“Lessons From an Earlier Generation of Black Men,” by Alpha Unit

I know some young Black men who are just starting out in life – some young Black men I’m fond of. They’re in their twenties, and they’ve got to find a way to make it, not only in a rough economic climate, but in a society that very often thinks the worst of them.

When I think about what they have to deal with, I can’t help thinking of my father.

When my father was a teenager, a long time ago, there was no such thing as the Civil Rights Movement, as it is thought of now. There was no such thing as affirmative action. No such thing as political correctness.

Nobody in the society he lived in cared about the concerns, needs, or problems of Black men.

If you were a Black man, your family and your friends surely cared for you. But once outside that circle, you were in hostile territory. Openly hostile territory. You were in a place where not knowing your proper role could get you killed.

Black men like my father got very good at controlling their impulses. And repressing their urges. It was a matter of life and death.

Nobody was going to cut you any slack. There was no such thing as an “even break.” It was stacked against you, and you knew it. You knew what these people thought of you, and you learned early on the pitfalls of dealing with them.

When my father was young, the Whites around him didn’t feel that they owed Blacks anything. The most he could hope for from these people was that they would pretty much leave him alone so he could go about his business. That was it.

Forget any other expectations. And there was no such thing as demanding anything from them.

And so no matter what his apprehensions were, my dad went out into this environment full of people that didn’t give a damn about his survival and made a life for himself.

I’ll never know some of the things my dad might have seen, or experienced, as a young man making his way in the South, at a time when no one would have conceived of his civil rights. He didn’t talk much about those days. I don’t know what complaints he made in private, or how he may have felt about the situation he faced.

But I never once, ever, heard him complain about “the system,” or about the raw deal White America had given him. And it did give him a raw deal. If anybody had a right to complain about White people and White America, it was people like my dad.

But we never heard it.

Men in his generation, in general, probably just didn’t complain about what life dished out to them. Maybe what he learned from his father and the other Black men around him was that complaining got you nowhere. It was a waste of time. Nobody cared.

Just keep doing what you have to do. Find a way. If you can’t find a way, make a way.

That was how life worked.

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27 thoughts on ““Lessons From an Earlier Generation of Black Men,” by Alpha Unit”

  1. The most he could hope for from these people was that they would pretty much leave him alone so he could go about his business

    Which is why Malcolm X is worthy of more respect than MLK. Respect (in this case, racial respect) comes from self-determination and independence, not begging.

    I have far greater respect for black nationalists such as Malcolm X and Farrakhan than whiny, Culturally Marxist black integrationists.

    These Cultural Marxists rail against evil whites, and yet also want to live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools, and even MARRY whites.

    (for example, you frequently hear anti-racists bemoan the fact that white suburbs and schools are not diverse enough. They also go on and on about how white hearts never changed and genuinely welcomed blacks. Why do they care so much about white peoples’ hearts and whether or not white areas are diverse enough? Obviously, they crave white acceptance)

    These black integrationists think that they can brow-beat people into respecting them.

    Black activists need to learn from Malcolm X, the black power movement, etc, that respect comes from self-determination and independence, not begging whites for acceptance, jobs, etc.

    It was a waste of time. Nobody cared.

    You’re right. Nobody does.

    That’s why I think black nationalism is a better alternative than anti-racist Cultural Marxism.

    Whites are NEVER going to embrace blacks or accept their demands. So blacks have to either

    a) follow the nationalist route and create their own independent black sphere

    b) play the waiting game and hope that things will all get better once whites become a powerless minority, and hope that the newly emerging Hispanic/other non-white majority is nice to them.

    1. This is interesting, but I want people to know that this post isn’t advocacy for Black nationalism. It’s not really about politics at all.

      1. Well, just to clarify, I’m not saying that YOU are endorsing black nationalism.

        I am!

        And I should also clarify that when I said whites will never embrace blacks, I should be careful about presuming to speak for ALL whites.

        Believe me, I WISH that I were somehow the leader of white America!

        I think that whites are willing to accept blacks to a certain extent, but they’re not going to embrace those blacks with “the tude.”

        1. Be careful what you wish for.

          Would this dualist nationalism be worth the bloodshed and separation of the two cultures and peoples? Compared to other minority/majority situations around the world, they get along quite well. Why break it up now?

