Malcolm’s Complaint

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Larry Tate taught Sucking Up 101 to an entire generation.

(10th excerpt from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

If you’re familiar with the ‘60’s TV sitcom, “Bewitched,” you know Larry Tate.  Larry was Darren Stephens’ boss at the advertising agency where Darren (Samantha’s nerdy husband) worked, and Larry was a classic suck-up.  In business he was a shameless chameleon who would say and do almost anything to win or keep an account.

In the American marketplace there has always been a vast throng of men and women cut from the same philosophical bolt of cloth as Larry Tate.  This herd of suck-ups is overwhelmingly white, but whiteness is not a prerequisite.  Membership in the Suckup Herd is open to anyone black or white, rich or poor.  You can join the Suckup Herd if you want to, and my purpose in the next few chapters is to persuade you to want to, especially if you are young and black.

Today, most white politicians have no qualms about sucking up to voters of any color.  White sports agents will suck up to any athlete, black or white, if there’s a buck in it (Poster Child:  Jerry Maguire).  Schmoozing—that is, Strategic Sucking Up—is part and parcel of American business.  White folks, for the most part, are OK with the concept of Strategic Sucking Up.  Many black folks, meanwhile, are not yet sold on its benefits, and when we give the matter a little thought it’s easy to understand why.

If you are black, particularly if you are young and black, please give careful attention to what you are about to read, then reflect upon it before moving on.  Why?  Because if you will give the next few paragraphs some careful attention and act on your new convictions, you will be set free financially.  You will be equipped to break the chains of economic slavery.  These chains were not intentionally placed upon you by whites.  Rather, they were accidentally placed upon you by a business community that is notoriously indifferent to your race, a community that is too busy chasing its own success to worry much about yours.

Consider the following excerpt from a book published in the 1960’s by a black man named Malcolm X:

“I can’t turn around without hearing some “civil rights advance!”  White people seem to think the black ought to be shouting “hallelujah!”  Four hundred years the white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man’s back—and now the white man starts to wiggle the knife out, maybe six inches!  The black man’s supposed to be grateful?  Why, if the white man jerked the knife out, it’s still going to leave a scar.”

This excerpt was published 48 years ago.  Forty-eight years!  And what fruit has resulted from Malcolm’s complaint?  You tell me.

Granted, in recent years there have been many gains for blacks, gains which Malcolm X derisively calls “civil rights advances!”  Malcolm’s implication is that most “civil rights advances!” have been over-hyped by whites in order to salve the white conscience, while most such “advances!” (notice Malcolm’s sarcastic exclamation point) have yielded little practical benefit to the average black person.  And Malcolm might be right.

Malcolm’s Complaint ought to be a catalyst for meaningful discussion.

Continue reading

Moving Manure

Title: Mushroom Compost Description: Adding mushroom compost to garden borders at RHS garden Wisley, Surrey(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

In order to win the War on RD we’re going to have to move some serious manure.  Put less delicately, we’re going to have to team up and shovel a nationload of BS out of our way.  We’re going to have to rip off a lot of secular Band-Aids–Caesar’s Band-Aids–so that we can see clearly in order to administer spiritual treatment.

This notion underlies just about every aspect of our racial relationships:  Wherever there is racial dissonance there is also evidence that Caesar has already been there and taken an ineffective stab at it.  When Caesar tries to solve a spiritual problem, the results are always lousy.

Examples of Caesar’s futile intervention in the War on RD are endless, but let’s not waste our time on anger or frustration.  Blaming Caesar for not being able to solve racial issues is a bit like blaming a fish for not being able to run a 10K.  Neither the fish nor Caesar are properly equipped for the task at hand, and it’s not their fault.

Instead of aimless venting, let’s take a look at one juicy example of Caesar’s spiritual ineptitude.  One example is all we need because once we see the problem we will see clearly that there are certain problems that can be fixed only by Christians, not by Caesar.

Example number one (and only) is the frustrated ministry of Jayson Williams, a man who had an $86 million gig with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets in the 1990’s.  Jayson stands 6’10” tall and weighs none-of-your-business pounds.  He’s an impressive physical specimen, and his physicality tends to overshadow his considerable spirituality.

