Strategic Sucking Up

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

To review, the Sucking up Nugget (1 Peter 5:6) reads as follows:  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time.”

Harlem is understandably suspicious of the Sucking Up Nugget.  Harlem Reality is that the term, “Under God’s mighty hand,” has been forever preached to Harlem as, “Under Whitey’s thumb.”  Further, Harlem Reality is that the term, “in due time” has been forever preached to Harlem as “”when you get to heaven.”  Combining the two terms, Harlem Reality is that the preaching it has received on the subject of Strategic Sucking Up is, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the white man’s thumb, and you’ll get your deluxe apartment in the sky when you get to heaven.”  Naturally, Harlem is highly resistant to this message, just as it should be.

Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and crossed over from Christianity to Islam at about the same time that Malcolm’s Complaint was gaining popularity.  Ever since, young blacks have been abandoning the Christian faith.  That exodus has been largely due to a very reasonable objection to irresponsible preaching on the subject of Christian humility.

Black or white, we would all do well to get up to speed on what Jesus actually teaches about humility.  Since that subject is too big for this li’l ol’ book, let’s just blow the fog and confusion off The Sucking Up Nugget.

The racial reality of the Sucking Up Nugget is that because people are insecure and want comfort and security for themselves, we must scratch their insecurity itch in order to get what we want for ourselves.  The Sucking Up Nugget has powerful implications for the here and now, not just the hereafter.

Strategic Sucking Up—humility—is a sign of wisdom, not weakness.  Strategic Sucking Up is our ticket to that “Dee-lux apartment in the sky.”  Strategic sucking up is how we leverage others’ insecurities for our benefit and theirs.

Black or white, the friendly shuttle bus driver’s tip jar is always bulging with bills, while the surly driver’s tip jar always has three dimes and a lonely quarter rattling around at the bottom.  One driver understands that Strategic Sucking Up is everything, while the other driver either doesn’t understand or has foolishly chosen poverty over prosperity and victimhood over victory.

Black or white, the courteous and reliable burger joint cashier will soon be assistant manager.  Meanwhile, the cashier with a constant chip on her shoulder will soon be looking for yet another grunt job and lying yet again about her employment history.

Much of what many blacks perceive as a “racial thing,” then, is not a racial thing at all but a capitalism thing:  If you want to move up, you’ve got to suck up!

In business, I’ve learned the hard way that there are times—many times—when my opinion just doesn’t matter.  Even now, as a comfortable, white business owner who’s been practicing for over 30 years, I spend most of my time sucking up to clients of all races.  Why?  Because I want to be king of my castle, not theirs.  When I’m a guest in their castle, I’m as quiet as a mouse walking around in sweat socks.  I address them as “Ma’am” and “Sir” even though most of them are younger than me.  I work around their schedule, not mine.  They say, “Jump!” and I say, “How High?”  In business, like all successful business people, I have a healthy streak of Larry Tate in me.

In conducting business this way I am not “selling out” or selling my soul.  I am merely cooperating with the universal law, “There is a season for everything (Ecc. 3:1),” and I have resigned myself to the fact that the season for airing my opinions and oozing attitude is not when I am trying to close a deal.

Strategic Sucking Up is not something that only blacks are expected to do.  Let me offer just one example of a white man who, because of his stubborn refusal to suck up, bit off his nose to spite his face.

Recently, I had occasion to hire an attorney.  I called one I had worked with in the past and explained the details of the new case.  He told me he would be happy to take the case and that his fee, win or lose, would be $10,000, with $5,000 due up front and $5,000 due in 30 days.  I agreed to his terms.

About 10 minutes later I received an email from this lawyer in which he stated, “I will need the $5,000 retainer, in the form of a cashier’s check, in my office by noon Monday.”  At the time I received this email, it was Friday afternoon and I was over 1,000 miles away.  I was not due to return to Atlanta until Monday evening and couldn’t get the money to him until Tuesday, a day after his deadline.  Besides the difficulty of meeting his deadline, I was offended by his pushy attitude, especially because he is only half my age.  I replied to his email as follows:

“I cannot have a cashier’s check in your office by Monday noon but will drop off a company check sometime Tuesday.  It’s a waste of my time to stand in line at the bank for a cashier’s check.  My company check is just as good as a cashier’s check.”

The young lawyer instantly replied, “You have my terms.  Take it or leave it.”

Now, this lawyer is not some whiz kid.  He doesn’t have great online reviews.  His law degree is not from a prestigious school.  He is not a partner in a big, powerful firm.  He is just a feisty upstart who works out of a modest office and, as far as I can tell, could use more work.

Take it or leave it?  I left it.  Then I went and found a better lawyer for $7,000, won the case and saved myself $3,000.  Meanwhile, that young white lawyer, who could have earned $10,000 for doing next to nothing, ended up with diddly-squat.  Why?  Because he refused to SUCK UP!

That lawyer made me angry, didn’t he?  He hurt my itty-bitty feelings.  He tried to raise himself by lowering me.  So what did I do?  I voted with my checkbook, and I voted with total disregard for the color of that lawyer’s skin.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Scenarios like this play out millions of times every day in the American marketplace, and if you are not getting your piece of the pie, it is not because you are black.  Rather, it is because you have gathered around you a great number of role models who teach you stupid stuff.  It is because you refuse to suck up.

“Unbought and unbossed” may be a cool tattoo but it backfires big-time in job interviews.  Leading with the chip on your shoulder is a sure-fire way to get knocked down over and over.  Those who refuse to engage in Strategic Sucking Up will never move up; they’ll just keep getting knocked down until they are too punch-drunk to stand up and fight any more.

To drive this point home, I’ve penned a little parody to remind us of the importance of Strategic Sucking Up.  Try practicing this song’s principle in the marketplace and I guarantee you’ll break the chains of economic slavery!

