we simply ignored Cancer? Would it magically go away? No it wouldn’t, millions of people would die as a result of us ignoring it.

Floyd looked at me with a clueless look that conveyed the reality that he had no comprehension of what I was alluding to, so I continued.

Furthermore, you are a Black man in America. No matter how much you want to deny this reality, that’s what you are. Floyd you have to realize that white people invented this thing called race during colonial times for one reason and only one reason, it provided them their greatest opportunity to gain a monopoly upon this nation’s resources and guarantee a permanent labor source of stolen Africans. So you can throw out the notion that your multi-racial heritage matters in this land. You can go out and get a full head-dress and a pair of moccasins and it would not change your status one bit. Put simply, these self-imposed alterations to your racial heritage and identity will not save you from dealing with the three-headed monster of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

A flustered Floyd glared at me as if he were on the verge of making some earth shattering statement; so I was a bit disappointed when he simply stated, “You think that you are so smart” and rose from the picnic table I had eaten my lunch and headed back toward the direction from whence had had initially appeared.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III