“And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,—peculiar even for one who has never been anything else.” W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903
Over 100 years after W. E. B. Du Bois published The Souls of Black Folk, there is still “a strange meaning of being black,” this notion of being a problem. But have you heard the good news? CNN news anchor Don Lemon has a plan to fix Black America. Last weekend on a segment called “No Talking Points,” he outlined five steps to address the “ills that seem to be plaguing the community,” that is, “if you really want to fix the problem.” He listed them in reverse order:
5. Stop sagging. Young black men must pull their pants up because showing underwear in public is disrespectful. It’s also an indication of how prison culture has seeped into the larger society.
4. Stop using the word “nigger.” Those who think they have taken the power from the word and use it liberally are deluding themselves.
3. Stop littering and start respecting the neighborhood where you live.
2. Stop dropping out of school. Finishing high school will help to end “the cycle of poverty.”
1. Stop having children out of wedlock. Children without male role models may wind up in prison or repeating the cycle of poverty.
And, if these issues don’t apply to you, then he’s not talking to you. Ya heard?
For the record, I am not a fan of sagging pants, the so-called “n-word,” or litterbugs. I understand that absentee fathers are a problem, and that it’s better for students to complete high school than to drop out. But, I have to wonder why Lemon’s critique positions African Americans outside the culture and reinforces “otherness.” For example: Problem #3, Littering. The Harlem resident asserts that children and adults are constantly dropping their trash on the ground. While living in predominantly white neighborhoods, he “rarely, if ever” saw this kind of behavior. Thus, whites care more about their communities than black people. This is opinion stated as fact.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to discuss each of Lemon’s points; “Black Twitter” and writers like Goldie Taylor have already taken care of this and excoriated him thoroughly. Blaming the alleged inferiority or pathology of blacks for various societal ills was done in the 20th century. It’s time for a new approach.