When I grew up in Harlem in the 1960’s and 70’s despite the drug addicts and dealers who were periodically caught up in their own disputes that some times resulted in homicides, Black people for the most part were optimistic about the future. As children, we were told, even by the small number of heroin addicts and number runners to stay in school and do our best. Warned that we did not want to grow up like them. I grew up among positive images of successful Black people that I saw everyday in Harlem.
There use to be a code of ethics even among criminals to protect women and children. Plus as a child, you knew that someone was likely to tell your parents if you were seen doing anything wrong. Despite our challenges as a community, back then we saw strong Black families who demanded obedience and excellence from our children. Back then the innocent were seldom the victims of random violence, but that has changed today.
Today life in most inner city Black communities has changed drastically. Its hard to point the finger of blame at anyone. Our children are killing one another at an alarming rate and we adults are asking “Why?” We must hold the mirror up to ourselves and be honest that we have failed to provide them with the hands on guidence they so desperately need along with a strong sense of their history.
Have our children come to believe the distorted hateful and violent pictures of themselves that are so often seen in the media to the point that we are raising a generation of teens that hate one another and know nothing about the rich history of Black people? Children who are contantly listening to the violent and hateful words that are belted on many rap songs performed by young, illiterate, tattooed men wearing underwear showing baggy pants . These negative images repeatedly show Black teens being synonymous with crime, violence, promiscuity and social dysfunction.
Although minorities make up over 50% Of the TV audience, as you look at the major networks you are hard pressed to see programs featuring Blacks and Hispanics in a positive light living normal lives. Positive and negative images are powerful. They effect how we see ourselves and how others see us. Bill Cosby repeatedly says “Our Children Are Trying To Tell Us Something." This young man recently sheds some light on a part of what that message is.
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