Monday, November 22, 2010
the future is fucked
I met with one of my kids today. She is a young teenager. I took her to a coffeehouse and I observed the Smokey Robinson playing in the background. I pointed out the ditty and I told her that it was Smokey. She looked at me and said "who?" I looked at her and said "Smokey Robinson?" Again, she said "who?" I grew exasperated.
I started to give her a history lesson on Smokey and the cultural impact that Motown had on segregated America. Then I told her that Stevie Wonder also got his start at Motown. Again she said "who?" Just imagine how perplexed I was by then. I'm not gonna lie, not only am I a music snob, I'm also a major Stevie Wonder fan so I totally didn't understand her. It's like she was speaking Russian to me. So anyway, then I explained to her that Stevie did the song "Happy Birthday" which was responsible in part for garnering support for the creation of a national day of observance for Dr. King's birthday. She then said she recognized the song and asked if he was the same dude that did the song "Cupid Shuffle." *sigh* My soul died just a little by having her ask me DID STEVIE WONDER DO THE SONG CUPID SHUFFLE? What the fuck are kids learning today? I told her no, he didn't do the song. I also discovered that she didn't know who Aretha Franklin is.
Anyway, while talking to her I started to give her a history lesson. I began by telling her about the Black Panther Party. I told her about the brutal murder of Fred Hampton by the Chicago Pigs and how I at one point ran with an organization that was started by his son. I told her how much they did for Oakland and how they went on to have groups all over the country. I told her they were taken down by the government because they were succeeding in getting Black people to flourish and be independent. She called my lesson "boring." I'm sorry, but what the fuck? I may be a lot of things, but I'm far from boring.
Then I started to talk about the protests and marches that happened in Alabama. I explained to her that when you watch the clips of the protests, the people there were children, her age, because their parents weren't able to march because they had to keep their bosses happy, so they didn't want to be on the news marching. I told her that the kids in those clips were hosed, bitten by dogs, tear gassed, and beaten mercilessly. I explained to her that when a lot of those kids were arrested, it wasn't uncommon for some of them to not make it home. I explained to her that pretty little brown girls like her were often raped by old white men and that the law didn't give a shit. Still, she shrugged and called it "boring." I even explained to her that stuff happened only 50 years ago, meaning that her grandmother could be old enough to have witnessed it. She still said it wasn't fascinating at all. I couldn't believe it. I asked her if she knew about Harriet Tubman and she shook her head and said that she didn't know who HE was. She even thought that Harriet Tubman was a dude! *banging head on desk*
Truthfully I wasn't always as into history as I am now, but I'd always cared about the struggles of Blacks. Perhaps it was because I was raised in the 80's on the heels of the end of the Black Power movement. I was named after Malcolm X for God's sake. I remember when the first MLK day was observed. When I was 14, for Christmas I'd asked my mother for a copy of the book "Makes Me Wanna Holler" by Nathan McCall. It was about his struggles as a Black man growing up in this country. It remains one of my favorite books, and when my son hits the same age, I plan to make him read it.
I'd loved the move Panther when it came out. I was about 14 at the time. There is a song on the soundtrack for the movie where Huey Newton was heard saying "We want freedom. We want decent education that teaches us about this racist, decadent system. We want education that teaches us about our true history of our role in the world and society today. We want education, we want justice, we want freedom." And later in the same song "So the concept is this basically. The whole Black nation has to be put together as a Black army. And we're gonna walk on this nation, we're gonna walk on this racist power structure, and we're gonna say to the whole damned government, STICK 'EM UP MUTHAFUCKA! WE COME FOR WHAT'S OURS!" I didn't understand it fully at the time, but I knew overall that my people had been shafted and that some bad ass cats wanted what we were owed. And I may have only been 14 or 15 at the time, but I knew they were speaking some real shit. I knew those lyrics and the whole song by heart. But here, around the same age, she felt it didn't effect her.
I then said out loud that I'd just decided that I'd look through some books and get something about Black history for her. She shook her head and told me not to waste my money because she wouldn't read it. I assured her that it would be good. Again, she shook her head. Then I said to her "look, I wouldn't do this for anyone else, but I'll pay you to read the book. Would you be willing to read a book on Black history if I paid you?" She looked at me and said no. I couldn't believe it. She didn't ask how much. She didn't say maybe. She didn't even think about it. She said no. I asked her again. She shook her head. I asked her to think about my offer. She again said no. My heart ached a little. I was sitting here, talking to a high school aged girl, that refused to read about her own history for MONEY. Do you understand? SHE WOULDN'T READ ABOUT HER OWN HISTORY IF I PAID HER TO DO SO.
There was nothing else to do or say. I told her that it was getting late and that we needed to go. As I drove home, I couldn't help but to focus on that. What the fuck has happened to kids where a girl her age couldn't be convinced to read about the struggles of her own people for money?
I got home and put on the movie "Panther," which I'd coincidentally saved on Netflix about a week ago. I saw a clip of Chairman Fred Hampton Sr. and they played a clip where they portrayed his brutal murder. I thought back on my time with Chairman Fred Jr's organization. I met him a few times and he's an intense dude. The things I did with that organization were so deep that there are still things that I don't tell people about and I never will. I didn't like some things that I saw, but I've got so much respect for what I learned while I was with that organization. Watching the movie, I loved how some of the young characters were willing to lay their lives on the line for the struggle and I remembered how I would have been willing to do the same thing. "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees." While there, we had to learn as much as we could about our history and we went out weekly and fed people. We worked together. We were a team. I hate that things ended when and how they did, but they'll never know how much I learned from them. I've got a few friends that are still involved in the movement. I'm not as involved as I once was, but I still try to support them as much as I can. While many Black people are asleep, there are many grassroots organizations that seek to pick up where the Black Panther Party left off.
So while some teenagers are busy, going to work, trying to fight against the system, other kids only know about Dr. King. I don't know what to do or say right now. I'm hurt. I'm embarrassed for her. I'm pissed at her mother for not talking to her about her history since she was old enough to hear it. I'm frustrated because the reason I studied media in college was so that I could work against the bullshit that the media is dumbing down our kids with. I feel like I'm failing. *sigh* kids are fucked.