          There’s no final solution to ethnic relations problems. Face it. Even if you homogenized every state and split it up by group of people, you’d still have factioning. There’s an opposing force in the heart of man: one side for unity, the other for pluralism. When one goes to far the other pulls it back. The mind loves order, but craves chaos. I like having living in cities with a little edginess myself. As much as I agree that most all-white, or close to all-white towns have much lower crime and tend to have a better quality of life overall, I have to agree with what the kids always say: they’re boring.

          Not to say I want rape and murder to occur. But meeting people from around the world, hearing foreign languages on the street, having an interaction of ideas—all these being some of the benefits of “diversity”—make it worth the loss of a little security. Life is less constriction and more various with other groups of people around, even if they annoy you from time to time. But it’s a tradeoff. Security or freedom. Creativity or orderliness. Asian nations are nice and homogeneous, but do you really want to live in a place like that? Things don’t seem to change much. The real creative thinking is still going on in the west, so whatever our faults, we’re doing something right.

        2. Asian nations are nice and homogeneous, but do you really want to live in a place like that?

          Yeah, I wouldn’t exactly want to live in Asian countries. China in particular.

          Japan and South Korea would be okay. I mean, who says these homogenous Asian countries aren’t creative? Japan has given us video games, anime, etc.

          I think you need to distinguish between MULTICULTURAL and MULTIRACIAL. Almost every country, even the most homogenous ones, are multicultural, such as Japan, which has borrowed heavily from Western culture, even as it retains its traditional culture.

          I do think that multiculturalism is healthy, makes things interesting, and fosters a good exchange of ideas.

          Multiracialism, on the other hand, is often a recipe for conflict and tension.

          But fundamentally, I agree with you in many ways. Humans are not a peaceful or kind species. Even if we lived in a homogenous, economically rich utopia, there would still be conflict.

          We’re selfish dicks by nature!

          Idealists may disagree, but I’m very Machiavellian in my thinking.

  2. Erranter
    Immigrants and black migrants and even urban white liberals will never embrace the attitudes or tradition lifestyle of white small town America. I see it with the working class white farmers of Rutland Vermont and their attitude to the changing cultural landscape. While immigrants, (mainly Indians from rural areas who prefer to live in US rural areas) have contributed to economic growth in Rutland, they have their own longterm agenda and may wish to change the industrial and political landscape of rural New England.

  3. Even though the majority of rural white Vermont residents normally vote democratic, some Rutland residents are wary of a growing influx of urban educated liberals from Boston and New York because of their conflicting values and lifestyles. Urban liberals are pro gun control and favor urban development and older generation residents wish to maintain a small town lifestyle. Diversity can really affect the character of a place.

  4. Beautiful piece of writing…funny how these whites don’t “step up to the plate” and actually engage with your article. It reminded me strongly of how I know Palestinians have to behave in Tel Aviv, or Ashdod. And your first paragraph gives the lie to the idea that everything is fine and dandy for blacks in America now. Which is kind of what I suspected, despite all the white propaganda on this blog. I don’t see how a whole culture of oppression and discrimination and ostracism and slighting can just evaporate in a generation. Sure things are better, but when times are hard, the old attitudes resurface. They do here. I contend that whites – I include myself – can’t see racism unless they live it: it’s a kind of colour blindness, the wrong kind.

    We see a person of colour and straightaway we think the wrong thoughts. I know because it has happened to me: I’m not free of the norms of my culture, and neither are the notoriously racist British police, who stop and search young blacks far more than they do young whites, a police culture of continual harrassment.

    Didn’t whites in New Orleans say it was cool how the blacks got cleaned out by Katrina, and are now scattered to the four winds because they haven’t the funds to return? I heard that. How good it is that New Orleans is now a whiter city? I heard that, too. Just a little ethnic cleansing right on your doorstep…

    That’s what bothers me about all this white pride talk on this blog. Not that I don’t relate to some of it, having been down the white guilt for imperialist crimes and slavery in my twenties, but where’s it leading?

    To a more inclusive society? To de facto segregationism? To judgements before a black man – particularly a man – opens his mouth?

    I kind of understand where Robert’s coming from: it’s a balanced position for the most part. I’d never encountered it before, but it makes a certain sense.

