Monday, September 10, 2007

Drive-By Activism and The Jena Six

You may have noticed I haven't had much to say about the Jena Six other than the occasional drop in unrelated posts. I'm very well educated on the issue, but I just don't really have much to add to this story that isn't already being said elsewhere. Sorry, it beez like that sometimes.

Anyways, not a day goes by that I don't get forwarded some email about the latest "urban cause celebre" that "isn't getting enough press" and that we need to "get behind to show them we care". Such past examples are the Tom Joyner & Tavis vs CompUSA kerfuffle with non-urban dictates, Kemba Smith, Shaquanda Cotton, Genarlow Wilson, Marcus Dixon, and now of course, the Jena Six.

Is this story a travesty of justice? Sure it is. And I'm happy to see that the story is now gaining media attention. Rebb'n Al finally saw a way to milk it for some badly needed publicity. On his show today, caller after caller dialed in expressing the need to put pressure on this DA to drop the charges like Rocky. Reverend Al has clearly found his next Imus. Jesse too. Heck, they even convinced Michael Baisden to take a break from his tired assed relationship show to dedicate some airtime to it.

Eventually, the media attention will cause the DA to drop the case, the kids will get off, the cameras will leave town, Rebb'n Al -n- Jesse will find another small town to pimp for publicity, and your inbox will return to getting filled with more Beyonce and Jay-Z in Ibiza photos or some such nonsense. Quite simply, life will go back to normal.

The problem with such "drive-by activism" is that by always being in a passive, reactive mode, we as a whole don't do the work necessary to change the very conditions that often lead to such problems in the first place. It's a whole lot easier to forward a bunch of emails than it is to work with kids (other than your own) on understanding how racism works in this world and how to proactively prepare themselves for it.

I respect the many people who intervene on the behalf of the many victims and causes above, but by jumping from reactive cause to reactive cause, we all let ourselves off the hook. Sure, you feel a little better for a moment, but what's the lasting effect? And furthermore, when we can only get upset about the many cases in which white people do us wrong (police shootings, institutional racism, etc.), what does it say about the many more cases in which we do each other wrong? Black men kill other black men like it's an XBox game, yet I seldom see widespread uproar about this. Why? 8,000 black people were killed, mostly by other blacks in this US in 2005. Why do we know more about the Jena Six than this chilling statistic, and why aren't we doing more to prevent such atrocities?

I hate sounding like a bootleg John McWhorter (believe me, I do), but sometimes, the black "woe is me, I'm a victim" mentality does alot more to hold us back than anybody outside our communities ever could. And reality is, those other folks who are harming us will continue to, cause hell, we don't even care about ourselves. Why should they?

I know you guys come here for whimsical stories and an occasional laugh, but for real, when does joke time end, and "building time" begin?

I have a challenge for each and every woman reading this email: challenge your husband/boyfriend/significant other/baby dad/occasional weekend jump-on to become a mentor, tutor, or coach TODAY! This isn't hard, just tell them to Google the words "tutor" "mentor" or "coach" and the name of their hometown. In 5 minutes, they could sign up to help some of these black males avoid being the next statistic.

Okay, I'll save you the Google, since I know that's a convenient excuse. Here goes.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

100 Black Men of America

America's Promise Alliance


If you're in the DC Area, I'm gonna help you even more. Tell your man to join ME (yes, I'm already signed up), and the dozens of other black men in the University of Maryland's MIMAUE Mentoring Program. Signing up is easy, the time commitment isn't that intrusive, and they can help me and others who care proactively steer the next generation of black men in the right direction, as opposed to forwarding an email about them 10 years from now.

And ladies, if you throw all this easy-to-follow info out there and your man still has no interest in helping, do YOUR part and don't give him any until he signs up. I'm dead serious about this.

All jokes aside, I hope you made it through this rambling rant. If you did, I challenge each of you to greater action than pressing a fwd button. Roll up your sleeves, give some of your personal time, and do something.

I'm stepping off my box of Irish Spring now.

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