Jayson is also one of my stablemates at Xulon Press, having published a book of prison letters entitled, “Humbled,” under the Xulon label.  Jayson is bi-racial.  His upbringing by a black father and a white mother who loved each other and loved Jayson has yielded in Jayson a remarkably healthy racial perspective that could be tapped to gain tremendous ground in the War on RD.

While Jayson was doing 18 months in prison for concealing the accidental shooting death of his limo driver (Whaaat??! Jayson was young and rich and famous and temporarily lost and things got crazy for awhile, and he is forever sorry about the driver, a precious man by the name of Gus Christofi) he devoted most of his time to reading and sharing the Bible.  He returned to his spiritual roots, drew back towards the Lord and became keenly sensitized to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

One day while Jayson was meditating in his cell, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision for a new ministry that would help ex-offenders prosper in the free world.  The idea was that Jayson would use his connections “on the outside” to set promising inmates up for success and support upon their release.  Meanwhile, Jayson and his inmate recruits would work with prisoners to prepare them to take full advantage of their unique opportunity once freed. Continue reading

The Black Monopoly

sharpton-bullhorn(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

Until now, and even now, blacks have been perceived as the only victims of racial dissonance.  As such, blacks have also been considered the only ones entitled to speak out on racial issues. That’s understandable but is it wise?  Is it productive?  Not always.

My dear black friends, if you really want to make progress in the War on RD you are going to have to loosen your death grip on the racial conversation.  You’re going to have to give up your monopoly on the racial discussion and at least hear what sincere white people have to say on the issue.

The relentless beating of the “It’s a black thing:  You wouldn’t understand” drum has reached the point of not just diminishing returns but, more and more, actual losses.  When black folks shout down sincere whites, white folks are inclined to turn away in frustration.  And when deaf ears are turned, no matter the color of those ears, everybody loses.  It’s a classic manifestation of that old rehab maxim: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results.”

In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” which is not exactly a pro-white book, even Malcolm X throws whites a bone by observing that many whites are intelligent.  Indeed, there are a lot of smart white people out there, and when that smartness is combined with Christian sincerity and a commitment to racial harmony, it can yield great ideas and powerful initiatives to conquer ground in the War on RD.  But not if blacks won’t even give whites a listen.

Given half a chance, the sincere white Christian is more than willing to consider legitimate black grievances.  What the sincere white Christian will not do is sympathize with emotional black tantrums or untrue, inflammatory black statements.  In other words, whites of good will can adopt righteous black indignation but they cannot and will not adopt any black view that they perceive as irrational.  Why?  Because whites of good will are sold on fighting fair, and when reason and rationality are missing, the fight cannot possibly be a fair one.  When reason and rationality leave the room the “conversation” becomes a beatdown, and beatdowns are a waste of time, a waste of breath and an aimless, fruitless flailing at shadows. (1 Co. 9:26)

What does this mean in practical terms?  For starters it means, “Do not take us to your leader!”  Many black leaders, especially the older, angrier ones, would do both colors a huge favor by exiting the stage.  You know the ones I’m talking about. Continue reading

White Guys Are People Too

del-maxresdefault(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

Since darkness can’t be scooped out of the room but must be blasted away by light, we now enter the Theatre of Hard Racial Truth.  Here we will snoop around and focus our flashlights on whatever racial dysfunction we can find, and we will do so without bias, without fear and without sentimentality.  That means that we’ll neither attack on the basis of race nor withhold truth on the basis of race.

A good place to start is by looking at the white man.  Why?  A) Because there are a lot of white men and they have a lot of money and influence and B) Because white men have been voted by America as “The Group Least Likely to Give a Damn,” and we want to know if they really deserve that distinction.

Having spent my whole life as a white guy I have some insight to share with ladies of both colors as well as with black gentlemen.  If you’re not a white guy or haven’t spent much quality time with white guys, you’ll do well to read this primer on what makes white guys tick.