    I guess race relations are the hardest thing to resolve.

    I quite agree that Tim Wise is not serious: that he’s an idiot, that all his breast beating and protestation is distinctly beside the point. If we’re talking anti-racism and its expression in writings I think of Angela Davis and Maya Angelou, Tony Morrison, I think of justice, I think of Rosa Parks. I think of strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees, back in the ’50s when I was born.

    I think of my current girlfriend’s 8 years outside a village near Marshall, Virginia, from ’84 to ’92 (her kids are half American. Her husband put the end of his hunting rifle in his mouth and blew the top of his head off. He wasn’t sick or depressed, just too sensitive for this world. His children, her children were one year old and four at the time. They are scarred by the suicide. Then his crazy white family turned on my girlfriend, and she fled the country after they abducted one of her kids.

    Anti-black racism was everywhere present in rural Virginia, she said. She should know; she’s a Jew of Iraqi extraction. She’d pick up on that very fast. A girl in her primary school befriended her, won her trust, and told her the Jews murdered Christ, and then forced her to give her all her dolls, one by one, to keep her friendship…ain’t human beings just MEAN?

    Angela Davis’ autobiography is still one of the greatest things I ever read. And yes I have a lot of respect for Malcolm X, but none at all for Eldridge Cleaver, whose Soul on Ice I read back in the day.

    And I’ve never been to the USA. Perhaps I should take a trip…where in the country are you Alpha? Not California I take it? Eastern Seaboard? I’d love to go to Boston. And New Orleans. And San Francisco. New York I guess, but it’s last on the list.
    Los Angeles never. San Diego yes: I have a standing invitation.

    1. Didn’t whites in New Orleans say it was cool how the blacks got cleaned out by Katrina, and are now scattered to the four winds because they haven’t the funds to return? I heard that. How good it is that New Orleans is now a whiter city? I heard that, too. Just a little ethnic cleansing right on your doorstep…

      It’s actually Blacker (by a fairly large margin) and more Hispanic (by a very slight margin). Since the Whites don’t want to return. Just a little ethnic cleansing on your doorstep?

    2. People often think the worst of young Black men because so many of them act bad. So many of them are gangsters, criminals, killers, rapists, thieves, lousy workers, or just out and out dangerous people. People are scared of them. It’s not exactly racism…

      Let me tell you something. I live in a city of 50,000 or so. It’s about 4% Black. The Blacks don’t act that great. All the streetwalkers and pimps are Black. They get arrested a lot. But they haven’t caused me any serious problems. The worst that happened was that 2 of them borrowed $30 and never paid it back. Around here, most people think that if you loan a Black person money, don’t expect to ever get it back.

      But anyway, despite all of that, all of the races, White, Black and Latino, all pretty much mingle around here. The Blacks seem pretty happy. I’m always looking around for evidence of racism. I look at how Blacks are treated in stores. They’re generally treated with politeness and courtesy. You don’t see much overt racism here. If it exists, it’s awfully hard to see.

      Now rural Virginia is another matter altogether.

    1. Yes Olive! Good memory! I’m so sorry I called you snooty and worse the other day. I don’t think that was called for. People can be so rude to each other online! I don’t know what got into me. The wrong end of the stick, as we say here.

      Almost everyone else has a pseudonym, so I’ve taken the name of a 17th century religious radical from the English Revolution. I’ve just got his book, too. It’s wonderful stuff, not unlike the Book of Revelations if you’ve ever read it.

      Sometimes I’m Jacob Bauthumley, too; he’s another English religious radical of the same period, more of a pantheist. I’ve written a piece about his life, imagining him returning to Norwich in the 20th century. I now have my own blog, and when I forget to log out I’m Jacob Bauthumley on here. You are the only Jewish commentator left I believe…you must have a thick skin! Respect!

      I doff my hat, and spread my jacket on the ground so that you don’t have to step in that puddle….

        1. Thank you. Yes, I figured David was, but I’d forgotten. He’s not in your face with it.

          I’M A JEW< JEW < JEW < JEW….
          HOW ABOUT YOU < YOU <YOU <YOU?

          To a tune from Disney's The Jungle Book.

