Bill Cosby, our funnyman turned jeremiad–our fire bell in the night–has lately been very quiet. No more bombshells dropped recently like saying the problem of the Black community gets out every weekday by 3 or 3:30 p.m., vulgarizing and disrespecting everything that moves. Currently, Cosby has been replaced by another renowned elder, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
During his Saviour’s Day message on Feb. 27, Farrakhan reportedly said, “I saw my beautiful sister the other night at the Grammy Awards. Rihanna. My poor sister, she’s dressed almost with a pair of draw(er)s. And got her legs wide open and just grinding away . . . . She’s filthy and those who watch her are swine.”
As Cosby did earlier, Farrakhan is trying to remind us that we need to check ourselves, that we are taking ourselves over the cliff without any need of help from the Tea Party or other nabobs of negativity. The old joke about the KKK retiring since Black folk are doing much better at decimating themselves than the Klan could ever do may be closer to the truth than most of us dare to admit.
The issue, according to Farrakhan and others, is that Black folk during this day and age have lost their moral compass, that soulful instinct for what was truly right or brazenly wrong in their conduct to and with each other. Whether agreeing with Farrakhan’s assessment of Rihanna’s leg-spreading antics on stage or not, one thing is certain: in the age of HIVs and multiple sexually transmitted diseases, the moral standards of conduct and deportment among our young is as deplorable as our fall to quasi-literacy in the urban areas.
What happened? How did we get to the point when too many of our young can’t tell a classy, sophisticated lady from a tattooed hoochie? When too many young Black men think virtually all Black women are either selling it or giving it away, and can be treated thusly?
One significant part of the Black Experience was always this feeling of being proud to be morally upright. No matter how low things got, there were always enough of those with righteous starch and clarity in their girth to maintain a balance between head held high and wallowing in sin.
Today, there seems to be a big gap where that balance used to be, amid constant denials by participants in moral mayhem that they are doing anything wrong, illegal, or dangerous to the interests of the community. In fact, the community, they say, still loves them.
Maybe so, but it seems to be a pyrrhic love more than anything else. And Lord knows, we don’t need any more role models for our youth to disrespect us and themselves. That cannot be our future, unless oblivion is where we are headed.
We’ll find a way through this particular political-economic tsunami. We have before, and we will again. Our major battle is for the soul and hearts of our young. They must be grounded in a deeper belief in themselves and in their real value. Every time they utter another nig*** this or nig*** that, we see how much more work we have to do.
Where are the moral champions in our communities to remind us of how we should be representing ourselves? Our mothers may not have raised any fools, but some kind of social intervention has apparently occurred and way too many of us have gotten completely off track and are headed straight over a cliff, taking numerous entourages with us.
Where is the moral authority of the Black Church? Too entangled in the hypocritical hand-wringing about the president’s announcement that he supports gay marriage? Too busy trying to out-mega-church one another? This is the time for the Black Church to rise up, stand up again and represent the right way forward. Every Black pastor needs to be actually preparing his facility and congregation to vote and to get others to the polls. We’ve come way too far to blink now.
Listen, Black folk. It’s time to check ourselves. These are dangerous crossroads times, and we need to rely on the wisdom of accumulated experiences to weather this relentless storm and salvage our dignity, history and culture. We must remember the moral righteousness and spiritual strength that brought us thus far, so that the legacy we leave to our children is one they will be proud to be associated with, rather than something to hide in the attic or basement.
We cannot sink into this moral morass lapping at our feet. Remember who we are, Black folk, and what we’ve survived. Step to it and hold each other up, if necessary. We cannot lose what we’ve paid so much to gain.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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