The first thing you must know is that inside every nerdy white man there’s a cool black man dying to break out.  Most white guys will deny this, of course, but the evidence is conclusive.  You can grasp this concept by watching a 30-second video.  Simply type, “Office Space white guy rapping” on your search bar and watch.  You’ll see a nerdy white office worker named Michael Bolton (no, not that Michael Bolton) miserably stuck in morning traffic, singing along with raunchy hip-hop on his car stereo.

As a black panhandler approaches his car, Michael stops singing, turns down the stereo, locks the door and raises the window.  As soon as the beggar passes by, Michael effortlessly picks up the beat again, cranks the stereo and sings even louder than before.

When you watch this video you are catching a glimpse of the soul of almost every white guy in America.  No white man likes being stiff.  No white man enjoys being a vanilla slave to his daily responsibilities.  Every white man was once a passionate kid, and that passion has never died.  It’s just been bottled up, often with no outlet and no hope of escape.

Second, white guys love slightly forbidden humor.  They love to laugh at stuff that could get them in trouble.  White guys, to a greater extent than other folks, have never quite gotten over the feeling that their 5th-grade teacher is watching.  Because of their somewhat foreign sense of humor white guys sometimes seem to have a mean streak in them.  But that streak usually isn’t mean, it’s just mischievous.

As a consequence, the more politically incorrect something is, the funnier white guys think it is.  I believe that the white man’s penchant for forbidden humor is largely due to the fact—yes, fact—that modern American society has managed over time to cast the white man in the default role of bad guy.

Question:        What should every white man in America do first thing every morning?

Answer:           Open his bedroom window and shout to the world, “I’m sorry!”

(Note: White guys find this joke amusing.  Others find it less so.)

Wrongly or rightly, white men feel that all women and all black men usually get the benefit of the doubt (Hello, Charles Barkley!), but white men seldom get the benefit of the doubt.  This is an element of Mayberry reality.  White guys feel that if a woman or a black man makes a careless comment it’s perceived as nothing more than a careless comment, but if a white man makes a careless comment it is taken as a reflection of his cold, dark, putrid, irredeemable heart.

Larry David’s TV show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” owes much of it popularity to this Bad White Man phenomenon.  Larry, an awkward but harmless white Jewish guy, can never catch a break.  Despite his good intentions he is routinely skewered by his wife, his friends and the community. Continue reading

A Peek At The Enemy

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As Carl says, “To defeat the enemy ya gotta get inside his skin and crawl around awhile.”

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

Your enemy is not white people.  You enemy is not black people.  It’s time to meet the enemy.

Let’s pretend for a moment that our enemy in the War on Racial Dissonance has a Strategy Room.  On the door of that room is a sign that reads, “The 64 Spirits of Racial Dissonance.”  We are pretending of course, but don’t be surprised to find someday that our little game of make-believe was not far from reality.

Inside the Strategy Room we count not 64 evil spirits but more like a hundred.  It’s a crowded room filled with evil spirits who are busy and passionate.  At once we can see that these spirits are surprisingly unified.  We also see that they are devilishly intelligent and devilishly creative.

As we listen in, we learn that these evil spirits are focused on fanning the flames of three particular racial problems.  They believe that if they can keep growing just these three problems, they will soon declare victory in what they refer to as “The War for Hatred.”

One problem is a problem they are focused on cultivating among whites.  It is the problem they have code named, “Cocoonianity.”

Another problem is a problem they are focused on cultivating among blacks.  Emboldened by recent decades of success in this area, they have dropped its code name and are brazenly calling it exactly what it is—Fatherlessness.

The third problem is a problem they are focused on cultivating equally among blacks and whites.  We soon learn that their code name for this problem is, “Red Word Deficiency.”

Presently a spirit takes to the podium and calls the room to order.  “I’ve been asked to brief you all on our progress in the area of Cocoonianity,” says the spirit.  “Let me begin by reporting that the news is very good.”

As the room rocks with cheers, the evil spirit pounds his gavel on the podium, then continues.  “As most of you know, we have already managed to make Cocoonianity the default racial attitude among white Americans.”  More cheers.

