My very first job was Auntie Anne’s Pretzel in Orange Park Mall, Orange Park, FL at 14 years old. By the time I was 19, I was on at least job number 5. Not the end of the world. These were all part time jobs, never meant to be careers. When I was 19 I was working at Ikea in Schaumburg, IL… broke as EVER!!! I applied for Ikea because it was by my school and my college apartment was just walls. I didn’t have any furniture. My TV sat on one of those blue plastic bins that people often store old clothes in. An air mattress my mom sent me the money for via my Visa Bucks Card (strictly for realest of crumb snatchers) served as my bed and my couch. I wanted better for myself!!! So, I worked at Ikea until I was able to get furniture on consignment and have a small percentage taken out of every check. I was so hyped on the day I brought my furniture home that I threw away the instructions thinking, “Oh I’ll just figure it out like everything else I’ve put together. Just screws and wood.” MAN was I wrong. In case you’ve never had the privilege of putting together Ikea furniture, it’s like trying to get all the lint off of your clothes with no lint roller. Just the simplest most unnecessarily difficult thing you’ll ever have to do. I’m sure the manufacturers couldn’t put it together without the instructions if they had to. That long example is the equivalent of how difficult it is for our community to coexist with each other now. We can discuss how we got here (we will), we can discuss whose fault it is (we might), but ultimately, we have to acknowledge how addicted we are to dysfunction now.
PUT ME FIRST. If you frequent social media, you’ve no doubt seen the question posed, “Who comes first, the child, the spouse, or the in laws” in some way shape or form. Ridiculous question. Get your panties in a bunch, I don’t care. The question is ridiculous to me for two reasons. First, most people use the Bible as a point of reference whenever they want to trump (no pun intended) everyone else’s argument. People who have little to no consideration of the life parameters the Bible encompasses love to use it when it’s convenient. Secondly, it’s ridiculous because when you get married you become one, right? That means if I marry you, I should love your parents, your children (if they were from a prior relationship), and the rest of your family the way you do. It’s not love for me to come into your life and separate you from those relationships. Nor should I let my ego be so greedy as to need to be heralded as number one in your life as a detraction of those other relationships’ importance. I don’t need to be more important to you than those people, if I love you, I need to be as important. I don’t need to always be whose side you’re on. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I don’t get to be right because I’m your husband when what your father said was right. Loyalty isn’t about blanket excusal, it’s about loving me enough to want to contribute to me being the best me. You can’t do that by just letting me be right. Or feeding me before you feed the kids. All of this is miseducation. My kids come before me in my life, they should come before me in my wife’s life also. And vice versa. But the significance of this is that it shows a bigger issue, we don’t have productive structures. We have all of this ignorance and confusion because our family structure was systematically destroyed. Truly the foundation of any community, and the power of the civil rights movement, the family structure establishes order. Without order and structure, you have chaos.
Sophisticated Ignorance. They say if you knew better, you’d do better. I go back and forth with that logic because I know people who know better and go left. I know privileged kids who sell drugs. Not for money but for appeal. I know women who grew up seeing their moms abused verbally and physically by men and adapt an attractiveness to men with the same characteristics. They know better. Trauma is tricky though. Trauma is the root of the addiction of the black community with dysfunction. Coming from the 80’s, I’m the Crack baby era. That was the haymaker that followed the formidable blows of the Civil Rights Movement. Implementation of Crack into the inner city, sanctioned by the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan) and his cronies, was the seed of dysfunction. I don’t know if you, the reader, have had the misfortune of seeing first-hand what crack does to a person or their lives, but it’s nothing short of dysfunction. Crack’s introduction and subsequent “War on Drugs” was careful calculated war against the black family. Removing the head of the household, then feeding of the body of it, domino effects are still visually present every day. The in-fighting mentioned in the last paragraph is one of them. This indescribable competitive nature against each other was reborn. Not seen since the slave culture of pitting lighter skinned slaves against dark skinned slaves by using shades to depict who deserves to be inside, we see it every day online and in person how we continuously tear each other down. How we predominantly only see representations of love in the form of betrayal via all forms of “black entertainment”. Love & Hip-Hop is literally a double entendre meant to show you that this is how cancerous black love and “black” music is. Everybody on the show has to have a story line of betrayal or violence. Every man is womanizing, lying, and cheating on every woman that he claims to love. All of the women are constantly backstabbing and hurling drinks at the women they claim to be friends with. R&B singers are singing more about how “these hoes ain’t loyal” than they are about “love and happiness”. None of these ills are new, however, these things dominating and almost monopolizing the narrative is. I’m from the second Golden Era of Hip-Hop which was the mid 90’s to the early 2000’s. “Big Pimpin’” was 1999-2000. I’m not saying these messages were never in our entertainment, but “Put That Woman First” was in 2003. The culture was more well-rounded then. You did not have a Love & Hip-Hop, which runs year-round, dominating our television programming then. The landslides of the current messaging fosters a sort of trauma that leads to the paranoia of each other. We can’t even have healthy discussions on social media now. If you disagree with the monopolized opinions of one on twitter, you’re attacked. People rarely try to educate now. It’s who can be the loudest, the most abusive, and the most aggressive. Who can make someone look the dumbest, the brokest, or the most unattractive. So many extensions of this dysfunction it’s hard to fit into this opus. To bring it back to relationships, the ones who want to treat us the best normally get the least of our attention. It’s not appealing enough to always be peaceful, and helpful, and respectful. We have grown conditioned to chaos so much that without it in our most important interactions, we lose interest. We lose focus. We lose passion. It’s a sick reality that I’m not sure can be cured on a major scale. I often wonder can I even fix my own addiction to dysfunctional behaviors that even I exhibit. It’s scary to realize how many things that predate your own existence, affect your day to day life. It’s scary to realize that as much as we all hate racism and oppression from “the white man”, we have inherited a racist’s hate filled behaviors for each other. So much so that we don’t know how to love each other. We don’t take time to try understand each other. We’re quick to want to cast away each other. We constantly look for how to belittle each other. Unfortunately, for most, it’s all we know. It’s a function of being what we have seen the most of. They say if you’re around people doing something long enough, you’ll start to do it. We’ve seen our community function in the midst of dysfunction so long… we became addicted to it. Crack highs killing us off, one hit at a time.