“Suckin’ On Up”

(to the tune of The Jeffersons’ “Movin’ On Up”)

Well, I’m suckin’ on up

(suckin’ on up)

Time to dee-side

On a dee-lux apartment in the sky!

I’m suckin’ on up

(suckin’ on up)

Time to dee-cide

To get myself a piece o’ the pie!

Sass don’t work in the workplace,

A mean mug don’t pay the bills.

Took a whole lot o’ “yes, sirs,”

Just to get up that hill.

Set my course for the Big Leagues,

Save my turn at the bat,

‘Long as I live

It’s me an’ my smile

Ain’t nothin’ wrong widdat!

(Cuz) I’m suckin’ on up

(suckin’ on up)

Time to dee-cide,

On that jaw-droppin’ condo in the sky!

I’m suckin’ on up

(suckin’ on up)

Time to dee-cide,

To have myself a piece o’…the…

Pie – I – I – I!


Be street smart yet harmless.  Peace

Next:  An Urban Parable


The Day I Worked for Trump

(Note:  This week we take a break from “Harlem Meets Mayberry” to have a little fun with The Donald.  HMM will be back next Monday.)

 Months before Donald Trump showed any particular interest in the black vote, I had a feeling he would make blacks his #1 priority in the 2016 campaign.  Sho ‘nuff, in the past few weeks he’s gone and done just that.  And even though it looks like a risky move so far (he has the lowest black approval rating of any presidential finalist ever), it could turn out to be a stroke of genius—provided that under the blowhard Trump hood hums a sincere Trump engine.

Where did my feeling about The Donald’s strategy come from?  Maybe it was a lucky hunch.  Maybe it was because the math makes so much sense.  Maybe it was because, having just spent two years working on Harlem Meets Mayberry, my racial antennae are way up.  Who knows?  Who cares?

I care.  I care because if Trump decides to throw most of his eggs in the Black Vote Basket, we’ll have front row seats to the most fascinating political experiment—and one of the most fascinating social experiments—in American history.  I care because if he’s got the nerve to finish this experiment (and he is nothing if not nervy), he can do this country more good—even if he loses—than almost any candidate ever.

So while I’m not all that interested in most elections because I believe that most of our big problems are spiritual rather than political, I’m interested enough in this election to indulge in a bit of make-believe.  Specifically, I can’t resist pretending that, for just one day, I’ve been hired as a consultant to the Trump campaign on its Black Vote Strategy.  So here goes:

I arrive a Trump HQ at 6 a.m. and am greeted by one of Trump’s toadies.  He hands me a briefcase containing $1 million in cash, my pre-arranged fee for this day of racial consultation.  I withdraw $1,500 for a hotel room, a Broadway show, a nice meal and a plane ticket back to the ATL.  Then I hand the briefcase back to the toady along with a note containing instructions on how the rest of the money should be spent:

  • $200,000 to the First Tee.
  • $200,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation on its 20th anniversary (Tiger? 20 years?    We’re all burning daylight).
  • $200,000 to a charity of Richard Sherman’s choice (Smart like Trump, outspoken like Trump, black unlike Trump).
  • $200,000 to Kanye West (since that miser, Mark Zuckerberg, wouldn’t help him out. LOL!).
  • $150,000 to Darryl Strawberry’s ministry (The man has big demons but a bigger heart. Gotta love him).
  • $48,500 to distribute a copy of “Harlem Meets Mayberry” to every A.M.E. church and every HBCU in the United States.

Continue reading

Pedro and Paulo

difference-between-stepbrother-half-brother_a6390cfe897c2709(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

Theatre II – Hard Racial Truth

Pedro was a handsome, cheerful boy in my son’s Cub Scout den.  His parents, Christiano and Ana, were from Brazil.  Pedro and his little brother Paulo had been born in the States.  At home the whole family spoke Portuguese.  Everywhere else they spoke English.  Both boys, ages seven and five when I met them, were perfectly comfortable with both languages, and they spoke each with no trace of a “second language” accent.

Maybe you’ve seen a similar phenomenon; the wonder of a child completely and comfortably bi-lingual, in command of his ancestral language because of where he comes from and in command of his environmental language because of where he is and where he’s going.

Similarly, you and I have a default racial reality, a “native” racial perspective, because of where we come from.  But there is another racial reality all around us, a reality that is not new but may be new to us, and we must choose whether or not to learn it and embrace it.  That reality is as old as Jesus, and it is the reality we must embrace in order to live well where we are and in order to go where we want to go.

To stubbornly cling to a flawed ancestral reality—Harlem Reality or Mayberry Reality—is to walk blindly and stupidly into the trap Paul warns us about in 2 Timothy 4:13: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears long to hear.”

The antidote to the poisonous racial message bombarding us today is the message of actual racial reality.  Actual racial reality is the “second racial language” we all must learn in addition to the Harlem or Mayberry reality we grew up with and with which we are comfortable.  It is the racial reality we must teach our children by frequent repetition.  It is the racial reality we as individuals must teach and it is the racial reality our “villages” must teach.

Actual racial reality–let’s just call it racial reality from now on—is built upon two simple truths.  The first is that the desire to hold other people down is almost never motivated by race.  It is motivated by insecurity and manifests itself in that color-blind trait which is common to all humanity; the self-absorbed desire for comfort and security.  Again, the desire to hold another person down is almost always motivated by insecurity, almost never by race.

The second fundamental truth of racial reality is that while the War on RD is winnable, a war against insecurity in others is not.  Since we cannot win, and thus would be foolish to fight, any war against others’ insecurities, we must learn to live at peace with those insecurities.

Continue reading

Malcolm’s Complaint


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

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