“Now, for those of you just joining us, I should point out that Cocoonianity is a dual attitude.  First it’s the attitude that, “If there are no racial problems in my little world, there really are no racial problems at all.”  Second, it’s the attitude that,” If there are racial problems I sure as hell didn’t cause them, so leave me out of this mess.”  This dual attitude forms a cocoon around the white mind and the white heart.  And thanks to our efforts in this arena, that cocoon has become nearly impenetrable!

Now in order to continue growing Cocoonianity, we must simply stay the course and turn up the heat.  We must continue to convince whites to deny the existence of racial dissonance.  We must continue to promote fear and isolation.  We must continue to hornswoggle whites into believing that it’s the government’s job to solve spiritual problems with nothing but laws and money.  Most importantly we must never, ever allow white Christians to understand that, according to their leader, indifference and negligence are just fancy forms of hatred!” Continue reading

Race – A Laughing Matter (Part Deux)

Vintage Fred: "You was rear-ended by a white dude? In a black Cadillac? Brother, you sittin' on a gold mine!"

Vintage Fred: “You was rear-ended by a white dude? In a black Cadillac? Brother, you sittin’ on a gold mine!”

Theatre I – Brace Yourself!

(Sixth excerpt from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

America doesn’t seem to laugh together as much as it used to, and the laugher hasn’t died down because things are so much worse.  It’s died down because you and I don’t treasure laughter the way we should.  We don’t treasure it as the “gateway drug” to affection and mercy.  Neither do we protect it as our birthright as children of the joyful, laughing Most High.  Bowing to that blind and misguided god, the stifling god of political correctness, too many of us have given up our right to laugh at ourselves and with one another.

Young folks today know next to nothing of the great ‘70’s sitcom, “All in the Family.”  The classic 1978 comedy movie, “Blazing Saddles,” is rarely if ever broadcast.  And Steve Martin’s brilliant 1979 comedy, “The Jerk,” seems to have vanished into thin air.  Why have these gems been mothballed?  Because there is “racial stuff” in them, and everybody knows we can’t have any racial stuff these days.

The party pooping doesn’t stop with squashing white-on-black-humor, either. It extends to black-on-white humor as well.  Most young Americans know nothing of Fred Sanford or George Jefferson or Richard Pryor, and they are poorer for not having made those acquaintances.

Fred and George and Richard have been mothballed in the same closet as Archie and Mongo and The Jerk, but the mothballers weren’t mainstream Americans.  The mothballers were hyper-idealistic journalists, over-righteous clergy and dim, clammy-handed, self-anointed gurus such as Archie Bunker’s son-in-law, the aptly nicknamed Meathead.

The god of political correctness does not like racial stuff because it raises the possibility of conflict, and the essence of political correctness is conflict avoidance.  Political correctness demands that we avoid conflict at all costs by stuffing all of our edgy thoughts. The problem with that is that stuffing creates pressure, and enough stuffing creates enough pressure to blow the lid off anything, including the tenuous peace between American whites and American blacks.

The simple fact is that conflict avoidance is resolution avoidance.  Conflict avoidance is not a virtue, and therefore neither is political correctness a virtue.

As part of my research (ha ha!) for this book, I watched many episodes of the animated TV show, “Boondocks.”  My sons told me about it, and it’s so racially edgy that they couldn’t tell me for sure whether the show was the work of black people or white people.  As it turns out– not that it matters– the genius behind “Boondocks” is a black dude.

At first I had to make myself watch Boondocks because the gratuitous profanity and racial stereotyping made me squirm just a bit.  As I proceeded with my “research,” though, I was soon forced to admit that the show was very funny.  Eventually I found that watching “Boondocks” was a great way to have a laugh and a great way to flush me out of my little white cocoon.

Over the course of several months, my 19 year-old son Daniel and I devoted one evening per week to what became known in our house as “The Boondocks Film Festival.”  Not far into this undertaking we were sometimes joined by my wife, so that Boondocks Night became a sort of bizarre Christian devotional.

To “Frozen Chosen” Christians that may sound like heresy, but the effect of those Boondocks “devotionals” was a heightened racial awareness and a much more authentic Christianity.  Laughter lowered our defenses and decreased our resistance to hard truths.  It opened the way to a more merciful perspective as well, so that we’re now more willing to extend and receive mercy, especially with the “other color.”

