Thursday, November 09, 2006

More From Juan William's Enough

Juan Williams' new book Enough (written in reaction to the Cosby contraversy) covers various topics that he finds problematic in African-American culture today: inappropriate rap music, weak and/or corrupt leaders, putting consumerism above education, and the push for reparations for slavery.

For example, Williams calls the reparations movement "a flashy distraction from the real work black America needs to do to take advantage of a nation that has more opportunities for black people than ever." He argues that reparations are not appropriate in the way that they were for Japanese-American in US internment camps or Jewish people in Germany. Partially, his argument lies in the fact that all of the slaves (and their owners) have been dead for many gnerations. Also, reparations will keep African-Americans in a victim role.

Unlike Williams I am not entirely against reparations. Slavery is often underexplained. It was not a mere economic problem. I largely thought this until I read Fredrick Douglass. Slaves were not only removed from their countries unwillingly, but they were put on boats and forced to live without food or water for many days. Many people died, and those that survived lived in the worst conditions humanly possible. Once in the United States, families were separtated, women were constantly raped, and men brutally beaten. Small children were taken from their mothers. Slaveholders would ply their slaves with alcohol on Sunday to make fun and sport of their drunken stupidity. People who spoke the same language were removed from each other- thus, the development of a pidgeon, which has sense moved into Eubonics.

I think that poor people are bound by a new form of slavery in the United States: consumerism and materialism. Inner-city people are by no means the only group drawn into this system, but there is a seems as obsession with “things” that is particularly ironic and detrimental. People continue to live in the projects, and some argue that this is by choice. I have been told that rent in many "projects" exceeds $1000. This is still a cake-walk by New York standards. If people chose to live there, I think there is some gross mismanangement going. Why would people “chose” to live in areas in which drugs, rats, gunshot, pee-filled hallways, and non-working elevators are common. But, what I have not been able to understand is why people living under these conditions have numerous $100 pairs of tennis shoes, ipods, cell phones, and Gucci bags. I cannot tell you how many inner-city kids I taught in five years who had and have better electronics, shoes, clothes, and jewelry than me (I wear chuck T’s, no jewelry, have only had a cell for a year (which ONLY – believe it or not – CALLS people). I own no musical electronics and we have two computers (our family desk top and a lap-top that my husband’s job gave him). I’ll tell you what we do have – a condo in a nice neighborhood with friendly, good neighbors. We do have the occasional roach, but no rats, guns, or drug-dealers in sight. I don’t mean to brag. I know how lucky I am. However, I could CHOSE to live in Carnasie, and afford that $400 cell phone.

I have had students tell me that they will willingly steal cars (to have the car) or deal (to have the money). When I ask them if their freedom isn’t more important than a car, they shrug it off. Most, truly do not believe they can get caught. Others believe it is worth the risk. Williams blames hip-hop and rap largely for the disintergration of African-American values. Hmmmm….I’m still thinking about this…..But I do agree that modern day rap and it’s obsession with “bling” perpetuates this utterly ridiculous desire for “stuff.”

What worries me about reparations is where will the money go. It seems it would go to perpetuate this new slavery. The slavery of putting stuff before happiness.

No comments: