Posts Tagged ‘Henry Louis Gates’

Samuel L Jackson’s movie Lakeview Terrace blew me away last night.  I watched it on Starz on Demand and wonder if a beer summit among friends, neighbors and associates could include watching this film before a discussion on race, the police and community peace. 

We all talk a good game about p.c. stuff and “love thou neighbor” but sometimes the guy next door is just a complete jerk.  Jackson gave a great performance (like Denzel in Training Day) because it is rare for me to cheer when a Black guy gets shot but I was so glad when his character was lifeless on the pavement (not to say I like seeing other people get shot…calm down.)

Maybe there is a difference between being racist and being race-conscious.  To me, race-conscious involves understanding the racial climate around you.  For example, if I go to the Post Office after hours and the only other person getting mail is a non-sista woman, I find myself pausing until she comes out because I know she might have that “I hope he is not going to rob me” look.  Hey, if you live in Dixie, you know the deal.  On the other hand, if I pulled up to the P.O. and a sister was inside with a non-Black guy, would I think she should have been more cautious?  What if he had that bumper sticker “If I knew in was going to be like this, I would have picked my own dam cotton” on his truck.  Who knows, they might have been together.

If you think about it, Americans have a constitutionally protected right to be racist in their personal thoughts and beliefs.  The problems occur when those thoughts become discrimination in actions.  Did Dr. Henry Louis Gates racially profile the White police officer?

Lakeview Terrace also starred Obama supporter Kerry Washington.  Sorry Angelina Jolie, Washington has the best lips in Hollywood and my community acknowledges her right to be involved on and off camera with whomever she wants—it’s a free country…in theory.  Jackson played a real rogue cop with a chip on his shoulder.  I did respect his effort to control the worldly things exposed to his children but he was wrong for slapping the daylights out of his daughter for shake dancing.  Control freaks should avoid being married and having kids. 

Lakeview Terrace is a real teachable moment for many reasons.  



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An old friend from Capitol Hill sent me the following email about the subgroups in Black America.  Among Black males in the Georgia delegation in the 90s, the guys would often turn to me for a certain angle because I was familiar with a range of “us.”  In other words, I did not want for anything as a child but I still had a valid Hood card.  My boyhood home was in a subdivision that was/is “hood adjacent” so I can swing if I need to and would have done a better job mama-talking than Henry Louis Gates.  In my town, the second “your mama” came out of someone’s mouth, dude was about to get slammed on the hard pavement or that G.A. red clay.

Did you happen to catch the Black in America II special? I was inspired to see our younger folks exploring that entrepreneurial spirit. However I was also disturbed by our wealthy brothers and sisters establishing cliques based upon status. To me it sends the message if you were born with the silver spoon you are in. But if you were not, too bad, and by the way our door is closed and we are not going to help you get in. But if you somehow do gain wealth (hook or crook) then you are welcome. For me and you I am not so concerned, but in the case of my younger brother I am. He has consistently been at the top of his class and is destined to be a great achiever. But unless he scores the big dollars he can’t get into the club. That is pure BS!Your thoughts?


Once and for all: fancy folks don’t necessarily related to non-fancy people who look like them and humbly-raised southerner Bill Clinton might actually have a more valid Hood card than Barrack Obama.  Remember, Obama was raised in Kansas and Hawaii by some of the nice people you will ever meet.  Clinton came from rough and rural Hope, Arkansas.  Have you ever seen the picture of Bill Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy at American Legion Boys Nation in 1964?  I was a Boys Nation alternate in 1981so I have always like that photo and noticed that the young man in the picture waiting to shake hands with Kennedy is Tom from Sylvester, Georgia, my hometown.  Tom became an All-American football player at UGA and a surgeon but Bill Clinton had him crying in the dorm at Boys Nation.  Clinton was campaigning to make history by electing a Black kid from California the first Black Boys Nation President but Tom said he could not make that vote because Blacks were genetically different from White people according to the teaching at his high school. 


Bill Clinton and JFK

Bill Clinton and JFK


I remember this story because Ted Koppel did a show about it on Nightline in 1994 when the Boys Nation class of 1964 reunited for their 30th anniversary with a member in the White House. 

