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Posts Tagged ‘zell’

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Hillbilly Elegy is a good read for those interested in understanding rural people.  I have always thought words like Hillbilly and Ghetto can only be used as terms of endearment by members of those groups.  Attorney and author J.D. Vance gave us a fascinating look into life in Appalachia.  For me, the parallels to the Black community in rural Georgia are: Hillbilly=Ghetto; Holler=Hood; Hew Haw=Good Times.

We all know rich kids who crumble at the first problem in adulthood but not J.D. from the holler and not the folks from the hood who stayed positive.  Hillbilly Elegy feels like Boyz in the Hood to me.  At the end of that movie Tre and Brandi left south Central Los Angeles for Morehouse College and Spelman College in Atlanta.  They were better prepared for college and corporate America than bougie classmates that grew up with money because they had that “seasoning” J.D. also had.  On a recent episode of OWN’s Queen Sugar, a nice, rich Black teen Micah was arrested for simply driving while Black; he wet himself in the local jail.  Prep school and millions didn’t teach him want we knew.

Of course, we want all children to have safe, nurturing environments.  Surprisingly, the old segregated Black community was striving and culturally rich.  This blog often complains that the inmates are running the asylum today; thugs and thug elements are glamorized over clean living in our community.

Some of my friends are concerned that the Black elite selected as leaders simply aren’t familiar with the struggle of every aspect of Black life.  Once and for all, we are happy that we have generations after generations of Blacks with higher education and wealth.  Those people and liberal Whites from New England aren’t necessarily suited to understand the plight of the hood or the holler (holler is a corruption of hollow as in Sleepy Hollow.)  Every Black person doesn’t have knowledge of  welfare, the penal system and Section 8 housing.

Blacks and Whites who are living right often have disdain for those who can’t or won’t break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

Georgia’s most famous Hillbilly might be former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller.  Like J.D. Vance, Miller tested his mettle in boot camp on Paris Island, South Carolina. He wrote a book called “Corps Values” in which he said everything he needed to know about life, he learned in the Marine Corps.  Miller says, “The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.”

In summary, J.D. Vance’s hard youth seems like Joseph from the Bible who was sold by his brothers into slavery but rose to wealth in Egypt.  Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”  When Joseph told Pharaoh there would be seven years of plenty then seven years of famine, the sage advice seem like J.D.’s steelworking Papaw’s wisdom.  The Rust Belt and the South saw many high school graduates earning great wages but felling to spend wisely and save.

Vance’s life from the holler to Yale Law could make him the next Obama; you must buy his book.  He should help answer this question: How much energy and resources should society and the government spend on people who insist on pulling themselves down?   That question looms over the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 and the presidential race of 2020.  What shall become of the hood and the holler?

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis

  1. p. 4 While reality permits some degree of cynicism, the fact that hillbillies like me are more down about the future than many other groups- some of whom are clearly more destitute than we are suggests that something else is going on.
  2. p. 127 As a teacher at my high school told me recently, “They want us to be sheperds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”
  3. p. 138 Working as a cashier turned me into an amateur sociologist.
  4. p. 139 I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largesse enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about.
  5. p. 139 At least as often,, our drug-addict neighbor would buy T-bone steaks, which I was too poor to buy for myself but was forced by Uncle Sam to buy for someone else.
  6. p. 140 …it was my first indication that the policies of Mamaw’s “party of the working man” – the Democrats – weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
  7. p. 144 William Julius Wilson’s “The Truly Disadvantaged” : As millions migrated north to factory jobs, the communities sprouted up around those factories were vibrant but fragile: When the factories shut their doors, the people left behind were trapped in towns and cities that could no longer support such large populations with high-quality work. Those who could – generally the well-educated, wealthy, or well connected – left, leaving behind communities of poor people. The same was true of Charles Murray’s seminal Losing Ground, another book about black folks that could have been written about hillbillies – which addressed the way our government encouraged social decay through the welfare state.144 It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith.
  8. p. 147 We don’t study as children, ands we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools – like peace and quiet at home- to succeed. “I don’t care if you got into Notre Dame,” we say, “You can get a fine, cheap education at the community college.” The irony is that for poor people like us, an education at Notre Dame is both cheaper and fine.
  9. p. 150 Consider my life before I moved in with Mamaw. In the middle of the third grade, we left Middletown….’
  10. p. 177 I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But, there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself- that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability.
  11. p. 191 But the president feels like an alien to many Middletonians for reasons that have nothing to do with skin color. Recall that not a single one of my high school classmates attended an Ivy League school. Barrack Obama attended two of them and excelled at both.  Nothing about him bears any resemblance to the people I admired growing up: His accent – clean, perfect, neutral- is foreign; his credentials are so impressive that they’re frightening.
  12. p. 192 With little trust in the press, there’s no check on the Internet conspiracy theories that rule the digital world.
  13. p.193 If you believe that hard work pays off, then you work hard; if you think it’s hard to get ahead even when you try, then why try at all?
  14. p. 194 There is a cultural movement in the White working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.
  15. p. 214 Social capital: The network of people and institutions around us have real economic value.
  16. p. 226 Adverse childhood experiences or ACEs are traumatic childhood events, and their consequences reach far into adulthood.
  17. p. 228 By almost any measure, American working-class families experience a level of instability unseen elsewhere in the world.
  18. p. 231 How much of our lives, good and bad, should we credit to our personal decisions, and how much is just the inheritance of our culture, our families, and our parents who have failed their children? How much is Mom’s life her own fault? Where does blame stop and sympathy begin?
  19. p. 242 In places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, the American Dream was doing just fine – as good or better than any place in the world. It was in the South, the Rust Belt, and Appalachia where poor kids really struggled.
  20. p. 244 These programs are far from perfect, but to the degree that I nearly succumbed to my worst decisions (and I came quite close), the fault lies almost entirely with factors outside the government’s control.
  21. p. 245 But, it was there, and studies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor.
  22. p. 254 People like Brian and me don’t lose contact with our parents because we don’t care; we lose contact with them to survive. We never stop loving, and we never lost hope that our loved ones will change. Rather, we are forced, either by wisdom or by the law, to take the path of self-preservation.
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The HistoryMakers oral history videos on Rep. Sanford Bishop and Howard University Medical School professor Dr. LaSalle Leffall reminded me of the road Black America has travelled.  This history series, which chronicles the “struggle,” provides useful insight on those shoulders we are standing.  A young person watching these stories should feel guilt-ridden if they aren’t striving for great things.