  5. Thank you Alpha, you’re welcome.

    If ever I come to San Diego and you stop feeling shy, I’ll let you know and come and look you up.

    Sometimes this blog feels like a therapy unit for whites…it’s fascinating…

    So this is a blog for Californians? No New Yorkers here? Ah, yes, Olive, one of my favourite commentators.

    And I’m from Norwich, not NOT Norwich, Connecticut! THE Norwich, the original, with the many many fine medieval buildings from the Tudor era and well before, and the thousand year old church of St Mary, Coslany (you can look it up on the net) that I sent Robert a photo of the other day, and the Norman cathedral started a century later by the Normans, who took over forty years to build it. They built it so well it’s never fallen down. It survived the German bombs. It’s survived for nine centuries intact. Look it up on the net. It’s a fabulous building.

    Does anyone here even know where Norwich is? I wish I could post some photos! 🙂

  6. No, I’m English, but feel half French. Fluency in the language helps. The first time I really felt I’d arrived “home”, in my country, was in Provence, South of France, in the Luberon hills. THAT felt like my country, where I was from.

    I feel more connected to England than I used to. I always tell people I’m a European, because I don’t like little Englandism. Have you ever seen the comedy series Little Britain? It’s funny…

  7. I don’t think we need separate countries or anything like that, we should just stop the nonsense that neighborhoods should try to be diverse.

    Diversity isn’t a strength if young adults want to stay up late partying while parents are putting kids to bed; or if kids want to ride bikes on the sidewalks senior citizens use. It’s not a strength if a lot of Muslims, who think it’s blasphemy for girls to play in ball games with boys, move into a liberal suburban neighborhood where the parents think it’s gender discrimination not to.

    To the extent population allows it, whites, blacks, Indians, Koreans, Mexicans, etc. should have communities in which their cultures are normative. What was wrong with having a Chinatown, Little Italy or Spanish Harlem, as long as it was voluntary?

    1. I don’t agree with your idea of separate neighborhoods for everyone, but I don’t see any problem if some neighborhood or populace is naturally monoethnic. I don’t see why diversity needs to be forced on every neighborhood and populace as if it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Diversity is fine if people desire it, but it should not be shoved down people’s throats.

      Don’t get me wrong. Anyone can move anywhere in the US. Suppose some town is naturally mostly Black? You ever hear anyone say it needs some diversity? Of course not.

      Which places need diversity? Only White population centers need diversity! They’re just too White. We can’t have that. Suppose some place is naturally 98% White. Non-Whites just don’t wish to live there. What’s wrong with that? We act as if every instance of monethnicity is some sort of disease that needs to be cured with a dose of diversity. It’s preposterous.

      1. All over America there are communities that are almost 100% White.

        Are Blacks and other people really coming into these places demanding that they diversify?

  8. I think that this is quite subtle and I’m probably missing the point.

    But what I get from this is “Behave according to the dignity of our people’s glorious past, in which we heroically struggled again oppression, even though it’s not really relevant to your day to day life”. Which is a very common traditionalist and Nationalist sentiment, so I’m not too surprised that some people read this that way.

    Of course, if this is what you’re trying to say, you yourself tend towards a naturalistic view in which people behave as they do due to naturalistic inevitabilities and not due to attempts to foist culture upon them (or at least that’s what I get from all your “Why be ethnocentric? You’re fighting against natural tendancies” posts), so I dunno why you’d think this would be successful. People will act according to their circumstances. Even if Black people did have some genuinely spiritually elevated and dignified personalities in the past in response to something (which I doubt. Pomposity, yes. Narcissistic sentimentality, yes. Dignity, no.).

    1. I’m not making any reference whatsoever to any kind of glorious past.

      Nor is this about being “spiritually elevated.” It’s about something quite practical.

  9. To be fair it seems like the middle-class blacks I encounter are far more at ease around white people in the last few years, and certainly more so since Obama was elected. I’m talking about random social encounters between strangers, here.

    Then again two of my white friends(one is Jewish, actually) were recently taken for hundreds or thousands of dollars by black acquaintances, one a business partner and the other a house guest. These were not people who fit the ghetto stereotype; one was a flaming homosexual. It’s hard to tease out exactly where race relations lie, because it’s hard to tell how much of the friendliness on either side is genuine.

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