Gates, Obama, and children of Blacks who are third and forth generation doctors and lawyers have grown removed from the experience and culture of Blacks on the other end of the socioeconomic range and I am proud of Black parents who have provided better living for their children.  Some of these Blacks are unaware of poor Whites struggling and there are Whites who never knew that there have been presidential quality Blacks in America since America became America. 

As a kid reading Jet and Ebony magazines, I questioned the loyalty of Adam Clayton Powell and Thurgood Marshall because they did not looking me but I was so wrong because MLK just presented the whole “content of their character” thing.  Powell was a Harlem congressman who grew up as Black elite in New York and my daddy would tell us stories with pride about attending Powell’s father’s Abyssinian Baptist Church with it’s 5000 members.  Congressman Powell never lost his connection to average people in Black America because he was always in the restaurants and barbershops teaching and listening


Rep. Adam Clayton Powell

Rep. Adam Clayton Powell


In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Malcolm said that Powell told him in a Harlem barbershop that the poor people’s march on Washington was taken over by powerful people from outside our community.  Originally, the protest was designed to be poor people laying down on the steps of the Capitol and the runways of the airport.  But, some money guys came in with a peaceful plan and some big checks..with equally big checks to follow if the plan was executed properly.  The rest is history but think about it: the civil rights movement was not about poor people solely.  It started with Blacks who served in World War II returning home and wondering why they fought for freedom overseas yet did not enjoy fair opportunity or fair treatment at home.  When you look at pictures from the civil rights movement, you see neatly dress and well-groomed people protesting their systematic denial from the America middle class.

Who knows what the next phase will bring but I keep hearing that line from the old Police reggae song “One World is Enough for All of Us” that said “we can not sink while others float because we are all in the same big boat.”  Many successful Blacks are weary of certain elements inside the Black that hold back progress or actually reverse past gains.  I saw Chris Rock’s wife taking the kids to Africa on “Black in America II” and had to think about Rock’s standup routine that started, “I love Black folks but I am……”  CNN’s Black America II was nothing new to most Blacks because we all know about the Black clubs and institutions that did not want Blacks darker than a brown paper bag or those without “good hair.” 

V, we both worked as congressional staff together and knew that most Black Americans assume that the actions of Black members of congress were driven by the best interests of America in general and Black America in particular.  We knew that some of those members were primarily concerned with securing campaign funds to keep their high-profile jobs.  You know I like Obama, Artur Davis in Alabama and Harold Ford Jr. because they expanded the issues of concern for Black America to include every federal issue.  They are standing on the shoulders of Rep. Sanford Bishop and that generation of CBC members who were freshmen in the 90s.  The next generation of CBC members (in my opinion) should included more diversity from the center and even a conservative or two.   A conservative member might choose to skip membership in the CBC like former members of congress Gary Franks and J.C. Watts but we realize that there is a subsection of Black America more interested in business development and self-determination than governmental intervention.  That is nothing knew because a sizable portion of Black America has always felt that way.   


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If the Gates arrest is a “teachable moment,” we must remember that not everything needs to be said and discussed in front of everyone; like the Congressional Black Caucus’s real talks about real problems and real solutions behind closed doors.  What we studied in high school about Jim Crow, de facto and de jure still needs unfortunate consideration when talking with youth (Black, White and Brown) about dealing with the authorities and preparing those youth to be law enforcement. 

My friend M has created a sociological concept she calls the 80/20 Rule (created or forgot where she read it.)  Under M’s rule, the 20% of a group or demographic does things that dramatically impacts the 80%.  For example, this blog constantly covers with a certain about of distain the worst 20% of “us” whose actions burden the community and nation as a whole.  The law-abiding 80% seems feted up and is ready for change. 

Another 20% could be the best among “us” like Dr. Gates—or would that be W.E.B. Dubois’s Talented Tenth.  Because they achieved so much in the face of adversity, they should be rewarded with decent treatment before they leave God’s green earth—like Mrs. Jane Pittman drinking from that “Whites only” water fountain in a pubic park.  Are we making slow progress forward as a culture or will the questionable actions of the worst 20% justify an actually reversal of gains.  Are the top 20% of “us” putting our children in private schools to avoid the worst 20% of “us” and an undetermined percentage of the nation that functions under preconceived notions about “us.”

