Finding Your Way through the Cultural Divide

Several weeks ago, I decided to rest my fingers for a while because I wanted to spend time figuring out an uneasy issue we encounter multiple times in our lives.  Last month, our nation witnessed the judicial verdict of another unwarranted death of a minority teen.  While the George Zimmerman trial story still simmers in the minds of people across the country, I wondered if we’ll ever get to a ‘good’ place where we could live in dignity and respect?

I went to the cinema last week to view a movie entitled Fruitvale Station.  A real-life story, directed by Ryan Coogler, was a snapshot of an often troubled twenty-two year old African-American man named Oscar Grant.  The movie depicts the last 24-hours of Oscar’s life leading up to a string of documented cell phone videos capturing his instant death by the hands of a San Francisco BART police officer on January 1, 2009. 

For more details of the file, visit: www.fruitvalefilm.com

Though it took three years to finally showcase Oscar’s story, his tragic situation never received the same attention as Travon Martin’s untimely in 2012.  And as I write this, there will be another sad situation happening right now – that unnamed person won’t get the level of national attention either.

After the ending of the Fruitvale Station movie, I left the cinema very disturbed and emotionally drained.  Just when this young man was trying to change his life and attempt to become a good son, boyfriend, and young father, his chance of growing old was snuffed out by one bullet – the same as Travon Martin.  Both unarmed and too young to leave us.

Last weekend I visited my hometown of Detroit to surprise my niece at her high-school graduation party.  Half of the party attendees were her friends – young girls and boys all grouped together and having a good time.  As an uncle I wanted to reach out to the young guys and speak to them, but I didn’t want to ‘embarrass’ Kenya so I stayed in my cool swagger spirit (smile).  What I saw from a distance was a group of kids with great potential but cautiously felt the un-welcomed scrutiny that would meet them in the future.

I can never know what is in the mind of today’s young men like Travon and Oscar, but I can relate to the pigmentation of their skin color.  Once upon a time in my youth, I shared the same feelings when going to certain places, communities, or events.  Today in my near middle age life, there are times I think I’m being watched or sense a level of intimidation in unfamiliar places.

What’s more troubling is that United States still remains widely segregated – not by law, but by who people call friends.  A new poll from Reuters shows that around 40 percent of white Americans and 25 percent of non-white Americans have friends exclusively of their own race.

Source of the Polling: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-usa-poll-race-idUSBRE97704320130808

How do we come together and begin easing our frustration to understand brothers and sisters from different cultures?

I believe we should:

  • Spend more time with workplace individuals after work hours
  • Get to know the parents of our children’s friend / get to know parents through your children’s sporting leagues
  • Attend social events in your neighborhood – take a French speaking class, become a team player of an adult basketball team, join Toastmasters, etc.
  • Attend cultural events in your neighborhood – learn how to Salsa dance, go to a German October Beer Festival, take-up an African-cuisine cooking class, etc.
  • Travel abroad – take a trip to Mexico, Europe or Africa…
  • Learn world histories of other cultures or countries
  • Get involved with our youth – attempt to understand their language
  • Volunteer at a Senior Citizen Residential facility
  • Plan to travel on a mission trip – could be local, regional, or international
  • Work at a soup kitchen station or volunteer at a homeless shelter
  • Join a social cause organization that you’re passionate about – health non-profit organization, run group, biker club, etc.

Poet, essayist and novelist, the late Audre Lorde said “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

The more we learn and appreciate each other’s cultures and backgrounds, I believe we can start the healing process of the existing racial divide.

21st Century Brutal Whipping – Where are we?

As we proudly honor the fine achievements in the African-American community and currently celebrate Black History Month, I can’t help but wonder if our attention is too focused on the ‘greatness’ of the people, rather than helping the plight of other people?  I wonder about the people who came before us and fought hard for civil liberties and equality.  Like many of you, I’ve watched the BET Honors last week as well as the historic Presidential inauguration last month. I’ve also read many of your “Scandal” TV commentaries on Facebook – a praising chatter about the most celebrated prime-time show featuring an African-American woman who is the central/leading character of the drama series.

The question poised in the last paragraph can be related to the very first question by God to Man written in the Book of Genesis. “God called to the Man: ‘Where are you?” (Msg. 3:9).  This week, mainstream media showcased a disturbing YouTube video that was watched by some forty-thousand viewers showing a young Newark, NJ African-American teen being forced to stripped naked by several ‘thugs’ then mercifully being whipped for nearly one minute – all because of $20 (If you care to watch it, go to www.liveleak.com and type in their search engine “Newark Teen” – it is for mature audience only).  Call it flogging, whipping, or whatever – the senseless act sheds light on where we are.  We seem to overcast these stories and say how sad, yet little is done.  We sadly watched an innocent young girl’s funeral in Chicago last week – shot down in the cross-fires of a gang shooting – yet little is done.  We watched in horror last year of a surveillance video (of nine full minutes) showing a 9-year old child brutally beating two infants in a day care center in Mississippi; only steps away a day care provider has her back to the problem, yet little is done.

Where are we…?

One of the greatest abolitionist in U.S. History – Frederick Douglass, wrote in his 1845 autobiography book (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave) witnessed a whipping from a slave master to his aunt.

[. . . ]
Aunt Hester went out one night,—where or for what I do not know,—and happened to be absent when my master desired her presence. He had ordered her not to go out evenings, and warned her that she must never let him catch her in company with a young man, who was paying attention to her belonging to Colonel Lloyd. The young man’s name was Ned Roberts, generally called Lloyd’s Ned. Why master was so careful of her, may be safely left to conjecture. She was a woman of noble form, and of graceful proportions, having very few equals, and fewer superiors, in personal appearance, among the colored or white women of our neighborhood.

Aunt Hester had not only disobeyed his orders in going out, but had been found in company with Lloyd’s Ned; which circumstance, I found, from what he said while whipping her, was the chief offence. Had he been a man of pure morals himself, he might have been thought interested in protecting the innocence of my aunt; but those who knew him will not suspect him of any such virtue. Before he commenced whipping Aunt Hester, he took her into the kitchen, and stripped her from neck to waist, leaving her neck, shoulders, and back, entirely naked. He then told her to cross her hands, calling her at the same time a d——d b—-h. After crossing her hands, he tied them with a strong rope, and led her to a stool under a large hook in the joist, put in for the purpose. He made her get upon the stool, and tied her hands to the hook. She now stood fair for his infernal purpose. Her arms were stretched up at their full length, so that she stood upon the ends of her toes. He then said to her, “Now, you d——d b—-h, I’ll learn you how to disobey my orders!” and after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor. I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet, and dared not venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over. I expected it would be my turn next. It was all new to me. I had never seen anything like it before. I had always lived with my grandmother on the outskirts of the plantation, where she was put to raise the children of the younger women. I had therefore been, until now, out of the way of the bloody scenes that often occurred on the plantation. [. . . ]

Sadly some hundred and fifty years later, senseless whipping of another being is inhuman and unacceptable.  The unsettling ideal of watching this clip and listening to these thugs taunt and whip this teen (who is of the same race) makes me ill.

Where are we…?

If you ever felt discomforted by these recent stories about the future generation, please take action.  If you’re doing something already, I salute you!  There are a myriad of young-related organizations in your neighborhood.  Our children need us!  Where are we?  Our response should be: We’re here to help young man or young lady.

Lets go people and do some good!