You might be thinking “Oh sure, Tommy.  That’s easy for you to say.  You’re just a little white preacher with a nice little white wife and three perfect white kids.  You’re like Ned Flanders, that goody-goody neighbor of Homer and Marge Simpson, but you have no clue what goes down at the Curtis Street duplexes.”

Oh, really?  I’m no preacher; I’m a roofing contractor.  And my sons are far from cookie cutter do-gooders pumped off the Christian Assembly Line.  All three of them have tried the Prodigal Son route.  They can tell their own amazing stories if they choose to, but let me summarize by telling you that my family’s story would curl your hair (or straighten it if you’re black) no matter how street smart you are.

We are not the Flanders by a longshot.  In fact, for many of our 35 years together, Kathy and I would have been tickled to death if we could have just done as well as Homer and Marge.  Many have been the times that we’d gladly have traded any of our sons for Bart Simpson—straight up!

Now that I’m somewhat of a grown-up and am more or less free from concern about what “churchy” folks or anyone other than God thinks of my sons,  I can declare that I am inexpressibly pleased with them.  They are, to a man, sincere seekers after God’s heart.

So please don’t come at me with the “wimpy white preacher” bit.  I’m no smarmy Christian wallflower.  I’m just a guy trying real hard to see things the way Jesus sees them, and when I look at the racial situation in America I’m troubled by what I see.

The racial issue is a serious issue to be sure, but useful Christians—as opposed to useless Christians—can tackle even the most serious issues with a light heart.  Let’s read a bit more from Pastor Jefferson:

  “It is right to say that the glum and dismal Christian is not developed, mature or ripened.  The very first apples, you know, in the earlier stages of their growth are sour and green.  It is not until the sun has done its perfect work that they are golden and luscious.  Just so it is with our souls.  In the earlier stages of development they are often green and sour, crabby and full of acid.  But if they will only subject themselves to the shining of the Son, the great, joyous, exuberant, laughing Son, all the juices of their nature will grow sweet and mellow, and they will find themselves at last in the kingdom of peace and joy.”

Vintage Archie: "Jesus was a Jew, yes, but only on his mother's side."

Vintage Archie: “Jesus was a Jew, yes, but only on his mother’s side.”

Laughter is one of true Christianity’s great natural resources, with deep reserves of laughter lying untapped beneath the surface of American Christianity.  America has much more than its fair share of funny people, and humor is going to be vital in the War on RD because mercy is the A-bomb in the War and humor detonates mercy.

Much will be made in the coming pages of what I call the Three Non-negotiables in the War on RD, but there is really a fourth non-negotiable–laughter.  While it will be shown that the Three Non-negotiables require us to take the offensive, laughter asks only that we lower our defenses.  Each of us can simply let our belts out a notch or two, let down our guard and allow ourselves to laugh early, laugh often and, most importantly, laugh together.

Rank-and-file Americans were not the ones who banished Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford.  We loved them because they were funny and they were honest about how they felt.  We were drawn to them because while their heads were often hard, their hearts were soft.   They were not above repentance once they finally read—and understood—the writing on the wall.

If we, the American people, had been forced to outlaw either the team of Archie and Fred or the team of Meathead Stivic and Lamont Sanford, we would have banished Meathead and Lamont in a landslide.  Why?  Because they weren’t funny.  They may have been sensitive and idealistic but they were not funny.  Consequently, their sensitivity and idealism came across as so annoyingly self-righteous that they failed to inspire or persuade anyone, especially the other color.

Whites like blacks who can laugh and blacks like whites who can laugh.  Fred Sanford and Archie Bunker may have been race-baiting old coots but folks were drawn to them because they were funny.  And then, as we were laughing with Fred and Archie, ever so often we would see them surrender some long-held racial misconception, and they would thereby endear themselves to us despite ourselves.

In order to win the War on RD we must be like mature, luscious apples, not green, crabby apples.  The War on RD must be conducted by folks who love to laugh.  It must be conducted by people who, like Jesus, know where they came from and know where they are going and love to bust a gut along the way.

Be street smart yet harmless.  Peace.

Up ahead:  A peek at the Enemy on Monday, July 25th.

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