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I read with a measure of interest the article “Burned Out” (2/6). I was particularly interested because I also know the type of nastiness Jason Cherkis wrote about very well.
In D.C., you have a growing number of black people who have become “haves” in the financial sense of the word. Many of them are now haves because they worked very hard, and, yes, watched affluent whites (sometimes) and learned how to save money and invest, but still have some sense of belonging to the community. They are often greeted by the same people from the community not with open arms, but with suspicion, anger, rage, and often violence.
It’s jealousy, plain and simple, and it is ugly. It is not, as many would love to say, a byproduct of white influence—you know, the old “divide and conquer” thing. This particular form of hatred, envy, and rage has been with our community. I could speak about the community of mankind, because the jealousy lives everywhere, but if I am going to put a face to it, the face is often a black face.
The taunts Cherkis describes in the article, made by “Wiggles,” are nothing new, nor is the fact that there was a fire in that home, nor that he had any of the problems you described. None of it is new, and particularly in our community, you will find a lot of us saying that someone is “putting on airs,” that someone “forgets.”
I ask myself often if remembering means staying perpetually poor, malnourished, and always fighting about race and class. I ask myself often if forgetting means that somehow you are not supposed to elevate your life, challenge yourself to do the best you can, and make life comfortable for yourself. It would appear that the latter is what some community members would like.
It comes down to a very basic thing: We are often like crabs who know we are destined to be cooked. Once we see someone escaping the boiling water, we want to pull him down; that way we all get cooked together, and no one has a chance to escape. But that is as defeatist as believing you can never do anything of great importance because of racism.
Where does racism actually live in most of us? Inside our very souls and bodies. It becomes all the more insidious when we become classist with each other, when we give in to the desire to bash one another because of what some have accomplished, when we begin to equate accomplishment and the desire to be comfortable with “acting white” or “putting on airs.”
You at the Washington City Paper are in a very powerful and influential position because so many people read your articles. Speak to this idiocy, because you know it is stupid. Are you reluctant to do so, because you are not black? As I stated earlier, this stupidity is apparent in all races. You know that that is the case. Look at the attitudes of the factory workers (who are often white), with white-collar workers (who also are often white)—is that not the same garbage? If you reach a similar conclusion to my own, then confront it, or find someone else who will.
I stopped reading the City Paper for much of this issue. Washington has been called Chocolate City for as long as I can remember. The City Paper often gives print to the woes of the black community, but the woes are not all caused by outsiders; they are often—usually—our own. They are demons that have followed us from the motherland. If you look at history, you will find numerous accounts of tribal infighting, based on the assumption that someone had something that the others did not. Again, this applies to all Americans; however, we blacks are taking it, all too often, to deadly extremes—and blaming others.
If a problem does exist, why not point it out, and point out the possible solutions? I have friends who have bought homes in predominantly black areas (they are also black) only to have their flowers killed, the lawn furniture taken—yes, have their homes broken into by other blacks.
I have had friends who have had pets killed, had dirt thrown onto their porches, and been called terrible names by other blacks. Why? Because someone determined that they were “uppity/siddity,” that they were “acting white.” They had words like “playa” hurled at them. They were questioned on how they ended up being able to accomplish what they have, by other blacks.
As a people, we are sick. We are so sick that we can’t wait to find the nearest scapegoat, usually white people. That way, we do not have to accept any responsibility for our own behavior and we suffer no consequences for our own stupidity.
Papers such as yours are in a position to call us all on the carpet. The haves-vs.-have-nots problem is growing in all sectors. It may or may not level off. Some blacks are learning how to do their best, investing time and money in the future; then you have the “underclass”—people who can never imagine doing anything differently than their mothers, their mothers’ mothers, and so on.
You have entire generations on welfare, content to be without anything until the government sends them something. You cannot get any more slavish than waiting for some “savior” to bail you out, and then, when the “savior” is no longer there—then what?
You also have entire generations of blacks who have always been wealthy, who have no idea of what it is like to suffer hunger, homelessness, or poverty in any way, shape, or form. It is easy for them to become so snobbish as to dismiss a group of people who are actually their relatives.
The two sides need to talk, but that will never happen if we are not taken to task over stupid behavior.
What I learned as a homeless person was that if someone is always giving you things and then the giving stops, you have become dependent. Dependency leads to a few things, none of them nice at all. It leads to people having no idea how to take care of themselves. It leads to theft, violence, and murder. It leads to homelessness and more dependency. Do you see how the cycle continues? Give a man a fish and that will soon disappear; teach him to fish and he will eat forever. Isn’t that the way I have heard it put?
Why not address the tendency that many of us have to not accept training when it is offered? The tendency not to save money but instead go out and buy this or that thing. Why not address the slovenly way many of us carry ourselves? When you carry yourself in a slovenly way, then your surroundings are slovenly, your life is slovenly, and all around you are slovenly.
There has got to be a plan, and there has got to be some order. It serves no good purpose to put a situation out there and do or say nothing, unless you have a Plan B: to find someone who has no problem confronting stupidity and aimlessness.