By Lenny McAllister
Everyone wants change. No one wants to continue on with the level of violence, disrespect, depravity, and economic hopelessness that we have in our communities today.
At the same time, what are we willing to give up in order to turn things around? What is the cost?
A recent high-profile and controversial video (of increasing urban myth notoriety) prompts this decades-long question once again. After watching a fed-up Black male Cleveland bus driver deal with an unruly Black female rider (and her criminal behavior) by stopping the bus, calmly approaching her, and hitting her with an upper-cut that would send nearly her flying off of the bus, I have to ask:
Is this what we’ve come to as a people?
Yes – there is a clear need for moral authority and civic sanity to return to the Black community, especially as one considers the acceptance of violence and dysfunction that are engrained into the mindset of urban living today. And no – this mindset is not used by everyone in cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Compton and elsewhere, but everyone living within these cities is familiar with the mindset.
Yet, some openly think this is what is needed to deal with some of the dysfunction of Black America. So, is the ultimate “tough love” approach the best approach to begin reversing the social dysfunction of Black America, particularly the violence and disrespect from our youth?
I say no.
The symptoms found in that infamous You Tube clip reflect problems that have more to do with civic and social alienation than they simply do Black-on-Black violence and lack of generational respect.
Poor people with good educations find a way to stop being poor through time. They use language to find ways to empower situations and find resolution to problems, not insult each other to the point of throwing punches at professionals or women young enough to be one’s grandchild.
Poor people with access to true political and societal empowerment do not need to fight for self-esteem in the microcosm of an inner-city argument over much of nothing. They are capable of articulating their vision for respect and community-wide esteem through the marching of their feet, the sounds of their hands at the ballot box, or the tone of their message as they voice their demands for better conditions.
Even as poor and disillusioned people, regaining respect as Black Americans – both within our communities as leaders and within the broader national community as citizens – will come when we collectively embrace the true avenues for regaining our strength, potential, and progressiveness that our communities desperately need.
That comes through upholding our moral authority when engaging the tempers of ghetto disappointment and frustration, not socking people in the jaw with an equal temperance that has been stewed over additional decades of life experiences full of discrimination and hurt.
Addressing the symptoms within our communities – the violence, the devaluing of education, the failures to find self-perpetuating economic prosperity – is not addressing the problems of our communities. Punching out someone – even if one believes that the person “deserves it” – may feel good, but it ends up being the same fleeting feeling that our young Black men feel when shooting someone – even if the shooting victim “deserved it” as well.
Unruly children will fulfill their roles of respectful young people when those called to lead with courage and love in our communities fulfill their roles as bold, selfless leaders within our communities – and specifically for them and their future. Nothing less will do.
Standing up to unruly female passengers on a bus is not courageous. It is not easy being disrespected or being otherwise marginalized. Doing anything worthwhile in the secular, civic, or spiritual realms – especially for the sake of positive, healthy change – ever is.
Moving past the symptoms that we confront everyday (whether it involves mouthy teenagers on the street or dangerous gang-bangers on the corners) requires us to stand up to the actual problems within our communities with love over ignorance, focused activism over vigilantism, and moral authority over gutter justice.
Our political actions must begin immediately to be more than about advocating for the first Black president’s re-election carte blanche or taking a strange pride in standing against him without facts or figures to support one’s position. Our social interactions must begin immediately to be more about healing the explosiveness within our communities rather than simply fighting fire with gasoline.
Positive change and community healing has a cost, but it is a cost with a very specific price. It is a price set by historical precedent, obligation, and example. It cannot be paid through meeting the price at all costs, including perhaps selling out who we are supposed to be.
It can only be paid successfully through knowing what we gain – and what we might lose – through each interaction we put our energy and authority into, all in the efforts to advance ourselves past the symptoms we feel to secure the solutions we need.
LENNY MCALLISTER is an internationally-recognized political commentator and public speaker featured on several national and international outlets including BET’s “Don’t Sleep! Hosted by TJ Holmes”, Canada’s CBC and Sun News Network, CNN, and Sirius-XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” regularly on The American Urban Radio Network.