http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/iCoreClient.html#/&s=6&args=2218

The leaders of the past often came from Black elite families that stress education and achievement.  Dr. LaSalle’s librarian mother in Quincy, Florida, encouraged a kid to become a doctor and that kid is currently Dr. Willie Adams, the mayor of Albany, Georgia. 

Where do we go next in Black leadership?  I personally want to see more leaders with less than perfect upbrings like Barrack Obama because the traditional Black elite might actually be detached from the average American working families.  While former congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a glaring exception, we need an emergence of Black and White leaders with hardscrabble pasts like Senator Scott Brown or Speaker John Boehner or entrepreneurial skills like Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed.  Reed is confronting the city’s budget situation in a manner rarely seen in Democrat politicians during the past few decades.  President Obama met with Reed and other mayors to tell them that federal money for cities would be less and Reed went to work on budgetary hard choices. 

Some people can’t understand that the Black community in America turned to the federal government when state and local governments treated us anyway they wanted…badly.  We must now realize that the next step in the struggle starts with simply remembering the drive, purpose, determination and achievement of the history makers.  It always seemed that Dr. King wanted each individual to stride individually rather than waiting for a leader who could be cut down—one way or another.

I was always taught to respect my elders and those who have done so much in the past; I put their many good deeds on the scale.   With that in mind, we transitioning from Zell Miller and Sanford Bishop to the next phase of southern leadership.  In his oral statements for HistoryMakers, Bishop said that Miller often talked about a turtle being on a fence post and that one thing was certain—he didn’t get there on his own.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a history professor, pushed for an America where every child has an opportunity to achieve.  If that child squandered that opportunity, that’s life and the government can’t ensure a certain quality of life for everyone.  We are in a democratic and not a socialist state.  Dr. Bill Cosby says the same thing.

Every American community would be better if leaders talked plain and told regular folks what the real deal is.  The next generation of history makers will contain polished children of the Black elite but also regular folks who are sick and tired of being sick and tired; folks who have always known that your success or failure ultimately being and ends with you.   At the same time, we must have compassion for suffering children.  The 60 Minutes segment on homeless kids broke my heart.

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Sooner Drown

 

When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to America in 1990 after his long imprisonment, he had a Town Hall meeting with Ted Koppel.  Koppel asked him why his political organization dealt with certain other organizations during the “struggle;”—people like Castro and Gaddafi (Secretary Condi Rice met with that character this summer).  Mandela said that a drowning man does not ask which hands pulled him from the water.

 

Georgia and the South are experience an unusual political season where neighbors and families are at odds over the leadership, temperament and direction of the nation.  The term civil war is oxymoronic but it is starting to feel like a political civic war.  The central theme of this centrist blog is bridge building—that’s why there is a southern bridge made from stone on the front page.  When I picked that picture, I thought about Zell Miller’s industrious mother damming the stream on their land to get stones to build their house.  Now, we throw stones at each other– moving Georgia backwards.

 

This year of political flux creates an opportunity for moderates and centrists to assist good members of both parties and foster cooperation.  Right, sure, yeah, mmm mmm.

 

Both ends of the political spectrum jump on candidates who have functional relationships with the center and (dare I say) the other side.  It’s the silly season where Republicans supported by moderate Democrats say thanks but could you go out the backdoor (and you know what our daddies said about the backdoor.)

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