I have still another 80/20 rule case: the worst 20% of any cultural or racial group in the country will scary the daylights out of the other 80%.  The people on the T.V. show Cops who are more interested in having a pre-jail cigarette than what they just did to their battered spouse trips me out. The A&E’s Invention shows that no groups has a monopoly on self-inflicted hard times.  I can’t call it but generally the 80% can’t give up on the 20%.  Colin Powell wrote in his first book we needs to reinstate shame in this nation—notice he said we. 

On healthcare, the 80/20 rule drives an ethical debate about living choices and coverage.  While many medical concerns are natural, what do we say to those who think that 20% of sick people made decisions (smoking, eating, drink, not exercising) that created their conditions?  I don’t know the stats but those people account for much of healthcare claims.  Will healthcare reform reward the 20% that makes a deliberate effort to live healthfully?  Worst-case scenario: obese guy drives up to an E.R. center in an insured new SUV but he has no health insurance.  Do no harm works both ways.        


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What do they call a Black man with a PHD?   You know and it is a shame. What’s worst is that my parents told me that as part of the obligatory “don’t get to comfortable with certain folks” talk.  Dr. Henry Louis Gates did not listen to the warning that President Obama’s election would not change America overnight.  That warning came repeatedly from Obama himself, Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton and everyone who really knows what’s what. 

The whole “I can’t believe this happened on Harvard Square” thing tripped me out because Malcolm X told us that the South is everything south of Canada and he lived in the same Boston.  Bill Russell said he did not play for Boston but for the Celtics after people got so ugly when he moved into a certain neighborhood.  Can you believe that someone broke into his home and defecated in his bed then covered it with the comforter?  That was wrong; as wrong as someone who looks like us robbing Mrs. Rosa Parks in her home.  I wish she would have done like Pope John Paul II when he was shot and pointed the guy out in a spirit of forgiveness at the Million Man March.   While she is a forgiving person, the street in me would have smooth hung my Rockports in his behind.

I love me some PBS with those long projects by Ken Burns but Dr. Gates series about who is related to White people kind of tripped me out—like those Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemming family folks.  I don’t want to know so I stop my people when they start that talk or I leave the room because I see those people in the post office everyday.  We are not talking about generations removed from the drama because sharecropping (the last part of slavery) did not end until the mid 70s. In other words, there are big farms in my community that got big because the labor was free then systematically cheap.   

The USDA/Pigford case is addressing discrimination problems that grew from the county committees deciding who would farm and who would farm for someone else.  The progress in Black America that is chronicled by Dr. Gates and Soledad O’Brien might be reversed by the current generation of softer, less focus, bling-preoccupied youth. 

So the mayor of Cambridge is a sister and the president was a little rough on the police.  Rather than taking Dr. Gates class or attending his lecture, the young Black, White and Brown guys need to catch me on the tennis court after the matches for my class “How to encounter the police and live to talk about it.”  Repeat after me, “Officer, I was wrong” while remembering the event for a possible lawsuit.       

Finally, what up with Soledad’s CNN Black in America; like she discovered Black America last year. “I have found this fascinating group of people living among us called Blacks and it turns out they are different in many ways from other Americans.”  Soledad, Gates and other Harvard Blacks (who outnumber Morehouse, Spelman, Hampton and Howard in the current administration) don’t know our community as well as the Arkansas connection that came with Clinton in the 90s—Black and White.  Don’t start that “who’s blacker: Barrack or Bill” nonsense because that was answered this time last year. 

On a side note, I am really starting to think President Obama made a deal with Hillary that he would push real reform and let her have it in four year unless he was wildly successful.


Thinking about locals vs. the college community turned me to two classic film scenes. And Good Will Hunting was set in Boston. 

 Spike Lee’s School Daze: KFC —-Language Warning


 Good Will Hunting Apples Scene —Language Warning


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