This post appeared first on Urban Intellectuals April 11, 2014
“I’ve gotten completely tired of the behavior of people in this city. I’ve gotten tired of the behavior of people in general to be honest. As I asked before, why can’t we just have a period where nothing crazy happens? Why can’t we just live peacefully with each other without any drama? Here’s an even better question: why is my black community so messed up and what can we do to change what’s going on?”
– Aaliyah Anderson,“The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson”
I’m not in the business of spreading divisiveness or negativity. I’m in the business of improving my community. You can’t bring up problems without discussing concrete solutions. It’s only right! So, what are the three reasons why the youth don’t have a chance at success and what can we do to improve on this as time goes on?
You know one thing that irks me to no end? The fact that the black youth are counted out in every way, shape and form. Everybody always has a mouthful to say about my generation but they haven’t done anything to guide us! While there are many exceptions, the youth of the black community have been left to fend for themselves.
1) A Lack of Alternatives
“The life you chose come from lack of options in time,
Gotta do what you gotta do, even opting to crime.”
It was reported earlier this year that 92% of teenagers in Chicago, ages 16-19, are unemployed. Looking at that statistic, is it a coincidence that there were over 500 homicides last year. The worst thing about it is that last year was a rather good year in relation to the homicide rate! It went down 20% from 2012.
I find the late, great emcee The Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics from the song Things Done Changed to be incredibly profound. In it the song, he says, “If I wasn’t in the rap game. I’d probably have a key knee deep in the crack game. Because the streets is a short stop. Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot”. Why is it that my generation believes that the only way to be successful is to play sports or become an entertainer? Why are those with higher dreams often looked down upon?
Why don’t the elder statesmen of the community show the youth that there’s a better way? That’s all that needs to be done. Talk is cheap! I mean, we see the faux “prosperity” of drug dealers, sports players and rappers glorified all the time in the media after all. Show us that there’s benefits to working hard and becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer or business owner. Celebrate, encourage and help those who are moving forward carve out a niche in a different arena.
2) Attempting To Thrive In A Negative Environment
“Man, Willowsfield is so crazy that people in Atlanta and Macon talk about how out of control we are! If you look at a map, we’re located directly in the middle of both of those cities. In the south, you have to deal with a good bit of ignorance every day. It’s almost no escaping it! But Willowsfield is truly on a totally different level when it comes to stupidity.”
– Aaliyah Anderson, from the forthcoming young adult novel “The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson”
Let’s not act like many of our youth aren’t in horrible circumstances. Often times we are trapped into negativity due to the lack of a positive alternative. Many people in my generation haven’t even escaped the proverbial prison that many would call their neighborhood. Because of this, they become near sighted and are only concerned with now instead of later.
And it’s incredibly easy to lose track of your goals. My tenure in high school is a perfect example of this. Seeing how brainwashed and mindless some of my peers act makes me feel like giving up on the fight. However, I look at the impact I’m making on people’s lives through the postage of my writings on the internet. It gives me life, it gives me hope. Seeing that I’m slowly, but surely, making a change gives me initiative.
Show us that there’s more to life than the streets. Show the brothers and sisters in messed up circumstances that the grass is greener on the other side. Give us something to stand for; something worth maneuvering past the negativity surrounding us to achieve. Just like what Malcolm X said: “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
3) A Collective Failure in Effective Parenting
“In spite of the seven thousands books of expert advice, the right way to discipline a child is still a mystery to most fathers and…mothers. Only your grandmother and Ghengis Khan know how to do it.”
Too many times I’ve heard adults say, “Back in my day children had respect”. I’ve also heard many parents (including mine) say to their kids, “If I had dared to say ‘XYZ’ to my parents I’d be picking up my jaw off the floor”. Don’t you think that maybe that’s our problem? We aren’t being held to a higher standard?
That’s why you wouldn’t have dared to talk back to Big Momma or sass Poppa! They set boundaries. You knew where they stood. Because they love you, they expected the world from you. The reason why I’m even here right now is because of my parents setting clear boundaries. They rewarded me when I was right, disciplined and taught me when I was wrong, then laid out a blueprint for how to be successful in life and not make the mistakes they did.
However, not every household is built like mine. You have mothers and fathers engaging in the same ratchet, childish games that their children do. What father sits back and smokes weed with his son? What mother goes partying with their daughter? That just isn’t right!
Parents, set an example for your children to follow. We need you to be the strong willed Matriarchs and Patriarchs that your parents were. Set us straight! If you don’t, how are we going to know right from wrong? My mom always tells me that charity starts at home and spreads abroad. I’m just saying!